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A Night in Casablanca

A Night in Casablanca(1946)

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teaser A Night in Casablanca (1946)

The Marx Brothers, who had decided to retire as a screen team in 1941, changed their minds five years later and returned in the independent feature A Night in Casablanca (1946) after being offered a percentage of the film's profits. (The brothers would make one more "comeback" film, Love Happy, 1950.) Chico, a well-known gambler in Hollywood circles, was particularly in need of funds and persuaded Groucho to commit to A Night in Casablanca. Originally envisioned as a spoof of Warner Bros.' Casablanca (1942), with a character to be called "Humphrey Bogus," the movie had its scope broadened to become a parody of wartime melodramas in general.

Groucho plays a former motel proprietor who is now manager of the Hotel Casablanca, where his predecessors have been murdered by an escaped Nazi war criminal played by Sig Ruman. Chico, operator of the Yellow Camel Company, and Harpo, as Ruman's mute valet, team up to protect Groucho, who runs the hotel in his own distinctive style. Typical Grouchoism: "We've got to speed things up in this hotel. If a guest orders a three-minute egg, give it to him in two minutes. If he orders a two-minute egg, give it to him in one minute. If he orders a one-minute egg, give him a chicken and let him work it out for himself." Although Archie Mayo directed the film, uncredited screenwriter Frank Tashlin (later to become a successful comedy director) worked out Harpo's hilarious visual gags.

As the Marx Brothers were preparing to make A Night in Casablanca, there were threats of legal action from Warner Brothers, who considered the title an infringement upon their rights to the title Casablanca. In response, Groucho wrote a series of hilarious letters to the Warners legal department. Facetiously searching for a possible explanation as to how "the city of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Bros., Groucho came up with this: "It seems that in 1471, Ferdinand Balboa Warner, your great-great-grandfather, while looking for a shortcut to the city of Burbank, had stumbled on the shores of Africa and, raising his alpenstock (which he later turned in for a hundred shares of the common), named it Casablanca." He went on to assert, "The average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don't know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try." After the third satirical letter from Groucho, Warner Bros. gave up and said no more about a lawsuit.

Producer: David L. Loew
Director: Archie Mayo
Screenplay: Joseph Fields, Roland Kibbee, Frank Tashlin (uncredited)
Production Design: Duncan Cramer
Cinematography: James Van Trees
Editing: Gregg C. Tallas
Original Music: Werner Janssen, Ted Snyder
Principal Cast: Groucho Marx (Ronald Kornblow), Harpo Marx (Rusty), Chico Marx (Corbaccio), Charles Drake (Lt. Pierre Delmar), Lois Collier (Annette), Sig Ruman (Count Pfferman/Heinrich Stubel), Lisette Verea (Beatrice Rheiner).

By Roger Fristoe

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