Just Another Movie Casablanca
In the old times, when studio factories stretched across LA under a harshly blue sky, the conclusion of production on one movie was almost indistinguishable from the final periods of the movie that had been completed a week earlier or the movie that would be done 2 weeks after.
Casablanca ended production on August 3, 1942, eleven days behind schedule.
Nobody was disappointed that the film was finally done. Majority of the actors were not fond of each other. Michael Curtiz, the director, had been vicious, as always, to his staff and talent actors. The fighting made it unmanageable to shoot real airplanes, so Humphrey Bogart had said farewell to Ingrid Bergman in Warner Bros. Stage 1, before a plywood plane with the atmospheric fog pumped in to disguise the phoniness. The movie had begun in May and the screenwriters were still writing new speeches in mid-July. It made the actors edgy. Although Bergman always managed to hide her anxiety, Bogart lashed out. Casablanca was just one of the four movies he would make in 1942, and he had had much more fun on across the pacific.
Bergman had taken the part of Ilsa Lund in Casablanca only for the reason that she’d been rejected for the role she really liked- Maria in Paramount’s film version of Hemingway’s Spanish Civil War novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. To Bergman, who lived to work, any role was better than none, but she had been playing docile, love-torn women like Ilsa for years. Even then, Bergman was hungry for Academy Awards, and David O. Selznick, the producer who owned her contract, had assured her that Maria, the Spanish girl who had been raped by the Falangists before she joined a partisan band in the mountains, would win her one. When Bergman finished working Zorina was Maria, but Paramount was having second thoughts. For days the Los Angeles Times had been printing rumors that Zorina’s hold on the role was shaky. The movie had been in production for ten days, and Zorina seemed too much the ballerina to be believable as a peasant girl who could climb the hills like a mountain goat.
During that hot morning on the Warner Bros. backlot, Bergman was waiting for the telephone call that would tell her whether she was to replace Zorina. The call came while Bergman and Paul Henreid were posing for publicity photographs. According to her diary, when the phone in the Warner Bros. picture gallery rang, it was David Selznick who told her that she will play the role, Maria. Bergman never felt much happier after her time with the Swedish Royal Dramatic Theatre. To Henreid, her shout of triumph was that of a tigress who has made a kill. Henreid had been working with Bergman for nearly two months, but it was only at this last moment that he pierced her shield of sweet docility and understood “how she had managed to get ahead in Sweden and in the Hollywood jungle.” Surfeited with victory, Bergman barely gave Casablanca another thought.
Six other movies were shot at Warner Bros. the week that Casablanca ended. Casablanca was neither the most important nor the most expensive. Its final cost of $1,039,000 was considerably more than Warner Bros. would have spent four years earlier but relatively modest for an A film in 1942. Of the seven pictures filling the Warner Bros, stages in early August, only Princess O’Rourke was cheaper. Air Force was in production for ninety-nine days and cost $2,646,000. Edge of Darkness, with the studio’s top star, Errol Flynn, and The Adventures of Mark Twain cost over $1,500,000 each. Watch on the Rhine, based on a play by Lillian Hellman, was to be the studio’s prestige movie for 1943, the movie that would carry Warners’ hopes for Academy Awards. Even The Desert Song, Sigmund Romberg’s 1926 operetta dragged out of storage and dressed up with Nazi villains, cost $1,148,000. Casablanca finished on August 3, and Edge of Darkness took over the soundstages on August 4. “One in and one out,” as Rick Blaine would state at the time Ilsa Lund returned back into his life. Rick Blaine said a lot of things, and college students who weren’t born when he said them would shout his words back at the screen twenty years later The Germans wore gray; you wore blue.” “We’ll always have While this picture was being taken, Ingrid Bergman was waiting for the call that would get the role she really wanted.
Paris. “I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see t the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill bean in this crazy world.”
By the time John F. Kennedy ran for President and Harvard students sat in the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and chanted Rick’s words, the war that had formed the context for Casablanca was just another chapter in American history textbooks. The movie should have been as dead as the hundreds of other melodramas that Hollywood churned out during World War II at best, Rick Blaine should have been exiled to film classes as an interesting example of The Cynical Idealist-a common film protagonist during the late 1930s and early 1940s. “But to be at the Brattle when Casablanca was playing was, in a small way, like being at a theater in ancient Greece watching Oedipus, says Cyrus Harvey, Jr. who co-owned the theater. “Some people came twenty-five and thirty times. The film was almost mythical, and audiences would thirty repeat lines the way they did in Greek amphitheaters.”
There are more films that are greater quality compared to Casablanca, but there are no better films that showcased U.S.’ mythical vision of itself on the outside and moral within, able to sacrifice and present romance while not sacrificing the individualism that dominated a continent, pulling its neck out for everyone by the time situation demand heroism. There’s no other film that has so mirrored both the time it was created the early days of the second world war -and the psychological needs of filmgoers many years later. Of course, it was an accident, that Casablanca merged a theme, an old song, half a dozen actors, and a script full of cynical dialogues and ethical certainty, into 2 hours that have set into the minds of American people. But every film is a creature created from accidents and blind choices, a mechanical monster constructed of camera angles, the chemistry between actors, too little money or too much, and a thousand unintended moments.
A gust of wind blew Maureen O’Hara’s wedding veil in How Green Was My Valley, giving a poignant visual coda to a sad wedding and a hint of the unhappy marriage to come. “That was wonderful storytelling,” said the screenwriter Philip Dunne.” And it was just a piece of luck for us. I tried to reproduce it when I directed 10 North Frederick, and then I realized it was a mistake to try. You can ‘t reproduce those accidents.”
The film was a montage of fortune – bad and good. The producer, Hal Wallis, was annoyed that Michele Morgan sought for 55,000 dollars to star in the film. Wallis insisted to Curtiz that there’s no reason to demand such amount. Wallis could and did
borrow Ingrid Bergman from David O.Selznick for $25,000. But a choice in 1992 is only made sure because of hindsight. Both the young Swedish had been successful in their first American movies. Casablanca would have been Michele Morgan’s second Hollywood film, an immediate successor to Joan of Paris. Bergman had followed Intermezzo with three mediocre movies. Ingrid Bergman became a star because of Casablanca. Would it be similar for Michele Morgan, whose Hollywood career had put to an end after 3 movies?
