'Casablanca': Secrets and Lies
By Mark Salisbury and Simon Rose
Empire, August 1992
Brothers bought all rights to Murray Burnett and Joan Allison's [sic]
play Everybody Comes to Rick's on 22 December 1941 for $20,000,
then the highest fee ever paid for an unproduced play.
memo from producer Hal Wallis
dated 31 December 1941 officially changed the title of Everybody Comes
to Rick's to Casablanca.
On 5 January
1942 Warner Brothers
announced in the Hollywood Reporter that Ronald
Reagan, Ann Sheridan
and Dennis Morgan
were to star in a B-picture called Casablanca, though Reagan
has stated he was never actually approached to play Rick, and anyway Warners'
top producer Hal Wallis
only made A-pictures.
Sheridan, Tamara Toumanova and Michèle Morgan were all tested for the
role of Ilsa, but on 24 April 1942 Warners
reached an agreement with Gone with the Wind
producer David O. Selznick
to use Ingrid Bergman, who
was under contract to Selznick.
started filming on 25 May 1942 with the Paris flashback scenes, scotching
the myth - put about by members of the cast - that the thing was shot in
Rick's Cafe was constructed at a cost of
$ 9 200, more than half the film's entire set budget.
opening montage was the work of Don Siegel who later went on to Dirty
Harry and the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
coined the phrase, 'Here's looking at you kid,' adapting the original
'Here's good luck to you.' Bogie
was also responsible for changing 'Of all the cafés in all the cities in
all the world she walks into my café' to the somewhat snappier 'Of all
the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.'
Dooley Wilson was cast as Sam, producer Hal
Wallis considered changing the character's gender, with Ella
Fitzgerald among those approached for the part.
Wilson was a drummer, not a pianist, miming to pianist Elliot Carpenter,
who sat off-camera and tinkled the necessary ivories.
Steiner hated 'As Time Goes By',
insisting that the six-note ditty was too simple for a love theme, and the
song was almost cut from the film at the last minute. Only the fact
that Ingrid Bergman had
already had her hair cut for her role in For Whom the Bell Tolls
reshooting the scene in which she asks Sam to play 'As
Time Goes By'.
After Casablanca opened,
Wilson received 5 000 fan letters a week - more than Clark
Wilson was the only member of Casablanca's
cast to have actually visited the city before shooting.
officially wrapped in 3 August 1942, though a decision about the film's
last line wasn't made until 21 August, when producer Hal
Wallis picked 'Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful
friendship,' over three alternatives: 'Louis, I begin to see a reason for
your sudden attack of patriotism. While you defend your country you
also protect your investment'; 'If you ever die a hero's death, Heaven
protect the angels'; and 'Louis, I might have known you'd mix your
patriotism with a little larceny'.
about how the film should end - and - whether Rick should get Ilsa - was
not reached until two months into shooting. Alternative endings
included having Ilsa stay with Rick (considered too risqué to have a
woman leave her husband); having Rick killed as Ilsa and Victor escape
(too grim); killing Victor (too politically unsound).
Bogie recalls his last day in
Paris with Ilsa he says: 'The Germans wore grey, you wore blue,' to which
she replies 'I put that dress away. When the Germans march out, I'll
wear it again.' In the flashback to that day, however, Ilsa is seen
wearing a suit, not a dress.
filmed entirely on the Warners
lot except for one scene in which L.A. Municipal Airport stood in for
Casablanca took $3.7
million on its initial release in the US from a $950 000 budget.
sequel to Casablanca called Brazzaville was considered by Warners
to continue the story of Rick and Renault directly after the action of the
first film. No script was ever written.
series based on Casablanca debuted on ABC in America in September
1955 with Charles McGraw as Rick, but it was cancelled after a
season. A second series in 1983 starring David Soul as Rick and Ray
Liotta as Sasha the bartender was cancelled after three weeks.
poll by US magazine TV Guide named Casablanca as the most
popular and most regularly repeated film on TV.
