Behind the Scenes of the Movie Casablanca Part 2

About the film Casablanca, behind the scenes of one of the greatest movies ever made.

INSIDE STORIES OF THE 10 GREATEST FILMS

CASABLANCA (1943)

The Story behind the Story: A success when it was first released, Casablanca has steadily grown in stature and popularity through the years. Strange as it seems now, given the brilliant "rightness" of Bogart and Bergman in the leads, neither had been first choice for the roles. Warner Brothers had bought an obscure play, Everybody Comes to Rick's, as a vehicle for Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan. When that idea fell apart (and try to imagine the film if it hadn't), they offered the role of Rick to resident tough guy George Raft, who had previously turned down two other major roles that went to Bogart--High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon--batted a thousand by deciding that he didn't like the role because Rick lost the girl at the end. As for the girl Raft was to lose, they were then considering Hedy Lamarr.

By the time they finally decided on Bogart, the Warners had also decided they would try to borrow Bergman from the Selznick studio to play opposite Bogey. Not really having a story on paper (they had already discarded most of the play as too weak), the brothers sent screen-writers Julius and Philip Epstein to fast-talk an improvised story to Selznick. The ploy worked and Selznick lent Bergman, but no one really had any idea what for. Howard Koch, whose greatest claim to fame at that time was being the writer of Orson Welles's notorious radio production Invasion from Mars, was brought in to work with the Epsteins on the story line, and Koch managed to hammer enough together to get the film moving.

The usual working practice was to deliver the freshly written lines to the actors a few hours before they were to read them. Occasionally, when the script didn't show up on time, Koch and Bogart slipped into Bogart's dressing room and improvised over bottles of whiskey. Miraculously, the whole thing took shape, even winning an Academy Award for Koch and the Epsteins for best screenplay. This despite the fact that right up to the last scene, Bergman never knew which of the two men she was supposed to have been most in love with.

Premiering in New York on Thanksgiving Day, 1942, coincidentally 18 days after the Allied landings at Casablanca, the film was released to the general public in 1943 and received an enthusiastic response from the critics. Bosley Crowther called it "one of the year's most exciting and trenchant films. "Nominated for eight Academy Awards, it won three, for best screenplay, best director, and best picture of 1943.

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