Composer Max Steiner hated “As Time Goes By” and convinced Wallis to permit him to replace it with his own love song. But in one timely fate, Ingrid Bergman had already cut her hair short intended for her role in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and to reshoot the essential scenes would be impossible. Casablanca also had the luck to be made early in the war, before films had to be force-fed with patriotism, stuffed to bursting like fated American geese. And, in the Epstein twins, it had a pair of writers who tied a string to the tail of the sentiment. Did Casablanca succeed because Julius and Philip Epstein and Howard Koch were bringing rewritten scenes to the set every day or in spite of it because Ingrid Bergman was confused about what she should feel toward Paul Henreid and Humphrey Bogart or in spite of her confusion?
In later years, Bergman would get annoyed when people told her that they had loved her in Casablanca. “She was surprised and a little irritated, miffed by all the attention to that movie,” says Bergman’s oldest daughter, Pia Lindstrom. “She would always get this exasperated look. This was partly because she was terribly serious about building a character. She didn’t come from the school of improvising or going with the flow. That’s why she was piqued that something that seemed haphazard turned out to be everybody’s favorite movie.
Bogart’s reaction to the movie’s success was rather sarcastic. He enjoys mentioning to Lauren Bacall, his fourth wife, the way the studio’s head of publicity, Charles Einfeld, had the incredible admission that the actor had sex appeal. Bacall recalls Bogart saying that surely, he did nothing in the movie that I had not been made in 20 films before that, and suddenly they’d discover he’s sexy. Any man has sex appeal.
It was a hot summer, although the heatwave that had choked the San Fernando Valley during July lessened in August. Landlocked, Warner Bros, was always a roasting pan. The studio’s chief rivals Paramount, 20th Century-Fox, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer were on the far side of the mountains, the cool side. If you climbed high enough at M-G M, you could even see the ocean six miles away. But Warners was all heat, metaphorically as well as physically. It was almost as though the studio were in the heat: edgy, intense, feverish, throbbing with urgency. Songwriter Harry Warren described the M-G-M of that era as a garden and compared Warners to prison, the made in s SUg sam m nCaeaanecs the A on Norwegian VI all rat-a-tat-tat machine-gun rhythm.
That was the rhythm of the studio and its movies. Dozens of Warner movies were torn from the morning headlines. Let a gangster be shot, coal miners go on strike, truck drivers or taxi drivers war with City Hall or crooked union officials, and Warner Bros. was there to make the news into fiction almost before the ink had dried. As late as 1942, itinerant crop pickers fought with a packing company’s hired thugs in Warners’ Juke Girl
It’s likely that one of the seven other major studios might have bought and made a movie from Everybody Comes to Rick’s, an unproduced play about a cynical American who owns a bar in Casablanca. It would not be the same film, not just due to Gary Cooper would have starred at Paramount, or Tyrone Power at Fo,x Clark Gable at M-G-M, but for the reason that a different studio approach would have been more lethargic, less satirical, or lavishly Technicolored. Like the other studios, Warners produced melodramas, musicals, tearjerkers, and costume epics, but each studio made them on different subjects and in different styles. One effect of the war was to mash the subjects and styles together into a generic war film. Earlier, even Warner films with hoop skirts or swordplay had a rawness and social or political edge that the other studios were uninterested in copying. At the same time that Warners tackled syphilis in Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bulletin 1940, M-G-M created two biographies of Thomas Edison and one of Johann Strauss.
In 1942, among the studios. at that time, Warner. Bros. was the most economical as there were few wastes. World War II gave Harry Warner, the studio’s president, a reason to get the nails abandoned by uncaring carpenters. Over half of the Warner films produced in 1942 presented the war in many ways, a jackpot for actors who run from Berlin or Vienna. Casablanca was full of Jewish refugees, a lot of them played Nazis.
Of the seven pictures being shot during the first week of August, four concerned the underground Resistance-symbolized by a Czech patriot in Casablanca, the American leader of the Riff tribe in The Desert Song, a Norwegian village in Edge of Darkness, and an anti -Nazi German in Watch on the Rhine. The real war movies would come later when there were victories to celebrate. In the summer of 1942, there were mostly defeats. By ant Henry David Mark, the brother of two studio employees had been killed in March on the Bataan peninsula in the Philippines. And Warners, more than any other studio, had joined hands with the government and agreed to the kind of censorship the industry had been fighting since the first nickelodeons. Eventually and grudgingly Warners would have to hire girl messengers (“Because there was nothing else to do” when “the situation became desperate, reported the Warner Club News). But in 1942 the unions still refused to train women as electricians and carpenters despite the fact that week by week during that first summer of the war the men-actors directors, writers, and craftsmen-were leaving. In subtle ways, the war helped to destroy the studio system. When cameramen and actors marched home as captains and majors, they would have less tolerance for the tyranny of the seven-year contracts they had left Like most pictures, Casablanca ended with a whimper. The movies troublesome climax-written and rewritten and rewritten once again-had been shot in mid-July. On that last day in early August, Bergman and Henreid spent forty minutes on the French Street, doing the silent pickup shots that are the movie equivalent of sweeping up. Curtiz filmed them from the point of view of Fumphrey Bogart, who was already down in Newport on his boat. The rest of the day, Curtiz dressed the street with seventy-nine extras from Central Casting and shot refugees running from the police in the first behind scenes of the movie The other actors had scattered. Bogart had retreated into a stale and hostile marriage. During the shooting of Casablanca, his alcoholic wife, Mayo Methot, had accused him of having an affair with Ingrid Bergman. Mayo always prowled the sets of Bogart’s movies, inventing liaisons that didn’t exist. Her jealousy fed Bogart s surliness, and he spent most of his time on the set of Casablanca alone in his canvas dressing room or playing a solitary game of chese Actors had little control over their destinies. Bogart loved ch because there was no luck to the game Claude Rains had returned to his farm in Pennsylvania; Conrad Veidt to the nearest golf course; Dooley Wilson to a small white stucco house in Hollywood; Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet to a month’s vacation before they started another Warner Bros. Spy melodrama, Background to Danger. Three weeks later Curtiz would shoot a new scene, a police official announcing the murder of two German couriers, to add some drama to the movie’s first few moments. And Bogart would record a new last line. Hal Wallis wrote the line himself. Actually, he wrote two alternative lines: “Luis,* I might have known you’d mix your patriotism with a little larceny” and “Luis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship Wallis was a cool and distant man, but he was admired, even by writers, as a story editor. He crossed out the more cynical line and sent the second one to Curtiz. When Bogart recorded it, he could not have imagined that the words he was reciting would become one of the most famous last lines in movie history or that, because of Casablanca he would replace Errol Flynn as Warners’ top box-office star.
Nor could anyone at Warner Bros. have imagined that Casablanca so much creature during of its time and place, defined by the sentiments of war for which and during which it was made, would remain meaningful to audiences sixty years later. In 1941 Warner Bros, sent 48 movies into the theaters it owned. In 1942, as the scarcity of actors, materials, and technicians began to be felt, Casablanca was one of only 33 Warner films to make that journey.
