Nowadays we’re used to top tier movies having months, or even years, of pre-production with every single element carefully planned out.
is an example of almost nothing being planned and serendipity providing all the right elements. Casablanca
First, the studios wanted to put Humphrey Bogart, Sidney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre together again after their star making turns the year before in The Maltese Falcon. The latter two were added into Bogart’s movie, as you can see by them having smaller roles than other major characters in the film. Second, the screenplay wasn’t even completed when filming started. In fact, it was weeks into filming before they had even decided which man Ilsa would end up with. Bogart was even brought back to dub the classic last line of the film after the entire movie had been assembled.
Third, almost all of the sets were re-used from other movies, and the now-classic song ‘As Time Goes By’ had been in circulation for quite a few years. Fourth, the biggest reason we see Ingrid Bergman onscreen is that she was less expensive than some other actresses who were considered for the role. Fifth, both Bogart and Bergman felt that the script (which was still being written) was too unrealistic and they had a lunch to discuss how they could get out of the movie. In fact, in the 1980s someone sent the script for
around to all the major studios, under a different title, to see what their reactions would be. While some recognized it, those who didn’t know it rejected it for having too much dialogue and not enough sex. Casablanca
The story involves Rick (Bogart), an American who owns a bar in
Casablanca on the eve of the German’s invasion of North Africa. Many refugees from the war in Europe come through the city and one of them turns out to be Ilsa (Bergman), a former love of Rick’s. The two had a whirlwind romance in before the Nazis invaded. She was married, but her husband was missing and presumed dead. Just as she and Rick were getting ready to leave Paris together, she abandoned Rick with no explanation to him. Unfortunately for Rick, her husband – Victor Laszlo (Paul Heinreid) – is very much alive and shows up in Paris with Ilsa. In fact, he is fleeing the Nazis and needs Rick’s help to secure some papers that will allow him to travel to safety. Casablanca
Once they see each other again, Rick’s and Ilsa’s old feelings come back. Will Rick help Ilsa and her husband escape, or will he try to win Ilsa back for himself? And does Ilsa even want to go with Victor or stay with Rick?
Complicating Rick’s life are an assortment of characters. Chief among them is Captain Renault (Claude Rains), a corrupt police officer who almost seems to live at Rick’s Café Americain. Even though they do not run the country yet, the Nazis are there and involved in everything. They are led by Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt – who was actually the highest paid performer in the movie). Two others involved in some illegal activities in
are Signor Ferrari (Greenstreet) and Ugarte (Lorre). Casablanca
Finally, Dooley Wilson became a star for a time for his portrayal of Sam, the piano player in the film that became forever associated with Rick’s and Ilsa’s song ‘As Time Goes By’. Not bad for a man who couldn’t play the piano. He was a drummer by trade and he mimed the playing along to the pre-recorded track.
It’s his character that is the “Sam” that is involved in one of the most misquoted quotes in cinema history. Many people say “Play it again Sam” when referring to this movie. While the film had many famous quotes – “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine”, “Here’s looking at you kid” (which was improvised by Bogart), “Round up the usual suspects”, and many more, the words “play it again Sam” are never spoken. At one point Ilsa says, “Play it Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’” and later in the film Rick says, “You played it for her. You can play it for me”, then “If she can stand it, I can. Play it!”
I realize there are some people who haven’t seen this film, so I will not be spoiling the ending of it by mentioning a couple of the classic quotes, nor writing about the much discussed decision that Ilsa makes, and whether it is the right or wrong one. I will say that there are a couple of great scenes in When Harry Met Sally where the two are talking about the ending and Sally has two completely different takes on it when she is younger and then when she is a little older and more experienced in love.
The onscreen chemistry between Bogart and Bergman is legendary. While filming was going on Bogart’s wife even accused him of having an affair with Bergman. According to people who were on set, though, the two almost never interacted with each other when cameras were not rolling. And for a reason that escapes me, but must have made sense to studios, the two were never again paired together in a movie. This is the one and only time they played opposite each other.
I have met one person who I could not convince to watch this movie because it was black and white and she refused to watch anything that wasn’t in color. I’m serious. Even if you feel the same as she does, this is one of the movies that you really must see in your lifetime, even if it’s not the kind of film you usually watch. I give it my highest recommendation.
Chip’s Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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