Casablanca, French Morocco (located in Northwest Africa). Most of the story takes place at Rick’s Café Américain, which is also referred to in the movie as “Rick’s Place”.
Story’s Time Period:
Victor Laszlo, a legendary hero of the French Resistance who has escaped Nazi imprisonment, and his wife Ilsa, arrive in Casablanca with hopes of getting to Lisbon. Showing up at Rick’s Café Américain, a popular nightclub owned by Rick Blaine, an American expatriate, they learn that the person who was going to sell them the proper exit visas, the so called “letters of transit”, has been arrested by the Germans. They also learn that Rick, a former lover of Victor Laszlo’s wife, possesses these valuable letters of transit. Ilsa, who is torn between her love for her husband and her love for Rick, promises to stay with Rick if he will get her husband safely out of Casablanca. Rick agrees, but in the end provides them both with letters of transit so that they can leave together.
Based on an unproduced play called “Everybody Comes to Rick’s”, written by Murray Burnett & Joan Allison.
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
|Richard “Rick” Blaine||Humphrey Bogart|
|Ilsa Lund (Mrs. Victor Laszlo)||Ingrid Bergman|
|Victor Laszlo||Paul Henreid|
|Captain Louis Renault||Claude Rains|
|Major Heinrich Strasser||Conrad Veidt|
|Signor Ferrari||Sydney Greenstreet|
|Guillermo Ugarte||Peter Lorre|
|Carl (Rick’s headwaiter)||S.Z. Sakall (listed as “S.K. Sakall”)|
|Sascha (bartender)||Leonid Kinsky|
|Yvonne (Rick’s former girlfriend)||Madeleine LeBeau|
|Berger (the Resistance contact)||John Qualen|
|(singer–guitar player)||Corinna Mura|
|Director of Photography||Arthur Edeson, A.S.C.|
|Art Director||Carl Jules Weyl|
|Set Decorations||George James Hopkins|
|Musical Director||Leo F. Forbstein|
|Screenplay||Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, |
|Producer||Hal B. Wallis|
In January, 1942, Murray Burnett and Joan Allison signed a contract giving Warner Bros. complete ownership of “Everybody Comes to Rick’s”, their play upon which the movie “Casablanca” is based. By signing the contract, they relinquished any claim to what would become one of the most popular motion pictures of all time.
From 1942 to 1945, Hollywood released 1,700 feature films, 500 of which dealt directly with war subjects.
The 10,000-franc wager that Rick proposes to Captain Renault was worth about $230 at the time.
Although the movie was a collaborative effort, if anyone could claim credit for “Casablanca” it would be its Executive Producer Hal Wallis. He personally selected the manuscript of “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” for its potential, assigned the writers, decided what to film, hired the director and cast, approved every aspect of the production, and even wrote the final line. He briefly considered casting Joseph Cotten in the part of Victor Laszlo, and Anne Sheridan in the part of Ilsa.
It was reported that Paul Henreid hated the role of Victor Laszlo and initially turned it down claiming that, “an underground leader who appeared in a white tropical suit and hat in a famous nightclub and talked openly with Nazis was ridiculous and redolent of musical comedy.” He only consented to do the part when Hal Wallis agreed to build up his part and guarantee him star billing.
Conrad Veidt, who played the Nazi Major Heinrich Strasser, was one of Hollywood’s staunchest enemies of the Nazi movement. He beat out Otto Preminger for the role, and received $5,000 per week, which made him one of the highest-paid cast members in the movie. Sidney Greenstreet, on the other hand, received $3,750 per week during the making of the movie; Peter Lorre received $1,750 per week; S.Z. Sakall received $1,750 per week with a three-week minimum; and Dooley Wilson, who played Sam, received $150 per week.
The cast of “Casablanca” is said to have been comprised of actors representing thirty-four nationalities.
Arthur Edeson, who was the cinematographer for “Casablanca”, had also worked on “Frankenstein” (1931), “The Old Dark House” (1932), “The Invisible Man” (1933), “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935), “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), and “Across the Pacific” (1942), among many other movies.
Max Steiner, who wrote the musical score for “Casablanca”, had written over 200 movie scores including the ones for “Jezebel” (1938), “Dark Victory” (1939), “Now, Voyager” (1942), and the title theme for “Gone With the Wind” (1939). Although he did not write the song, “As Time Goes By”, he did weave it skillfully throughout the score for “Casablanca”.