The movie opened at one theater in New York on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1942. to take advantage of the fact that Ameri troops had landed in North Africa and the city of Casablanca the headlines, in all other ways Casablanca, which had originally scheduled for the next spring, was a 1943 movie. It didn’t play in any other city until January 23, The Film Daily Yearbook lists it 1943 peted for 1943 Academy Awards.
Ingrid Bergman had drifted into Casablanca, but she had fought Maria and, whatever the verdict of history, Para
court is not quite level and weeping willows. “I’ve o Alorehe says. “That it made and that we were for the role mounts for Whom the Bell Tolls was the office in 1943, selling nearly $11 million worth of tickets. 20th Century-Fox’s Song of Bernadette was second, with ticket sales of $7 runaway leader at the box million. Casablanca did well financially. Ticket sales of $3.7 million put the movie in seventh place. and it did well with the most movie but that people can’t find in in The New York Times Bosley Crowther called it “a picture which makes the spine tingle and the heart take a leap.” In Ticket sales of $3.7 million keeping with the proprieties of the time, praised the movie for its political correctness. “Splendid anti-Axis propaganda,” said the Hollywood trade paper Variety. The liberal New York paper PM called the movie “an exciting film built around an exciting new idea… that leaders of Europe’s anti-Fascist underground are terribly important people these days, rating priorities ahead of even millionaires and playboys in such traditional number of reviewer’s specialties of old Casablanca as stolen passports.
There was some dissent, mostly in the highbrow magazines The ‘Casablanca’ kind of hokum was good in its original context in other movies, but, lifted into Casablanca for the sake of its glitter and not incorporated into it, loses its meaning,” Manny Farber wrote in The New Republic. The New Yorker called the film “pretty tolerable” although not up to Across the Pacific, Humphrey Bogart’s last picture. In The Nation, James Agee, one of the few reviewers who is still respected today, first offered grudging praise: “Apparently Casablanca, which I must say I liked, is working up a rather serious reputation as a fine melodrama. Why? It is obviously an improvement on one of the world’s worst plays, but it is not such an improvement that that is not obvious.” A year later Agee reappraised: “Casablanca is still reverently spoken of as (1) fun, (2) a ‘real movie. I still think it is the year’s clearest measure of how willingly faute de mieux, people will deceive themselves. Even Jeannie, hardly a movie at all, was better fun.
Howard Koch, one of the movie’s three main screenwriters, has another view. In the summer of 1989, he stares out at the stream and woods that form the backyard of his house in upstate New York. At eighty-eight, he still plays croquet before cocktails, but the croquet court is not quite level and sometimes a ball gets entangled in the weeping willows. “I’ve got almost a mystical feeling about Casablanca,” he says. “That it made itself somehow. That it needed to be made and that we were all conveyers on the belt, taking it there. A woman called me up a couple of weeks ago and said, ‘I tracked you down because I had to tell you that I’ve just seen Casablanca for the forty-sixth time, and it means more to me than anything in my life.’ It’s just a movie, but it’s more than that. It’s become something that people can’t find in values today. And they go back to Casablanca as they go back to church, political church, to find something that is gone from our values today.” When Koch says that Casablanca made itself, he holds out his hands, palms up and cupped as though he has dipped them in the stream.
Views-he calls them “progressive”-that sent him into exile during the 1950s. Mother Jones and a disarmament newsletter sit on his coffee table. “I’m just part of the chain,” he says. “I’m not important in it. None of us are. But we’re important as links in the chain.” That chain was wound tightly around the 135 acres of the Warner Bros. First National studio in Burbank. Koch was neither the first nor the last link. With appropriate symmetry for a movie that encapsulated both the idealism that Americans brought to World War private lives that the and the renunciation war brought to them, Casablanca officially entered the studio system on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, and departed, draped with an Academy Award for best picture, in the spring of 1944, when the Allies were poised to invade western Europe and the studios were decisively turning their backs on the war and planning movies for the peace to come. Casablanca had done more than was expected. It had made money improved careers, won awards, and given Jack Warner something to boast about. It was put in a vault and forgotten.
The Studio: Jack L. Warner. Executive Producer… and Hal B. Wallis
Among the many metaphors for the city-states that collectively made up the studio system, the one most commonly used by survivors is fiefdom. “Fiefdoms. Little circles of power, says director Billy Wilder. “Like in the Middle Ages, they had fortresses built on the hills and sometimes they fought but they certainly did not intermingle. You did not communicate or converse with or make bosom friends with people who were working for other studios.
The city-states are in ruins now and the barons dead, but much of the structure they invented remains. When the manuscript of ‘Everybody Comes to Rick’s’ reached Warner Bros. the day after Pearl Harbor, it became part of a process that has not changed much in fifty years.
The play was $1.12 an hour who would leave Warners for a better-paying job in a defense plant the next October. Today, with the usual studio title inflation, readers are called “story analysts,” and the job of writing a synopsis is called “coverage.” But, now as then, the raw material is judged by the least powerful of studio employees.
Stephen Karnot was shrewd in his judgment of the play that would become Casablanca:
“It was a fantabulous melodrama. It is colorful, has a timely background, intense mood, considered to be a thriller, cognitive and physical in conflict, tight in plotting, sophisticated blather. This is a typical smasher box office for Bogart, Raft or Cagney in unusual and unexpected roles, and perhaps Mary Astor.”
Story Department at Warner’s had found the play on a trip to New York and was urging Hal Wallis, who ran the studio for Jack Warner, to buy it. Later, when the movie was a hit, Wallis would say that buying Everybody Comes to Rick’s was his idea. And Jack Warner would grab Casablanca’s Oscar away from Wallis because after all, he owned the studio. Then as now, whoever was strong enough took the credit. “But it was Irene Lee who deserved the credit,” says Julius Epstein, one of the three screenwriters who got credit for turning Everybody Comes to Rick’s into a movie. “She was much wiser than of Hal Wallis. She was the one who told us to write it and she has never been recognized.” Only Julie Epstein and an unpublished memoir by a former member of the story department credit to Irene Lee.
“When Casablanca hit the theatres, became a terrific smash and I had bought the movie for a small amount of money, I communicated to Hal and told him, ‘Isn’t it right that I deserve to have a bonus pay for this?’”, says Irene Lee Diamond in the spring of 1989. “And he said that’s what you’re here for. A woman in those days was still sort of half-accepted. You certainly didn’t get the kind of pay that men did.”
