January 25, 2022
In the 1980s someone, either as a joke or an experiment, sent the screenplay of this unproduced play to various movie studios. None considered it to be a project, a handful “got it”, but most came back rejected, for their various reasons.
“Not enough sex“, said one. “Too much dialogue“, said another.
The play rights were eventually bought by Warner Brothers Studio for the ridiculous sum (even then) of $20,000.
It became on the silver screen one of the greatest movies ever made.
It had what is known in the trade “lightning in a bottle“. And that is why so often, when studios try to remake a hit movie decades later, it is a dud. Look at Sabrina. You cannot simply reproduce that lightning from a formula.
It was a perfect convergence of great screenwriting (as a general rule one cannot take the script for a play and directly transfer it to the cameras). Two of the best writers at the time, Julius and Philip Epstein, were behind it. The casting was first rate, although Hedy Lemar was in the running for the part that Ingrid Bergman eventually got.
Even more amazing, when filming started, nobody knew how it would end. The screenplay was not finished.
Bergman didn’t know the ending of course and asked director Michael Curtiz how she should play the love scenes between the 2 male leads. Or was she going to leave them both?
The director, also not knowing the ending at the time, said “Play them equally”.
One of the most famous lines in the movie, remembered even 80 years later, was initially ad-libbed by one of the leads. It wasn’t even in the screenplay.
“Here’s looking at you, kid”.
Of all the gin joints, er, movies, ever made, there are probably more memorable lines here than in any other movie.
Even the actor playing the chief Nazi was wanted by the GESTAPO under a death sentence. Born in Berlin and a celebrated actor, he was the highest paid actor on this set.
He would die just a year after release of this movie while playing golf.
The movie, of course, is Casablanca.
I just saw it last night in all of its original silver screen glory, digitally restored. It’s one of those movies promoted this year by Fathom Events. Some theaters nationwide may show it again Wednesday.
I think I will go again.
As for the movie studios it goes back to the famous quote of screenwriter William Goldman, “Nobody Knows Nothin”.