1977 the American Film Institute named Casablanca the third best
American film or all time after Gone with
the Wind and Citizen Kane.
colourised version of Casablanca premiered on Ted Turner's TBS
cable station in the US on 9 November 1988 to favourable reviews.
fan Joao Luiz Albuquerque took a print of Casablanca apart and
re-edited the film so that Ilsa did not get on the plane with
Victor. This unauthorized version received a special screening at
the Rio Film Festival in 1987 and bore the credit: 'Copyright
infringements by ...'
The piano on which Dooley
Wilson pretended to play 'As Time Goes
By' was sold to a Japanese firm in 1988 for $154 000.
asked many writers to contribute material, resulting sometimes in three
different versions of a scene for Wallis
and director Michael Curtiz
to choose from. When the complaint was raised that some of the
changes were illogical, Curtiz
replied: 'I make it go so fast that no one notices'.
one occasion Bogart was told by
Curtiz to come to the
café balcony and nod, snapping, after Bogie
asked what exactly he was nodding at, 'Don't was so many questions.
Get up there and nod, and then go home.' Only later did Bogart
discover he had been cueing the orchestra for the battle of the national
anthems, one of the most emotional moments in the movie.
of those working on Casablanca, including Conrad Veidt, Peter
Lorre and S.Z. 'Cuddles'
Sakall, were refugees from Nazi Europe. In all, the cast
included 34 nationalities.
Originally Austrian Paul
Henreid refused the part of Victor Lazlo, but after entering the war,
the US began deporting many aliens, regardless of their politics. Henreid,
a vociferous anti-Nazi, accepted the contract from Warners
to save his life.
kept his distance from Bergman,
keep to give no cause for grievance to his third wife, Mayo Methot, an
unstable, insanely jealous woman who had on more than one occasion threatened
to kill him.
The general release in 1943 had the
good fortune to coincide with the Casablanca conference, attended
by Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill.
It is untrue
that Ingrid Bergman only
found who she'd end up with on the last day of filming. Several
scenes were shot in the fortnight after the final airport scene,
including her night-time visit to Rick's apartment to plead for the exit
It is untrue that Humphrey
Bogart was the seventh choice to play Rick. Just signed to a
seven-year star contract at $3,500 a week, the part was written
specifically for him.
It is untrue that George
Raft turned the part down. He was never offered it. His
earlier rejection of the leads in both High Sierra and The
Maltese Falcon, however, had effectively made Bogart
Goes By', composed 11 years earlier, was specified in the play.
Composer Herman Hupfield had been a college roommate of playwright Murray
The only song written for the film is
'Knock on Wood', which the studio confidently expected to be a hit.
Bogart, at five foot-four, was 5 inches shorter than Bergman.
He wore platform shoes throughout their scenes together.
in Hollywood for 16 years by 1942, director Michael
Curtiz was renowned for mangling the English language.
Collecting his Oscar for Casablanca, he said: "So many times I
have a speech ready but no dice. Always a bridesmaid, never a
Casablanca was nominated for eight
Oscars, winning three - Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best
Director, with Hal Wallis
picking up the Irving Thalberg award for his services as a producer.
accuracy was not the film's strong point. The fabled letters
of transit were signed by General De Gaulle, but why would De Gaulle, the
Free French leader, be signing Vichy documents? The script specified
Nazi puppet Marshal Weygand, but it was felt no one would recognise the
name. In fact, there was no refugee trail to Casablanca, as claimed
in the opening sequence.
The Italian version of Casablanca
cuts the ridiculing of the Italian at the airport when Major Strasser
advertising campaign was 'slightly' less polished than the movie: 'As big
and timely a picture as ever you've seen! You can tell by the cast
it's important! Gripping! Big!'
the Marx Brothers' A Night in Casablanca was released in 1946, Warner
Brothers threatened to sue. 'You claim you own Casablanca
and that no one else can use that name without your permission', barked
Groucho, 'but what about Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers
long before you were.'
© 1992 Empire