With Wallis’s approval, Irene Lee purchased Everybody Comes to Rick’s for $20,000 two days after Christmas 1941. For eight years Hal Wallis had been second in command to Jack Warner and headed the production of the studio’s A-movies. Warner was mean, but charming and suspicious. Wallis was cool and reserved, a square man with piercing dark eyes that missed very little. He was earning $5,000 a week, but the money wasn’t enough to keep him from being tired of the job of overseeing eighteen movies a year. When he bought Everybody Comes to Rick’s, Wallis had both feet out the door, and he was looking for some scripts to take with him. In a thirty-three-page contract signed stopped being Jack Warner’s employee and became Hal Wallis Productions. He would make four pictures a year for Warner Bros. and his fees would include 10 percent of the profits. In all publicity and on the screen, “Produced by Hal Wallis” would be in type at least half as large as “Bette Davis” or “James Cagney.” Section 16 on page 24 gave Wallis “first call and right to use the services of any director, actor or actress, writer, unit manager, cameramen and necessary secretarial or administrative assistants who may be underemployed to render services to the Company”. If Wallis contacted or wanted writers, directors, actors, and actresses who weren’t under contract of Warner’s, the studio would try to get them for him. Casablanca was the third of the nine movies Wallis made under that four-year contract; a legal document that was in tatters for two-and-a-half years later. The contract is a measure of Jack Warner’s respect for Wallis. Its destruction is a measure of Warner’s jealousy.
In the end, the rivalry between Warner and Wallis would turn dark and bitter, and Wallis’s insistence that he was responsible for Casablanca would be the last straw. As the movie’s producer in an era when directors were usually handed a script a few days before they were to start filming, Wallis was responsible for Casablanca. But he made the film at a studio where he was never more than second in command and where the movies, including Casablanca, were shaped to Warner’s philosophy of hurry up, do it cheaply, be wary and don’t trust anybody.
Both Warner and Wallis had turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrant childhoods, Warner in Youngstown, Ohio while Wallis in Chicago and both men had come far. Warner’s father mended shoes. Wallis’s father was a tailor. Wallis went to work at fourteen because his father had bolted and the family was destitute. Warner was fifteen when he left home to join his older brothers in the film buying the business. But, temperamentally, the two men could have been born at opposite ends of the world. Warner was a screamer. Soft-spoken and self-restrained, Wallis never dramatized or shouted. Warner was a clown, a gambler, a pleasure seeker. When Hal Wallis’s father lost the family’s furniture to his gambling debts, the son took a job as an office boy; dutifully bringing the $5 he earned each week home to his mother. By 1942, Wallis, who had started in the studio publicity department, had been at Warner Bros. for nearly twenty years. Jack Warner trusted him as much as he was able to trust anyone. But Wallis’s success as an independent producer would become intolerable to the man who ended arguments by pointing to his name on the studio water tower.
Each of the fiefdoms took its tone and character from the mogul who ran it. Although they were all tyrants, their tyranny wore different garments, from L. B. Mayer’s vision of himself as the stern and loving father of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer family to Harry Cohn’s bullying imitation at Columbia of his idol, Mussolini. Even the mildest of them placed his desk at the far end of his huge office so that supplicants had to cross an acre of carpet. At Fox, Darryl F Zanuck’s office was sixty feet long, with a grand piano and heavy green shutters and drapes that were always kept closed so that no one would have the distraction of looking out a window. Zanuck’s office complex also included a private swimming pool, projection room, and barbershop. Directors and producers had to look up at Mayer, whose desk was on a pedestal. And Harry Cohn told a friend: “By the time they walk to my desk, they’re beaten.”
Warner Bros. belonged to Jack and Harry Warner. And they hated each other. Four Warner brothers-Harry, Albert, Sam, and eleven-year-old Jack-opened a Nickelodeon in 1903, began renting films to other Nickelodeons a few years later and became fly-by-night film producers by 1917. But Sam had died young, and by 1942 the quiet and unaggressive Albert (he had changed his name from Abraham, just as Harry and Jack were originally Hirsch and Jacob) had settled for running the theatres that Warner Bros. owned. So the president in charge of production, fifty-year-old Jack, made the movies and ran the studio. As president of the company, sixty-one-year-old Harry controlled the money that Jack wanted to spend on his movies.
Harry had a gift for making money. After twenty years on the fringes, he had built Warner Bros. into a major company between 1928 and 1932 by audaciously having theatres and the First National studio in the San Fernando Valley. By 1937, Fortune magazine we calling Harry the second-most-important man in the movie industry (The magazine added that the Hollywood elite, including Loews M-G M, where the No. 1 man, Nicholas Schenck, resided, resented the Warners and found their success distasteful because of their bargain-basement movie making.)
The problems between Jack and Harry got worse when Harry moved from the New York head office to a bungalow on the studio lot during the late 1930s. Harry Warner was severe and moral, typical oldest son, allotting punishment and rewards and passing away that infuriated his younger brother. “My uncle very moral man,” says Jack Warner, Jr. “In another life, he would have been a rabbi or a prophet. He was a very good man, but he might have benefited by having more compassion. He strenuously disapproved of many things my father did with his life. And there was also a natural war between the home office in New York that controlled the purse strings and the studio that controlled the spending. Harry bled whenever he read the budget of a movie. He felt his brother was a spendthrift. When he moved to California, Harry brought all his hostility to spending money with him.
“Harry was a solid fellow”, says Lee Katz, who had been at Warner Bros. for ten years when he worked as an assistant director on Casablanca. “Jack was not too truthful and, correspondingly, not too trustworthy. If Harry said something, you could depend on it. He might not promise very much, but you could rest assured it would be forthcoming.
Despite the excesses of Jack Warner’s private life-the gambling and the women-Warner Bros. was a studio without frills. That was one of the few things Harry and Jack agreed on. While Harry picked up nails, Jack turned off lights. Harry may have considered him a spendthrift, but Jack was a penny-pincher in everyone else’s eyes. “I have been watching the Time Record for the Writers and have noted that they are coming in very close to ten o’clock and leaving at five, Jack Warner wrote to all his producers in 1942. Every one of them should arrive no later than 9:30 and stay until 5:30. Wonder they are slowly turning out the scripts when they are at the Studio for just a few hours.” Once, when a picture was being filmed in Griffith Park a few miles from the studio, a prop man found an empty five-gallon water bottle that had been discarded by from Paramount Pictures. Unlike Paramount, Warner Bros. did not provide its crew and actors with water, so the prop man took the bottle back to the studio and filled it with tap water. Harry Warner saw him carrying the bottle to the location the next morning and fired him because “bottled water is a ridiculous extravagance”. The next day, when the situation had been explained to Harry, the prop man, Doc Solomon, was rehired and given a $2-a-week raise at MGM. L. B. Mayer once sent Joan Crawford out of the commissary because she was not dressed appropriately for a movie star. At Warner Bros., even major stars were wrapped in sandpaper, not ordered to dress in silk. On location for four months in 1944 for Operation Burma, Errol Flynn wrote a letter of complaint:
“My dressing room, as we laughingly call it, had certain novel features. I counted as many as ten holes in the canvas sides through which I found some children examining me in the act of robbing and enrobing. One other quite noticeable feature was the floor. At Whittier, for instance, it consisted of a thin strip of moth-eaten much torn and ratted. It only covered a minute portion of the dressing room; the rest was solid cow-dung. This undoubtedly explains the fascination the room held for ten million insects.”
