[media-credit id=5 align="alignleft" width="225"][/media-credit]Last month I had the extreme privilege of finally seeing one of the all-time greatest classic films on the big screen: Casablanca. This year is the 70th anniversary for the film, and across the country movie houses showed it for one day on March 21st. It premiered in November 26th, 1942 but it was actually released to the general public in early 1943.
About a decade or two ago I saw this film but didn’t recall what I thought of it. Of course, I knew the famous lines and some of the iconic scenes, but to be honest with you I didn’t remember what the story was about, fully. Yes, I knew it was a love story; and I can remember how often Harry and Sally watched Casablanca while talking on the phone about who she (Ilsa) should be with: Rick or Laszlo? But knowing the full plot eluded me.
However, while I was on vacation at my parents’ home recently my mother asked if I wanted to see Casablanca in the movie theatre. She told me she had never had a chance to see it in the theatre; and I being a movie reviewer should see AFI’s third all-time greatest film at the theatre, at least once. I didn’t even blink before saying, “Yes!”.
The film was showing only twice that day, 2:00pm and 7:00pm. My mother, being like me, preferred the earlier showing so I bought the tickets ahead of time just in case it would be sold out. We arrived at the theatre and I was surprised that it was already pretty full and we still had 20 minutes to go before it started. On the screen there were trivia questions displayed about the movie, some of which I did not know the answers to but my mother knew most of them. As I said, I had only seen Casablanca once it was many years ago.
Soon the lights dimmed but instead of previews there was an introduction by TCM’s (Turner Classic Movies) host, Robert Osborne. That led into interviews by people who helped make the film or whose family members were involved talking about a lot of the behind the scenes information. I really enjoyed that part because most of it was new to me and they also showed many of the scenes from the movie to point out the references. That last part sort of put me off for a bit. Sure, many of seen this film dozens, if not hundreds, of times but this went on for nearly 30 minutes and I soon became restless. I wanted to see Casablanca not all the famous scenes right before seeing the movie. Okay, that is my only complaint because I did really enjoying learning more about the history of the film. Let me list of few facts that I found interesting:
- The movie was based on an unproduced play called Everyone Comes to Rick’s. It was pursued by a Warner Bros. story editor Irene Diamond and it was because of her that they bought the film rights.
- The script was unfinished and was written and rewritten even as the film was being shot. Many of the actors sometimes didn’t know what their lines would be each day.
- Ronald Reagan was in the running to play Rick Blaine but Humphrey Bogart wanted to change his mobster image and play a more likeable and sensitive character and got the part.
- Casablanca did well at the box-office upon its release but wasn’t a smashing financial success as one might think at the time.
- It was up for eight Oscars (16th Academy Awards) and won three, including Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture.
- When it won for Best Picture, the executive producer, Hal B. Wallis, went to accept the award but Jack Warner, head of Warner Bros., quickly got up to accept the award. Hal B. Wallis was so irate that he left Warner Bros. later that year.
- There are five famous quotes from Casablanca in AFI’s list of all time movie quotes. However, “Here’s looking at you, Kid” is not listed because it was not in the original script. It was a saying Bogart said to Bergman as he was teaching her how to play poker during the filming of Casablanca.
- One of the most misquoted lines is from Casablanca. It is, “Play it Sam. Play, ‘As Time Goes By’.” And it is not, “Play it again, Sam.”
- All the views of Paris were stock footage scenes as the budget wouldn’t allow for new scenes to be shot. Also, the plane at the end of the film was a cardboard plane.
- The last line, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” was dubbed in later to help the ending of the film. And it is probably the most memorable line of all of film history.
I could go on and on with trivia about Casablanca, and I will probably spend some time researching this film more because I really, really enjoyed it – especially seeing it on the big screen. It was a real treat! But what surprised me the most seeing it 70 years after its initial release was the movie’s overall timeless appeal. It had every aspect of great filmmaking: great script, wonderful acting, a unique story and many details like love, intrigue, suspense, adventure and comedy. Yes, I found many of the lines, a lot delivered by Claude Rains (Captain Renault), as some of the wittiest lines on film. A couple of times I found myself smiling or even gave a chuckle or two.
As far as the love story is concerned in Casablanca, they nailed it. A woman torn between two loves and not knowing who to choose kept me totally fascinated throughout the entire film, even though I knew the ending. However, a question kept popping into my head after the film, “Would she really regret it?” (You know what I am referring to, right? If not, go watch the film as I will not spoil for you…haha.)
The story of Casablanca really sticks with you; and in combination with a perfect storm of luck, talent and timing the filmmakers had with this film, I now fully comprehend why it is such a classic. Rent it, buy it and show Casablanca to the generations to come because this was truly magical fimmaking and it needs to be remembered for 70+ more years.
Do you have a favorite line or part of the film? And how many times have you seen Casablanca?