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5 Facts About Casablanca

May 19, 2011

Casablanca is one of the all-time great movies (even if you’ve never seen it, just take my word for it, it is). It won the 1943 Oscar for Best Picture, contains some of the most memorable lines in film history (“We’ll always have Paris,” “Here’s looking at you, kid”), and features the classic song “As Time Goes By,” a song that most people recognize even if they’ve never seen the film.

Here are some other facts about Casablanca you might not know.

#1 Six (yes, six!) writers had a hand in writing the film. It was based on an unproduced play, “Everybody Comes to Rick’s,” written by Murray Bennett and Joan Allison. When Warner Brothers bought the rights to the play, screenwriters (and twin brothers) Julius Epstein and Philip Epstein were brought on to adapt it. Another screenwriter, Howard Koch, was later brought on, and a fourth screenwriter, Casey Robinson, did several weeks of rewrites but wasn’t credited. So suffice it to say there were a lot of cooks in the Casablanca story kitchen. (A point Robert McKee should highlight every time he cites it as the greatest screenplay ever written. It would give a lot of aspiring screenwriters hope.)

#2: One of the movie’s most memorable lines, in fact the movie’s very last line—“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”—wasn’t written by any of the screenwriters who worked on the film, but by the film’s producer, Hal Wallis. What’s more, Wallis came up with the line after they’d already finished shooting. They had to bring Humphrey Bogart back into the studio a month after shooting to dub the line.
#3 One of the movie’s most famous lines—“Play it again, Sam”—actually isn’t in the movie. Bogart’s character never speaks those exact words; he just tells Sam to “play it.” Funny how our collective memory works (or fails to). Perhaps Woody Allen is partly to blame for this.

#4 Ingrid Bergman was two inches taller than Bogart—so Bogie was forced to stand on blocks or sit on cushions during their scenes together, so he didn’t appear too short.

#5: The song that the German SS soldiers sing in the movie’s famous anthem standoff scene, “Die Wacht am Rhein” (Watch on the Rhine), happens to be the same melody as “Bright College Years,” the unofficial anthem of Yale University (my alma mater). Needless to say, I was a little horrified when I first made the connection.

Of course, if none of these facts mean anything to you because you’ve never seen Casablanca…I’d seriously suggest you rectify that situation. Otherwise we probably can’t be friends.

Till then, here’s looking at you, kid.

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