But the topper came when I discovered one day that my dressing room had been changed overnight and that I was now dressing in one that I had myself used the previous day as a toilet (in company with two or three hundred gentlemen). The only marked change between the toilet and the dressing room was that it now had a broken-down chair instead of the usual receptacle [sic]…
By contrast, I would refer you to the trailer dressing rooms both Fox and M.G.M. use on locations.
Jack Warner liked to make his actors angry. “Bogart will just have to stew in his own juice,” he wrote gleefully in a telegram from New York. He ended another nasty telegram with “I’m a bad boy.” He never liked to take the consequences of being a bad boy, so his barbs would be passed to the actor second hand.
“They were passed through the executive chain,” says Bill Orr who started as an actor under contract to Warners before the war, married Jack Warner’s stepdaughter Joy Page, and ended up running the studio for a while. One of Orr’s first jobs as an executive was to make the rounds of the sets early each morning. “You tell me if Bogie or any of the others are acting up” were Warner’s instructions. Orr says, “And I said, ‘Yes, Jack, as your son-in-law I have to be a squealer.’ And he said, ‘Well, I thought it was a good idea. Then I said, ‘It is not a good idea for either of us’”.
Warner had other eyes and ears. The executive chain started with Steve Trilling, pink-cheeked and fervently loyal, plucked out of the casting department in 1942 to replace Hal Wallis as studio administrator. “Part of his job was to hear if you were typing and then to open the door if you weren’t”, said director Richard Brooks, who was a contract writer at Warner Bros. after he returned from the war. Brooks kept a map of the studio on his wall. Since coffee was not allowed in offices or on the sets and no young writer could leave the studio by the main gate before 5:30, Brooks, like other writers, sneaked through back exits to a drugstore across the street.
In contrast, “MGM didn’t encourage you to work at home, but the studio allowed it,” says Ring Lardner, Jr., who was at Warner Bros. in 1937-1938 and at Metro in the early ’40s. He added, “And when you went to the studio, your hours were pretty much your own. My collaborator Michael Kanin used to arrive early in the morning and get most of his work was done before noon. I preferred to arrive in the late morning and stay late in the evening.”
Harry Warner’s effect on the movies Warner Bros. made indirect. Casablanca would be the beneficiary of Harry’s stubborn anti-Nazi stance and his insistence that the studio combines good movies with good citizenship. But Harry would have no hand casting actors or approving sets. Warner, the most adversarial of the studios, was built in Jack Warner’s image. Most of the moguls yearned for respectability. Almost alone among them, Jack Warner exulted in being an outsider. It is no accident that four of the studio’s major stars-Al Jolson, Edward G. Robinson, Paul M, and John Garfield-were Jewish. During the thirties, the other studios wove fantasies around Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, Car Grant, and Robert Taylor and eulogized the small town and the cod of the West with Jimmy Stewart, Mickey Rooney, Henry Fonda, and Gary Cooper. For most of that decade, the top star at Warner Bro was a scrappy, half-pint Irishman from New York’s Lower East Side, James Cagney; and the archetypal hero of a Warner movie was a gangster. In the forties, the typical Warner Bros. hero was Sam Spade or Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart, and as wary and suspicious of emotional entanglements as the man who ran the studio.
It has been said that Warner Bros. couldn’t get important, elegant stars because the studio was too cheap to pay for them. It is equally possible that Jack Warner deliberately bought actors who mirrored his own mistrust. He certainly chose actors who mirrored him physically; short, compact, and combative. Then, he put them in movies where everyone was corrupt and the lower classes never got a fair shake, from I Was a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, in which an innocent man would be hunted for the rest of his life, so they won’t forget, in which an innocent man was hanged. Warner Bros was an underdog, and so were the shop girls, mine workers, boxers and condemned men who inhabited its movies.
By 1942, when Hal Wallis looked over the Warner contract list to see who could play the lead in Casablanca, the antisocial edges of Warner Bros. movies were beginning to be smoothed. As Ethan Mordden points out in his book, The Hollywood Studios, the setting and intrigue of Casablanca would have been at home at M.G.M in a Clark Gable picture, although M.G.M would never have let Gable give up the girl.
Crude, cruel, and cowardly, he was the only mogul to run to the House Un-American Activities Committee and voluntarily offer up his employees. Jack Warner was a dapper man, impeccably well-groomed (his grandson, Gregory Orr, remembers wondering how a grown-up could be so perfectly shaved). Although Warner smiled a lot and delighted in telling bad jokes, he was a shrewd administrator. The craftsmen he hired were the equal of any in Hollywood and they banded together at M.G.M. did.
Warner could also be kind, particularly to people who were too weak to take advantage of him. He kept actors from the studio’s early days on the payroll for decades, paying ex-stars $50 a week and insisting that his directors use them as often as possible. There were half a dozens of those actors in Casablanca. Creighton Hale, who had starred with Thelma Todd in Seven Footprints to Satan in 1929, and Monte Blue, the studio’s biggest star during the late 1920s, played tiny roles in the black-market scenes. Only a few snippets of their dialogue remain.
Since the temptation to rewrite history is almost irresistible autobiographies are notoriously inaccurate. My First Hundred Years in Hollywood by Jack Warner is no exception. But truth can often be found between the lines. “I have never owned a dog or a cat or any other kind of household pet,” Warner wrote. Of the hundreds of people mentioned in the book, he spoke lovingly of only two- his brother Sam and his masseur Abdul.
*Whole families worked twenty or thirty years’ editor on Casablanca, had four brothers who worked in the same department at Warner Bros. From prop men to plumbers, studio employees clustered in houses outside the studio walls, with M.G.M set decorators building in Culver City and Warner electricians buying in Burbank. Stephen Karnot came back to Warner Bros. later in the war and stayed until he was laid off because of a “reduction in force” on June 23, 1967. By that time Harry Warner was dead and Jack Warner had sold the studio and the studio system was dead too, a victim of television and the government antitrust suits that forced the studios to sell their theatres and, inadvertently, gave new power and independence to top stars and producers.
