Monday, March 6, 2023

Screening: "Casablanca"

Fathom Events presented the classic Casablanca on the big screen this weekend.

Casablanca (Warner Bros., 1942)
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Written by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch
(based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick's by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison)
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henried, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, Dooley Wilson, S.Z. Sakall
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay
Also nominated for Best Actor (Bogart), Best Supporting Actor (Rains) Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography (Black & White), Best Musical Score

In the early days of World War II, Casablanca in French Morocco has become a refuge for Europeans fleeing the growing Nazi invasion. Documents that will allow refugees to continue on to America are prized and often obtained on the black market. The center of the action takes place at Rick's Cafe Americain, a bar and casino run by American expatriate Rick Blaine. One night Ilsa Lund, a former lover of Rick's appears in the cafe with her husband, Victor Laszlo, famous as a resistance leader against the Nazis and for escaping their concentration camps. The couple are desperate to go to America where Laszlo will be safe, but the Nazis, who are keen to finally eliminate Laszlo, and Rick and Ilsa's complicated past threatens to prevent them from finally getting away. 

Casablanca is incredibly well-written, directed, and acted, The characters are vividly drawn and portrayed by a cast filled with both recognizable stars and gifted character actors. Seeing it on the big screen was a treat - a great movie made even better by seeing it how it was meant to be seen. Fathom Events also has screenings of Casablanca this Wednesday, March 8. It was so good I'm tempted to go again.

Casablanca facts and trivia:
  • Bogart lost the Oscar to Paul Lukas in Watch on the Rhine. Rains was bested by Charles Coburn in The More the Merrier. Bogart would finally get his Oscar in 1952, for The African Queen.
  • Bergman was nominated for Best Actress, but not for Casablanca. She got her nod for For Whom the Bell Tolls. She lost to Jennifer Jones (The Song of Bernadette).
  • The Academy nominated ten films for Best Picture. The films bested by Casablanca were For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Song of Bernadette, Madame Curie, Heaven Can Wait, In Which We Serve, The Human Comedy, The Ox-Bow Incident, The More the Merrier, and Watch on the Rhine
  • The classic song "As Time Goes By" was written years earlier for another production and was therefore ineligible for an Oscar nomination for its use in Casablanca. Academy rules require a song to be written specifically for a film to be eligible. The winning song at that year's Oscars was "You'll Never Know" from Hello Frisco, Hello
  • Many of the actors in Casablanca were Jews who had fled Europe as the Nazis gained power. 
  • Casablanca may be one of the most underrated films by those involved during its filming. Orson Welles claimed that at the time, Bogart told him that he was in "the worst picture I've ever been in." Neither Bergman or Henreid wanted to be in the film. Bergman didn't think it would do anything for her career and Henreid didn't want to play a non-lead. 
  • Other actresses considered for the role of Ilsa Lund included Ann Sheridan, Hedy Lamarr, Luise Rainer, and Michele Morgan.
  • Other actors considered for the role of Victor Lazslo included Herbert Marshall, Joseph Cotten, Philip Dorn, and Dean Jagger.
  • Wallis's first choice of director was William Wyler, but he was unavailable.
  • Joan Alison, one of the authors of Everybody Comes to Rick's, the unproduced play that was the basis for Casablanca, disliked Bogart and had envisioned Clark Gable as Rick.
  • Conrad Veidt was the highest paid actor in the film.
  • Rick never says, "Play it again, Sam." The line is, "You played it for her, you can play it for me. If she can stand it, I can. Play it." Ilsa simply says, "Play it, Sam."
  • Dooley Wilson was a musician, but he was a drummer and had to fake playing the piano.
  • Sam's piano from the cafe was sold at a TCM film memorabilia auction in 2014. It fetched $3.4 million.
  • Rick Blaine is one of the roles believed to have been famously turned down by George Raft, however this may have been a self-serving rumor started by Raft himself, as it's also claimed that Bogart was always who the producers had in mind.
  • In 2006 the Writers Guild of America named Casablanca as the Best Screenplay of All Time.
  • Film critic Leonard Maltin called Casablanca "the best Hollywood movie of all time".


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