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In the onscreen credits, actor S. Z. Sakall's name is incorrectly spelled "S. K. Sakall." Hollywood Reporter news items add the following information about the production: Warner Bros. bought Everybody Comes To Rick's, the unproduced play by Murray Bennet and Joan Alison, for $20,000 at the suggestion of studio story editor Irene Lee. Ann Sheridan, Ronald Reagan and Dennis Morgan were initially announced as the film's stars, but according to modern sources, Reagan was never really a possibility for the Humphrey Bogart role, as he had been summoned to the U.S. Cavalry Reserve as soon as he finished his previous film, Desperate Journey . Modern sources add that this announcement was more likely made in order to provide indirect publicity for the concurrent release of films starring those actors.
A February 14, 1942 memo in the USC Cinema-Television files from producer Hal Wallis to casting director Steve Trilling, indicates that Sheridan was set to star with Bogart. Other news items in Hollywood Reporter report that Michele Morgan, who had earlier starred with Paul Henreid in the RKO film Joan of Paris (see below), tested for the role of "Ilsa." Conrad Veidt was borrowed from M-G-M for the role of "Major Strasser." Actress Joy Page, Jack Warner's adopted step-daughter, made her screen acting debut in this picture. The film's opening was moved forward from late spring to take advantage of Casablanca's prominence in the headlines after Allied forces landed in the Axis-occupied city in November 1942. It opened on Thanksgiving Day in New York City, following a parade up Fifth Avenue of Free French leaders, when the Free French flag was unfurled for the first time in the United States since the fall of Vichy.
Material in the file on the film at the USC Cinema-Television library adds the following information about the production: Technical advisor Robert Aisner served on the Maginot Line and escaped from a concentration camp by way of Casablanca. Actor Helmut Dantine also escaped from a concentration camp, and Madeline LeBeau escaped from France after the German occupation of the country. Actors of thirty-four different nationalities performed in the film, many of whom were refugees. Raymond Burr was tested for a part; Jean Pierre Aumont was tested for the role of "Lazlo;" Otto Preminger tested for the part of "Major Strasser;" and Clarence Muse and William Gillespie tested for the role of "Sam." Muse was signed, but when the deal fell through for undetermined reasons, Dooley Wilson was borrowed from Paramount for the role. Wilson, a professional drummer, could not play the piano, and according to modern sources, Elliot Carpenter, his sometime collaborator, dubbed his piano playing behind the scenes. Wallis suggested tailoring the part of the piano player for either singer Hazel Scott or Lena Horne. Wallis wanted Hedy Lamarr for the part of "Ilsa," but M-G-M, where she was a contract player, refused to loan her out. George Raft expressed interest in the film, but both Wallis and director Michael Curtiz wanted Bogart to play "Rick."
According to other memos in the USC files, Wally Klein and Aeneas MacKenzie wrote an adaptation of the play. Afterward, Julius and Philip Epstein were assigned to write the script. Later, Howard Koch was assigned to the script along with the Epsteins. According to modern sources, Koch argued unsuccessfully against the flashback scene in Paris because he believed that it would dissipate the tension that had built up in the film to that point. Lenore Coffee also worked briefly on the screenplay. In 1942, Casey Robinson was paid to polish the script and contributed greatly to the love story. Wallis himself created the famous closing line of the film: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Although modern sources have said that the decision to have "Ilsa" leave Casablanca with "Lazlo" was in doubt until the scene was filmed, memos in the USC files reveal that this was the way the original play ended, as well as even the earliest scripts, and it is doubtful that the PCA would have approved of "Ilsa" leaving her husband, especially as he was a war hero. According to modern sources the problem with the ending was how to make Ilsa's departure with Lazlo believable. The Epsteins developed the idea of "Rick" shooting "Strasser," and in a modern interview, Julius Epstein said that they almost spontaneously thought of adding the line, "Round up the usual suspects."
A May 21, 1942 letter from Joseph I. Breen, director of the PCA, to Warner Bros. executive Jack Warner objects to the portrayal of "Renault's" practice of seducing women in exchange for exit visas. The PCA also objected to the "suggestion that Ilsa was married all the time she was having her love affair with Rick in Paris." Later, Breen warned that the script should not imply that "Ilsa" slept with "Rick" when she comes to beg for the letters of transit.
Modern sources add the following information about the film: Composer Max Steiner hated the song "As Time Goes By" and wanted to replace it with a song that he had composed himself. This proved impossible as Bergman's hair had been cut short for the role of "Maria" in the film For Whom the Bell Tolls , and she was unavailable for the necessary retakes. William Wyler was Wallis' first choice for director, but he was involved in making war documentaries for Frank Capra at the time. Wallis' first choice for the role of "Lazlo" was Dutch actor Philip Dorn. Bogart probably invented his classic line, "Here's looking at you, kid." Wartime regulations forced the majority of the film to be shot on studio soundstages. The scene depicting "Major Strasser's" arrival in Casablanca was filmed at Metropolitan Airport in Van Nuys, but the well-known farewell scene was filmed in the studio.
The piano that "Sam" played in the Paris scenes was auctioned in 1988 to an anonymous Japanese collector for $154,000. The piano that Sam plays in the scenes at "Rick's" caf was also purchased by a private collector, and was loaned to the Warner Bros. Studio Museum in 1996. In 2007, Casablanca was ranked 3rd on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies-10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving down from the 2nd position it occupied on AFI's 1997 list.
Casablanca won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Michael Curtiz) and Best Screenplay (Philip and Julius Epstein and Howard Koch) and received the following Academy Award nominations: Humphrey Bogart, Best Actor; Claude Rains, Best Supporting Actor; Arthur Edeson, Cinematography; Owen Marks, Film Editing; Max Steiner, Musical Score. When the award for Best Picture was announced, both Warner and Wallis stood up, but Warner got to the stage before Wallis and accepted the award. Even though at this time it was the generally accepted practice for the studio to accept the award for Best Picture, and Wallis won the Thalberg Award "For the most consistently high quality of production by an individual producer, based on pictures he has personallly produced during the preceding year," Warner's action led to a break between the two men. One month later, Wallis' contract with Warner Bros. was canceled on a technicality.
In January 1943, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item, a sequel to this film, to be entitled Brazzaville, and to be set in the African headquarters of the Free French, was announced for future production. Humphrey Bogart was to reprise his role, and Geraldine Fitzgerald and Sidney Greenstreet were to co-star. At various times in the 1950s and 1960s, plans were announced to make a theatrical musical version of the film. A Lux Radio Theatre production of Casablanca was broadcast in January 1944 and starred Hedy Lamarr and Alan Ladd. Murray Bennett and Joan Alison's play was given its first performance in London in 1991. A colorized version of the film was released in 1988. In 1955-56, a television series based on the film, which starred Charles McGraw as Rick, Marcel Dalio as Renault and Clarence Muse as Sam, was broadcast on ABC. In 1983, a television series, starring David Soul as Rick, lasted for three episodes.
Over the years, Casablanca has gained a popular following and has appeared on many best-film lists. Probably the best known of the many parodies and tributes to Casablanca is Woody Allen's 1972 film, Play It Again, Sam. The film used the "ghost" of Bogart as "Rick" as a character who advises Allen's bumbling hero in his attempts to romance women after his wife divorces him. A 1998 novel, entitled As Time Goes By, was written by Michael Walsh for Warner Books. The novel followed the characters of Rick, Ilsa, Victor, Sam and Louis after they left Casablanca.