Described Sam, who died in 1927 at the age of thirty-nine, as gentle shy, gentle, and humble, Sam served as a buffer between his tough oldest brother and his rebellious younger brother, who played Peck’s bad boy to the hilt. It was Sam who pushed Warner Bros. into talking films while the bigger studios lagged behind; he died, of either a cerebral hemorrhage or a galloping infection, the day before The Jazz Singer, the movie that would make Warner Bros’ fortune, was premiered.
Jack Warner’s affection for Abdul Maljan-an ex-prize fighter, who was always called Abdul the Turk, although he was really Armenian, was sadder and more complex. “I think a psychiatrist could give a better answer”, says Jack Warner Jr., who was cut out of his father’s life as sharply as if his father had used a knife. “But I think he gave my father great comfort. At his core, my father always had the feeling: ‘Everybody’s trying to take advantage of me’. At the end of a hard day of working with people who got on his nerves, Abdul would be there with a hot shower and the sponges and the towels, and this was going home to momma.”
Nearly everyone made Warner nervous. “He was scared of actors”, says Geraldine Fitzgerald, who was under contract to Warner Bros for seven years. “And of writers too”, she added. Even nineteen-year-old Lauren Bacall sensed the fear beneath his braggadocio. “He was always ill at ease, always uncomfortable”, Bacall says. “He felt people were judging him all the time.” And so, every afternoon, Warner fled to the steam room next to his private dining room. “Abdul was like an old faithful dog,” says Bill Schaefer, who was Jack Warner’s secretary for more than forty years. “If Warner told him to do something, he’d do it. If it meant bodily harm to him, he’d do it. And when he died, he left his whole estate-it consisted of a house and maybe $35,000 in stocks-to Jack Warner.
Jack Warner Jr. remembers seeing his father standing alone at Abdul’s grave. “He was terribly upset, and he looked very forlorn. It was nice to know he had that soft a spot for someone. The rest of his relationships, well, you know that saying, ‘Not to know him was to love him’”. Warner’s son had made the mistake of not approving of his father’s second wife. Even when Warner was dying there was no reconciliation. “That’s a script that I would love to see rewritten,” says seventy-five-year-old Jack Warner, Jr., in the spring of 1991. “But it’s been shot, alas.”
Warner Jr., struggles to be both courteous and reticent. He had written a biography of his father, but, he that has fallen out of favor-seemly. “So I clothed it in the strange garments of fiction”, he said. He was never tough enough to win his father’s approval, yet he can appreciate his father’s toughness. “Power, in a way, is a corrosive acid,” he says. “But it was a tough, rough, dirty racket. And if you weren’t rough and tough and sometimes dirty, you’d be down in the cellar. There are hundreds and hundreds of movie companies you’ve never heard of. And they were all started up by people with great intentions. The Warner Brothers started on a place called Poverty Row. They rose to where they went by guts, application, and knowledge. It’s too easy to sit here years later and to second-guess it all.
A few months before Pearl Harbor, the head of the Army Air Corps, General Hap Arnold, asked if Warner Bros. would make short subjects to acquaint the public with the various branches of the armed forces. The relationship between the general and the mogul led to the fifty-year-old Jack Warner’s being offered a commission as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Air Force in April 1942. The head of 20th Century-Fox, Darryl Zanuck, who used to work for Warner, was already a colonel in the Signal Corps, and Warner accepted with relish.
He would resign that commission a few months later, in part because he could not bear to leave his studio in the hands of another man. All the moguls identified with their studios and some put their names on their movies, but Jack Warner was the only one to make his name part of the company logo. “Jack L. Warner Executive Producer” jutted out from the Warner Bros. shield. Except for Edward Muhl, the head of the production at Universal a decade later, the others were willing to let their logos speak for them. Paramount’s mountain implied unsurpassable heights and M.G.M’s lion, the king of the studio jungle. Columbia’s lady with a torch mimicked both classical art and the Statue of Liberty. RKO’s tower crackled with radio waves and electricity. Universal’s globe encircled space, while 20th Century-Fox’s name and futuristic design conquered time. They looked outward. The Warner Bros. shield said something different. It was offense and defense, with intimations of G-men and barricades.
Jack Warner rarely came most of the afternoon looking at the rushes of the movies in production to make sure that nothing was out of control. “I can’t understand why a fifty-four-second take must be started seven times,” he wrote to director Mike Curtis during the filming of Casablanca. “You must cut down on the amount of negative and positive film”. Keeping control of his directors also meant that Warner gave instructions to cut the outside telephone lines to Raoul Walsh’s use during the horse-racing season to keep the director from wasting 28 times by telephoning his bookmaker.
Jack Warner’s approval was always necessary to buy properties, assign writers, and cast actors. On February 4, 1942, in a typical exchange, Hal Wallis’s secretary let Warner know that the Epstein twins, who were vacationing in New York, were anxious to write the script of Casablanca. Did Warner approve or did he have something else in mind for them?
Warner was most actively involved with his movies at the very end, in the editing room, when the finished movie was in the form of a first cut. “We’d stay until 1:30 A.M. at least twice a week,” says Rudi Fehr, who became Warner’s personal editor. “One week it was all five nights and my wife locked me out because she thought I was cheating on her.” Even Jack Warner’s enemies and the people who dismissed him as a clown gave him credit when it was time to look at a movie whole. “He smelled a good picture,” says Owen Crump who left Warner Bros. to head an Army Air Force film unit in 1942. “He was a little afraid of people who had superior talent, for example, writers who were famous and literate. They made him uneasy but he had a sense when a movie had class.” He also had a gambler’s daring. “If you were able to sell him an idea, convince him it would make a great picture,” Warner would always take a chance, said Henry Blanke, the leading associate producer at Warner Bros. during the thirties.
In the thick file of memos sent back and forth on Casablanca, Warner made a creative decision only once. He suggested that George Raft star in the movie. Hal Wallis’s reply that Casablanca was being written for Humphrey Bogart, Wallis added that Raft “hasn’t done a picture here since I was a little boy, and I don’t think he should be able to put his fingers on just what was barely polite. After saying he wants to do when he wants to do it.”
The other half-dozen memos sent by Warner to Wallis and Curtis dealt with time and money. Why were the songwriters taking so long? When could the Epsteins be put on another script? He was counting on Wallis to bring the movie in for a reasonable price and on Curtis to be the old Curtis and finish the film in a maximum of seven weeks. There are similar memos on every Warner Bros. movie. Jack Warner stood at the studio drawbridge, lowering it to put this actor under contract, raising it when he let the option on that actress lapse after six months. And he expected to be besieged by employees who would waste the studio’s time and money.
