The full title is actually We’ll Always Have Casablanca – The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie and it has more interesting trivia about this amazingly enduring movie which seemingly took on a life of its own and still appears near the top of every top movie list that is generated. Isenberg has done extensive research, including interviews, and has probably uncovered facts which will surprise even the staunchest of Casablanca fans. The title, of course, is a play on Rick’s farewell to Ilsa, “We’ll always have Paris”.
One of the facts that surprised me was the number of actors/actresses in the movie who were actually refugees who had fled the Nazis along a similar if not the exact same escape route being taken by Ilsa, Victor, and so many other characters hanging around Rick’s in hopes of obtaining exit visas by whatever means they can. S.Z.Sakall who played headwaiter Carl, Marcel De La Brosse, a German officer, Lotte Palfi who played a refugee trying to sell her diamonds, Peter Lorre as the shady character Ugarte, Madeleine Lebeau who gives the emotional rendition of La Marseillaise, and so many others — indeed, almost all of the seventy-five actors were immigrants. Of those who were given screen credits, only three — Humphrey Bogart, Dooley Wilson, and Joy Page — were born in the United States.
The original screen play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison was entitled, Everybody Comes to Rick’s and was purchased by Warner Bros. in 1941. Thereafter, Burnett, Warner Bros., and authors of articles and books were to be embroiled in numerous lawsuits over the next several decades for a variety of reasons. The timing of the movie’s release couldn’t have been better — in late 1942, the Allies had just mounted a huge invasion of North Africa and within months, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin were heading for Casablanca for a conference on strategy for the next phase of WWII. The name Casablanca was on everyone’s lips.
By the 1960s, a cult had grown up around the movie. There were many spinoffs (A Night in Casablanca starring the Marx Bros.), movies that discussed the movie, a movie where Bogart’s Rick character gives advice to a loser about how to improve his love life (Play it Again, Sam — which was never actually said in the movie), in 1995, Looney Tunes (Warner Bros. released an 8 min. Bugs Bunny cartoon called Carrotblanca, and there was a huge market for T-shirts and movie posters. Theatres around the world were still showing the movie to sell-out crowds and in 2013, “the Troxy Theatre in London’s East End was transformed in Rick’s Café Américain as part of Secret Cinema, a British company that specializes in “live cinema.” Spectators came in costume, played cards at roulette tables, had cocktails, and danced to the music from the film while scenes from the movie were acted out in front of them.
If you Google the movie title in books, you get almost 9m results. There are fans of the movie who have watched it hundreds of times. Cable cohost Erroll Parker of Inside Long Beach had, by 1999, watched the film more than six hundred times, having first watched it at the age of fourteen when he was bedridden with a broken leg.
If you’ve never watched the movie, you should. If you have, but not recently, you should watch it again. Then read this book which has to be the ultimate collection of Casablanca information. The movie is surrounded by irony, humorous anecdotes, sad tales, surprising details, cast and director background, and controversy. Lots of fun. * * * * *