It’s now 70 years since the Bogart-Bergman classic was made, says John Daly
ONE of cinema’s most famous lines — “Here’s looking at you, kid” — might be due for a rebirth 70 years after Casablanca was released. After many failed attempts to make a sequel to the classic 1943 Oscar-winner, what happened to Rick and Ilsa, played by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, after she reluctantly fled the advancing Nazis in the arms of a man she didn’t love, might be revealed.
Cass Warner, granddaughter of the legendary Hollywood producer, Jack Warner, is the driving force behind the new film. Provisionally entitled As Time Goes By, the script was written in the 1980s by Howard Koch, one of the trio of screenwriters who won an Oscar for Casablanca, and revolves around Richard Blaine — the illegitimate son of the ill-fated lovers. Set 20 years after that night when Rick ‘did the right thing’ by helping the love of his life escape with her husband, Victor, their son returns to Casablanca to find out what became of his real father, only to become involved with freedom fighters battling Nazi sympathisers intent on establishing another Third Reich. Like father, like son. Warner says the story “will have flashbacks, but is really about the next generation — a son going back to find what happened to his parents.” Casablanca fans are against tampering with such a legacy, but Hollywood thinks box office. Bogart’s son, Stephen, said: “There are certain films, like The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and Casablanca, that need to stay as pristine and perfect as they are.”
A measure of the film’s cultural importance is the market value of its memorabilia. Just before Christmas, the 58-key upright piano on which the famous ‘As Time Goes By’ tune was played sold at a Sotheby’s New York auction for $600,000. The piano had been bought by a Japanese collector in 1988 for $154,000. Dooley Wilson, who played pianist Sam, was a professional drummer who couldn’t play piano. The famous tune was played by composer Elliot Carpenter, who was positioned out of camera view so that Wilson could watch and copy his hand movements.
Casablanca won Oscars for ‘best picture’, ‘director’ and ‘screenplay’, but the film’s core is the chemistry between Bogart and Bergman. Rick is what every man wants to be — tough, smart, courageous, loved by women, and principled and honourable. Captain Renault tells Ilsa: “If I were a woman, I should be in love with Rick.” Bang on, monsieur. Bergman, one of cinema’s most luminous actresses — she won three Oscars — had the right blend of drama and compassion as Ilsa, a woman torn between raging passion for Rick and decency towards her husband. Bergman was taller, so Bogart stood on boxes. When seated, Bergman leaned forward — especially in the classic “a franc for your thoughts” scene on the sofa.
Apart from the excellent acting, and directing (by Michael Curtiz), and wonderfully realised atmosphere of wartime uncertainty, Casablanca is noted for great lines of dialogue. The American Film Institute’s list of the ‘top 100 movie quotes’ includes six from Casablanca — more than any other film. Some lines have been slightly lost in translation. “Here’s looking at you, kid” was apparently inspired by singer Eddie Cantor’s comment in cement on the Hollywood ‘walk of fame’ in 1932. “Play it again, Sam” is one of the most misquoted of lines — the original is “Play it, Sam”. Another Rick line is “You played it for her and you can play it for me. If she can stand it, I can. Play it.” Who among us hasn’t used that “We’ll always have Paris” line? What man, faced with a face from his romantic past, hasn’t thought: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine”. My favourite is Rick and Ilsa’s first meeting. “Let’s see, the last time we met was La Belle Aurore,” he says. “How nice, you remembered. But, of course, that was the day the Germans marched into Paris,” she says. “I remember every detail,” he says. “The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.” Ah, the glory of the movies — always better than real life.
*City Limits Comedy Club, Cork is screening Casablanca on Feb 15 at 9.45pm.
Greatest closing lines
For many movie fans, Bogart’s final line in Casablanca ranks as the best of all time: “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”, as they stroll away from the fog-shrouded runaway, while Ilsa and Victor’s plane lifts slowly to safety. But what about:
“I do wish we could chat longer, but I’m having an old friend for dinner.” — Hannibal Lecter, Silence Of The Lambs
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that — poof — he’s gone!”— Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects
“I’ll go home and I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day!” —— Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With The Wind
“Emily, I have a little confession to make. I really am a horse doctor. But marry me, and I’ll never look at any other horse.”— Hugo Z. Hackenbush, A Day At The Races
“You see, this is my life. It always will be! There’s nothing else — just us — and the cameras — and those wonderful people out there in the dark. All right, Mr De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up.” — Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard
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