The Paris train station set was the same set used in the movie “Now, Voyager”. The Blue Parrot café, and the set for Casablanca’s Black Market, were sets constructed for “The Desert Song”, which was shooting at the same time as “Casablanca“.
During the filming of “Casablanca”, Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart failed to get to know each other very well because of Bogart’s ‘standoffishness’. Bergman ended up screening “The Maltese Falcon” repeatedly so she could come to understand his acting style and get a stronger sense of his screen image. She would later say, “I kissed him, but I never knew him.”
The set for Rick’s Café Américain cost $9,200, more than half the film’s $18,000 set budget.
Pianist Elliot Carpenter was hired to record the piano tracks for “Casablanca” because Dooley Wilson, who played Sam, couldn’t play the piano.
When there were ongoing discussions about exactly how to end the movie, Ingrid Bergman asked the director, Michael Curtiz, who she should lean toward when playing scenes with Rick and Laszlo. He first told her, “Just play it . . . in between.” When she continued to press him for guidance, he finally lost all patience and shouted, “Actors! Actors! They want to know everything!”
Although many of the outdoor scenes for the movie “Casablanca” are shrouded in artificial fog, the real Casablanca is desert-bound and rarely, if ever, has fog.
Discussions about how to end the film continued even after “Casablanca” started shooting, but contrary to legend only the ending that was finally used was ever scheduled to be shot. After the ending was filmed additional scenes were shot for eleven more days, including some of Bergman’s most important scenes with Bogart and Henreid. For instance, Ilsa and Rick’s confrontation in his Casablanca apartment was filmed after Bergman knew how the film would end.
It took 10 weeks to film “Casablanca”, and cost $950,000.
Max Steiner, who created the film’s musical score, didn’t like the song “As Time Goes By”, written in 1931 for a stage review called “Everybody’s Welcome”. Hal Wallis initially agreed to take it out of the film, then he realized that the song was mentioned so often during the movie that a number of scenes would have to be re-shot. Ingrid Bergman, as it turned out, had already had her hair cut for her next role in the movie “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, and Wallis finally acknowledged that retakes were impossible. So, because Bergman had cut her hair, the song “As Time Goes By” stayed in the movie “Casablanca” and entered into the World’s music lexicon.
Just before the movie “Casablanca” was ready for release, the Allies landed in North Africa and scored a victory in the Battle of Casablanca. The film was released on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1942, just eighteen days after the Allied landing.
“Casablanca” was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three, including the Oscar for Best Picture. Michael Curtiz, who was famous for fracturing the English language, said in his acceptance speech after winning the Academy Award for Best Director, “So many times I have a speech ready, but no dice. Always a bridesmaid, never a mother.”
In 1989, “Casablanca” was among the first twenty-five films named to the National Film Registry.
In 1998, the American Film Institute rated “Casablanca” second on their list of the “Top 100 American Movies of the Last 100 Years”, using as part of their criteria: critical recognition; historical significance; and cultural impact. Only the movie “Citizen Kane” was rated higher.
The American Society of Cinematographers ranked “Casablanca” number 7 on their list of “Best Shot Films: 1894-1949”.
© 2004 The Picture Show Man. All Rights Reserved.
The following products will help you explore this subject further:
- The Casablanca Man: The Cinema of Michael Curtiz, (1994) by James Robertson
- Casablanca: Script & Legend (50th Anniversary Edition), (1995) by Howard Koch
- Notorious: The Life of Ingrid Bergman, (2001) Donald Spoto
- The Casablanca Companion, (2002) by Richard Osborne
- Casablanca: The Illustrated History of One of the Favorite Films of All Time, (2002) by Harlan Lebo
- The Great Movies, (2002) by Roger Ebert
- The Making of Casablanca, (2002) by Aljean Harmetz
- Hal Wallis: Producer to the Stars, (2004) by Bernard Dick
- The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre, (2005) by Stephen D. Youngkin
- Bogie: A Celebration of the Life & Films of Humphrey Bogart, (2006) by Richard Schickel
- Casablanca, (1942) Two-Disc Special Edition
- A Night in Casablanca, (1946) The Marx Brothers
- Play It Again Sam, (1972) Woody Allen & Diane Keaton
- Humphrey Bogart: The Signature Collection, Vol. 1, (1940–1948) (4 movies on 6 discs – includes “Casablanca”)
Casablanca: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, (released 1997) music by Max Steiner