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the classic and much-loved romantic melodrama Casablanca (1942), always found on top-ten lists of films, is a masterful tale of two men vying for the same womans love in a love triangle. The story of political and romantic espionage is set against the backdrop of the wartime conflict between democracy and totalitarianism. [The date given for the film is often given as either 1942 and 1943. That is because its limited premiere was in 1942, but the film did not play nationally, or in Los Angeles, until 1943.]

With rich and smoky atmosphere, anti-Nazi propaganda, Max Steiners superb musical score, suspense, unforgettable characters (supposedly 34 nationalities are included in its cast) and memorable lines of dialogue (e.g., “Heres lookin at you, kid,” and the inaccurately-quoted “Play it again, Sam”), it is one of the most popular, magical (and flawless) films of all time – focused on the themes of lost love, honor and duty, self-sacrifice and romance within a chaotic world. Woody Allens Play It Again, Sam (1972) paid reverential homage to the film, as have the lesser films Cabo Blanco (1981) and Barb Wire (1996), and the animated Bugs Bunny short Carrotblanca (1995).

Directed by the talented Hungarian-accented Michael Curtiz and shot almost entirely on studio sets, the film moves quickly through a surprisingly tightly constructed plot, even though the script was written from day to day as the filming progressed and no one knew how the film would end – who would use the two exit visas? [Would Ilsa, Ricks lover from a past romance in Paris, depart with him or leave with her husband Victor, the leader of the underground resistance movement?] And three weeks after shooting ended, producer Hal Wallis contributed the films famous final line – delivered on a fog-shrouded runway.

The sentimental story, originally structured as a one-set play, was based on an unproduced play entitled Everybody Comes to Ricks by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison – the films original title. Its collaborative screenplay was mainly the result of the efforts of Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch. In all, six writers took the plays script, and with the models of Algiers (1938) and Only Angels Have Wings (1939) to follow, they transformed the romantic tale into this quintessential classic that samples almost every film genre.

Except for the initial airport sequence, the entire studio-oriented film was shot in a Warner Bros. Hollywood/Burbank studio. Many other 40s stars were considered for the lead roles: Hedy Lamarr, Ann Sheridan, French actress Michele Morgan, and George Raft.

[Its an urban legend that Ronald Reagan was seriously considered for a role in the film. The Warner Bros. publicity office famously planted a pre-production press release in The Hollywood Reporter on January 5, 1942 (it was also released to dozens of newspapers across the country two days later), stating that Reagan would co-star with Ann Sheridan for the third time in Casablanca (1942) – in order to actually encourage support for the soon-to-be-released film Kings Row (1942) with the two stars.]

And pianist Sams role (portrayed by “Dooley” Wilson – who was actually a drummer) was originally to be taken by a female (either Hazel Scott, Lena Horne, or Ella Fitzgerald). The lead male part went to Humphrey Bogart in his first romantic lead as the tough and cynical on-the-outside, morally-principled, sentimental on-the-inside cafe owner in Casablanca, Morocco. His appearance with co-star Ingrid Bergman was their first – and last. As a hardened American expatriate, Bogart runs a bar/casino (Ricks Cafe Americain) – a way-station to freedom in WWII French-occupied Morocco, where a former lover (Bergman) who previously jilted him comes back into his life. She is married to a heroic French Resistance leader (Henreid). Stubbornly isolationist, the hero is inspired to support the Resistance movement and give up personal happiness with his past love.

The Hollywood fairy-tale was actually filmed during a time of US ties with Vichy France when President Roosevelt equivocated and vacillated between pro-Vichy or pro-Gaullist support. And it was rushed into general release almost three weeks after the Allied landing at the Axis-occupied, North African city of Casablanca, when Eisenhowers forces marched into the African city. Due to the military action, Warner Bros. Studios was able to capitalize on the free publicity and the nations familiarity with the citys name when the film opened.

It played first as a pre-release engagement on Thanksgiving Day, 1942 at the Hollywood Theater in New York. [On the last day of 1942, Roosevelt actually screened the film at the White House.] Its strategic timing was further enhanced at the time of its general release in early 1943 by the January 14-24, 1943 Casablanca Conference (a summit meeting in which Roosevelt broke US-Vichy relations) in the Moroccan city with Churchill, Roosevelt, and two French leaders – DeGaulle (the charismatic Free French leader) and General Henri Giraud (supportive of Marshal Petain). [Note: Stalin declined the invitation to attend the so-called Big Three Conference.]

The big-budget film (of slightly less than $1 million), took in box-office of slightly more than $4 million. It was considered for eight Academy Awards for the year 1943. [Actually, it should have competed against Mrs. Miniver (1942) (the Best Picture winner in the previous year), since it premiered in New York in November of that year. However, because it didnt show in Los Angeles until its general release that January, it was ineligible for awards in 1942, and competed in 1943.] The nominations included Best Actor (Humphrey Bogart), Best Supporting Actor (Claude Rains), Best B/W Cinematography (Arthur Edeson, known for The Maltese Falcon (1941)), Best Score (Max Steiner, known for Gone With the Wind (1939)), and Best Film Editing (Owen Marks). The dark-horse film won three awards (presented in early March of 1944): Best Picture (producer Hal B. Wallis), Best Director, and Best Screenplay. Bogart lost to Paul Lukas for his role in Watch on the Rhine. And Bergman wasnt even nominated for this film, but instead was nominated for Best Actress for For Whom The Bell Tolls (and she lost to Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette). Bogart had made three other films in 1943: Sahara, Action in the North Atlantic, and Thank Your Lucky Stars.

At the films beginning, the credits are displayed over a political map of Africa. In the first five minutes of footage, the introductory details are succinctly communicated. Over a crude, slowly-spinning globe and a zoom-in shot toward Western Europe, a doom-laden,

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