It’s been 80 years since one of the most iconic films in cinematic history made its big screen debut. It is November 26, 1942 and at the Hollywood Theater in New York it is previewed Casablanca, a masterpiece directed by Michael Curtiz starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid. A film set and shot during the Second World War, a story in which reality and fiction are more closely linked than ever. Based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, tells the story of Rick Blaine (Bogart), a former American smuggler expatriate in Casablanca, who finds himself having to choose between an unending love for Ilsa Lund (Bergman) and the urge to give up his own happiness helping her to safety alongside her husband and anti-Nazi resistance hero Victor Laszlo (Henried). Here are 5 curiosities about one of the most cited and celebrated films in the history of cinema.
There are some sentences of Casablanca which are imprinted in the collective memory, cited and repeated over the decades. The most famous is certainly that of Bogart “Here’s looking at you, kid – To your health, child”. But also “Play it Sam, play ‘As Time Goes By‘”, “With so many hangouts around the world, he just had to come to mine”, “Stop the usual suspects” And “Louis, maybe today we inaugurate a beautiful friendship”.
The actors who fled from Nazism
In Casablanca actors of 34 different nationalities perform, some of whom fled their countries of origin after the advent of Nazism, yet another demonstration of the strong link between the film and the historical moment. Among these Paul Henried and Conrad Veidt, but also the German Curt Bois and the Hungarians Peter Lorre and SZ Sakall.
The Oscars of Discord
Casablanca it garnered eight nominations at the 1944 Academy Awards and won statuettes for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. During the ceremony, however, something went wrong. When the Best Picture win was announced, producer Hal B. Wallis got up to collect his Oscar, but executive producer Jack L. Warner was quicker and got onstage before him to accept the award. “I couldn’t believe it was happening – Wallis recounted years later in his autobiography – Casablanca had been my baby, Jack had absolutely nothing to do with it. I tried to step out of the row of chairs and into the hallway, but the entire Warner family blocked me. I had no alternative but to sit back, humiliated and furious. Almost forty years later I still haven’t recovered from the shock”. A short time later Wallis left Warner Bros. to pursue a career as an independent producer. Director Michael Curtiz, on the other hand, was happier who, having reached his fifth nomination, withdrew the Oscar saying: “Many times I’ve had a speech ready but nothing to do, the eternal second, now that I win I have no words”.
Censorship in Italy
Casablanca it was released in Italy on November 21, 1946, but some details were censored. Two scenes starring Captain Tonelli, an officer representing Italian subjection to the German army, were removed, and the fact that Rick Blaine had smuggled weapons for the Ethiopian rebels during the colonial war with Italy was eliminated. Also the Ferrari fixer’s name was changed to Ferrac, to avoid making a connection to his Italian origins.
The experiment of journalist Chuck Ross
Casablanca it was also the subject of an experiment launched by journalist Chuck Ross in 1982. His goal was to understand if Hollywood insiders were able to recognize the already iconic film for decades, so he sent to 217 agencies registered with the Writers Guild of America the original screenplay by replacing the title of the film with that of the play – Everybody Comes to Rick’s – and changing Sam’s character name to Dooley. Only 33 agencies recognized the work, four offered to buy it while most judged the dialogue excessive and the plot too weak.