It was Warner’s studio, and he never let his underlings forget it, but the visionary force behind Casablanca is Hal Wallis. The French auteur theory, the idea that the director is the author of his film, collapses against the reality of the studio system. It is quite impossible to be able to read through thousands of memos that Mr. Wallis had sent and accepted without discerning how he comprehensively made the movie, from the exact details of the costumes to quality of the lighting to his insistence on a live parrot outside the Blue Parrot Café.
Because of Jack Warner’s pervasive distrust and fear of being taken advantage of, there is a paper trail to Casablanca fifty years later. ‘VERBAL MESSAGES CAUSE MISUNDERSTANDING AND DELAYS’ were printed on the bottom of every sheet of studio stationery in 1942. ‘PLEASE PUT THEM IN WRITING’, it added. “Today, the whole industry lives on phones,” says Daniel Melnick, a headed production at M.G.M from 1972 to 1976 and at Columbia from 1977 to 1979, “I suspect the most successful people are those who have mastered phone technique.” Melnick and Laurence Mark, producers who were mount and 20th Century-Fox during the 1980s, work in an era when the power once held by the studios are split among studios stars, directors, and talent agents; and they have read through the Casablanca production files with a certain bemusement mixed with envy, Mark fingers a particularly blunt memo criticizing “A certain amount of murkiness serves you well today,” he says. “Being too well articulated sometimes gets you into trouble.”
Mark describes another memo as “kind of wonderful.” On July 9, 1942, Wallis wrote to his director: “I saw the dailies last night and there is one thing I would like you to shoot. Where Ilsa comes into the Café and asks Rick if he has taken care of everything, and Rick says, ‘Everything.’ At that point, if you remember, I wanted Rick to look at Ilsa a moment and then kiss her so that they will realize later that this was his goodbye”. Mark says, “That’s not a commercial note. It’s purely about adding another layer to a scene which the audience won’t realize until afterward, if then.” (In the chaos of mid-July, and because of Bogart’s objections, the scene was rewritten and Rick’s kiss never made it into the movie.)
In his usual careful fashion, Wallis had Irene Lee send a copy of Everybody Comes to Rick’s to several of the studio’s producers on December 22, 1941. Before he bought the play, he wanted to know whether his lieutenants thought it would make a commercial movie. At Warner Bros., everything was done quickly, and they sent Wall their reactions the next day. Robert Lord found the play “a very obvious imitation of Grand Hotel with conventional and stereotyped characters. Jerry Wald, who would become the major producer at Warner Bros. after Wallis left, was shrewder: “This story should make a good vehicle for either Raft or Bogart. I feel it can be easily tailored into a piece along the lines of ALGIERS, with plenty of excitement and suspense in it.” (Algiers, a 1938 exotic melodrama starring Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr, was obviously in Wallis’s mind when, three days after he purchased Everybody Comes to Rick, he changed the title to Casablanca. It was also in his mind when he tried unsuccessfully to borrow Hedy Lamarr from M-G-M in February.)
Wallis has always been underrated. The Fortune article puzzled over the studio’s success despite its lack of “that other prime necessity, a producing genius.” The 1937 article dismisses Wallis as Jack Warner’s “methodical assistant” in contrast to the genius who preceded him at the studio, Darryl Zanuck. Why, the author wonders, somewhat tongue in cheek, have Warner pictures been getting better, not worse, since Zanuck left?
Wallis had a remarkable batting average with the six movies he made in 1942 under his new contract: Desperate Journey, Nou Voyager, and Casablanca. Watch on the Rhine, Air Force, and Princes O’Rourke. All were box-office successes. Two-Watch on the Rhine and Casablanca were nominated for best picture by the Academy the six movies earned a total of twenty Oscar nominations, and Watch on the Rhine won major critics’ awards. Now, Voyager still makes its adherents weep fifty years later.
After Warner Bros. canceled his contract in 1944, Wallis spent the next twenty-five years at Paramount. He had three Oscar nominees for best picture in The Rose Tattoo (1955), Becket (1964), and. at Universal, Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). He made stars of Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, and Shirley MacLaine, but he is best remembered for creating gold mines rather than art in a series of movies with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and several films starring Elvis Presley.
“There’s no individual producer who had a greater run of important pictures than Hal Wallis,” says Tom Pryor, who covered Hollywood for The New York Times before spending a quarter of a century as the editor of Daily Variety. “There was a consistency in the product Warner Bros was turning out during the thirties when Wallis was running the show. To me, Warner Bros. then, more than M.G.M, signifies the peak. After Wallis left, Warner Pictures was not what it had been. He was a cool man, in other times a distant guy, but he was considered to be the most brilliant producer the world has known. David O. Selznick was like a skyrocket, but Selznick’s pride forced him to saddle himself with a big distribution apparatus and it broke him, Wallis was smart enough not to do that.”
Wallis was not bold enough to gamble his future on one movie or one throw of the dice the way Selznick and Jack Warner would. He may also have been too stingy. His biographer, Charles Higham, was always amused that Wallis-who owned an exquisite collection of French Impressionist paintings, would take him to Scandia, an expensive Los Angeles restaurant, only when director Mervyn LeRoy came along and paid for lunch. When LeRoy couldn’t come, says Higham, Wallis bought him a hamburger, and he grumbled excessively over the bill.
“Hal was exceedingly disciplined, under tight self-control”, says Higham, who co-wrote Wallis’s 1980 autobiography, Starmaker. “Talking to him was like talking to a retired general. You had to handle him by talking only about his working achievements. Trying to write General MacArthur’s autobiography would have been the same experience”, he said.
The messenger boys at Warner Bros. found Wallis the coldest and most unfriendly of the studio’s executives and retaliated by inventing stories that he was having affairs with Irene Lee and with actress Lola Lane. “There were two Hal Wallis,” says Julius Epstein. “Hal Wallis at the office was efficient, impersonal, and cold. If you were walking across the lot and you met him, he would always say, ‘When are you going to finish that script? Are you making a lifetime career out of that script?’ Then we took several trips to New York with him and he was delightful, genial, and warm. We felt we’d gotten to know the real Hal Wallis. We came back to the studio and walked up to him and he said ‘When the hell are you going to finish that script?’ I told him he should have been on the War Production Board. He was so efficient. The war would have been over much sooner.”
Warner star Dennis Morgan never met the genial Hal Wallis “He was a very cool sort of man, business all the time,” Morgan says, “He wasn’t fun to be around. Warner could be fun to be with socially, but, if you were promoting a picture and you had to be at the head table with Jack Warner, it was always a tremendous task to sit there when he got up to speak because he would ad-lib these bad jokes.”
