Humphrey Bogart - Rick Blaine
Ingrid Bergman - Ilsa Lund Laszlo
Paul Henreid - Victor Laszlo
Claude Rains - Capt. Louis Renault
Peter Lorre - Guillermo Ugarte
Conrad Veidt - Maj. Heinrich Strasser
Michael Curtiz - Director
Hal Wallace - Producer
Julius & Philip Epstein - Screenwriter
Howard Koch - Screenwriter
Arthur Edeson - Cinematographer
Max Steiner - Film Score
Michael Curtiz next began the incomparable Casablanca, a much-discussed film now in effect frozen in time. By the end of 1941 Warners had purchased the screen rights to an unproduced Joan Alison/Murray Burnett play entitled Everybody Comes to Rick's. After a publicly announced notion of casting Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan in the leads for what was intended to be a medium-budget film was swiftly discarded, Humphrey Bogart was selected as Rick and Hal Wallis was intent upon Hedy Lamarr as the female lead until MGM refused to loan her out. They then turned thier attention toward securing Ingrid Bergman's services from Selznik, who agreed to release her.
The plot centers upon the activities of refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in Rick's Cafe Americain in Cassablanca, French Morocco, on the eve of Pearl Harbor. Letters of transit have been stolen by Ugarte (Peter Lorre). Rick Blaine (Bogart) eventually abandons his shattered idealism to rejoin the anti-Nazi cause in aiding Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid) and his Norwegian wife Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), Rick's former beloved in Paris when she believed her husband to be dead, to escape the German Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) and Vichy prefect of police Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) by giving them the letters. Glaring story flaws pale into insignificance within the magic of a film that continues to be a very satisfying cinematic experience long after the political conditions that spawned it have evaporated.
Bogart emerged as a first-rate romantic actor, while Bergman, who liked and got along well with Curtiz (they never worked together again), turned in her most memorable Hollywood performance. But the vital element in the film is without a doubt Curtiz's spellbinding direction, evidenced even in incidental scenes such as an early police street round-up, and one on a station platform in torrential rain. Rick and Sam are waiting to leave Paris when Rick reads Ilsa's letter stating that he will never see her again, the rain on the paper obliterating the written words. Uniquely for Curtiz, personal romance is skilfully woven into the basic propaganda theme, so that neither dominates but both linger in the memory, as they have done for many in the past half-century.
The film was completed in August 1942, eleven days late and at a cost of just over one million dollars--seventy-five thousand over budget. There was then a release delay while Max Steiner composed his score to Casablanca. During the October preview, audience reaction suggested to Wallis that a scene showing Bogart and Rains together in uniform on a fog-bound freighter discussing their plans to fight the Germans should be added at the end. However, before Wallis arranged for this to be filmed, in early November the allies landed in French North Africa, whereupon the release of the film was speeded up. As a result the planned additonal scene was scrapped in favor of a new dialogue line, contributed by Wallis himself. Thus was born Rick's unforgettable closing comment, "Louis, this could be the beginning of a beautiful freindship."
Casablanca proved an instant hit and made a profit of almost six million dollars (American and foreign takings were approximately equal). It has continued to charm audiences ever since. Oscar nominations went to Bogart, Rains, cinematographer Arthur Edeson, and Steiner, although inexplicably not to Ingrid Bergman. Curtiz, the Epsteins, and Koch (screenwriters) won Oscars, as did the film itself. These Oscars have stood the acid test of time better than any others, although the unsuccessful nominees, especially Bogart, were hard done by.
--JAMES C. ROBERTSON, from The Casablanca Man:
The Cinema of Michael Curtiz
A selection of Casablanca related films.
Find Casablanca on eBay.com
A selection of Casablanca related books.
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