During the Korean War, when Owen Crump came up with the idea of shooting a 3-D movie about an Army patrol, he went to see Jack Warner first. Because of his World War II associations, Crump it had secured the Pentagon’s approval to shoot C zone. Warner told him to put in two or three nurses for love interest. Crump says, “Having pretty babes running around would be the usual phony picture and spoil the whole documentary feel of the idea. So I went to see Hal at Paramount. He said, “You really got permission to do this?” I showed him the piece of paper. We were walking to his office. He said, ‘Wait here’”. Wallis made a detour to the office of Paramount studio head Y. Frank Freeman. “He came out five minutes later and said, ‘Okay, we got a deal,’ *’ Crump”. So he agreed to the movie before we even reached his office. Hal didn’t waste time or conversation.”
Irene Lee worked for Wallis on and off for twenty-five years. As a young actress in the early 1930s, she had come to Hollywood from Pittsburgh to test for a part in the Fox movie Cavalcade. She didn’t get the part, but she did get a lot of work reading scripts. Director Mervyn LeRoy brought her to Warner Bros. for a screen test, then decided that she was a mediocre actress but had too good a story mind to waste. LeRoy took her to Wallis, who gave her a job as an assistant story editor. She left after a year to go back to New York.
“I was making about $250 a week as Leland Hayward’s East Coast story person, and then another producer, Pan Berman, fared me $350,” Lee says. “And the first thing Leland did was to call Pandro Berman and tell him he could have gotten me for less money. So Berman told me, ‘you can still have the job but I won’t pay you that much. Can you imagine? I mean, to those men the money was absolutely nothing? I called Hal Wallis, who had been very nice to me, to ask what I should do and he said, ‘you’ll come here as story editor’.
Hollywood was a man’s world in 1942. But Wallis respected talent, even if the talent belonged to a woman. “I think Hal was a superb executive,” says Lee. “And he was very accessible. Writers could get to him, I could get to him, and the directors could get to him. He’d be the first person in the morning and the last one to leave. I found him very decent, very cool-headed. After he became an independent producer, he was altogether different, more temperamental. There was much more ego involved. But he was easy to work for at Warner Bros.”
That Warner Bros. died a long time ago. By the time that Warner and Wallis put the resources of the studio into making Casablanca, the studio system was well into middle age. What is hard to remember now is how young Hal Wallis was when he ran Warner Bros., how young they all were when they were building the studio system. Wallis’s predecessor, Darryl Zanuck, was twenty-six when he became head of the production. Wallis was thirty-three when he replaced Zanuck. The legendary Irving Thalberg was only thirty- seven when he died. The men and the system would grow old together. But a few of the movies, Casablanca among them, would stay forever young.
When Irene Lee tells this story, as she sits in her huge New York office and fingers the double strand of pearls around her neck, her voice holds no anger, only amusement. Perhaps it’s the secret joke of marrying a rug salesman and ending up as the wife of a man worth over $250 million. When her husband Aaron Diamond died in 1984, he left $200 million for his widow to give away. “Finding good projects is not unlike finding good stories,” says Lee, who hands out at least $20 million a year from the Aaron Diamond Foundation. “Our priorities are minority education; medical are the biggest contributors to AIDS research of any private foundation in the country.”
Writing Casablanca: A survival of the Fittest Script
In Rick’s Café, Sam plays the piano. A quick shake of Rick’s head and a man is barred from the gambling room. “Your money is good at the bar,” Rick says to him. “You’re lucky the bar’s still open to you.”
“Watching you just now, one would think that you had been doing this all your life,” says Ugarte, a small-time crook. “What makes you think I haven’t?” Rick asks harshly. Ugarte quickly agrees that he has no business thinking. He tells Rick that tonight he will sell two priceless ‘Letters of Transit’, and he will leave Casablanca forever. Because Rick despises him, Rick is the only man in Casablanca he trusts to keep the Letters-exit visas that cannot be questioned or rescinded. “I don’t want them here overnight,” Rick says. And he hides the Letters of Transit in Sam’s piano.
The scene, the characters, and the dialogue are from Casablanca. They are also, intact, from Everybody Comes to Rick’s.
Murray Burnett in writing the play on which Casablanca was based Europe 1938. His experiences with the Nazis led to his writing the play on which Casablanca was based.
The central myth about the writing of Casablanca is that all that remained of the original play was the setting and the character of Rick. But Casablanca also contains much of the plot of ‘Everybody Comes to Rick’s’, in which an embittered American who owns a café in Morocco redeems himself after a reunion with the woman who has broken his heart, by arranging for her and the anti-Nazi newspaper editor who accompanies her to escape to Lisbon. During the summer of 1940, Murray Burnett, who created Rick Blaine, has spent thousands of dollars and the last eighteen years trying to destroy the myth. “But it’s not easy to disprove,” he says.”You know the tale about the gentleman who was tested for robbing a chicken and got set free. For the rest of his life, people say, he’s the man who stole the chicken.
In 1940, Burnett was a twenty-nine-year-old English teacher a vocational high school. Although he was married, he was still the dutiful son of an overprotective mother. Later, Theodor Reik, who psychoanalyzed Burnett, would tell him that his emotional survival was due to the scholarship from Cornell University that had enabled and forced him to leave home at eighteen. But in 1940 Burnett rebelled only in his fantasies. He wrote Everybody Comes to Rick’s after he returned from a short but frightening trip to German-occupied Vienna. Rick-tough, morose, the man who didn’t need anybody was the man Burnett wanted to be.
If over the decades, nobody remembered Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, at least nobody publicly challenged his involvement in Casablanca, the thing that Murray at ted the characters and Burnett was most proud of since 1973.
“The theatrical play provided an exotic location and Rick, the man who operates a small café, but the story is much relatable on the screen,” screenwriter Howard Koch scribbled in New York magazine that April.
Burnett found the article intolerable. “Koch took credit for everything,” Burnett says. “He says he took this magic pencil, Eagle Number One, and he wrote it line by line. But every character in the film is in my play. Everyone, without exception.
Burnett sued Koch and New York for $6.5 million apiece. He lost. The court said that Koch’s article had not libeled Burnett or his play. Burnett sued the Overlook Press, which published Koch s essay as a preface to the Casablanca screenplay. He lost. Then he sued Warner Bros. to get back the rights to his characters. Again, he lost. At eighty-one, Murray Burnett remains almost puppyish in his enthusiasms and his crusades. As late as the spring of 1991, he was still attacking, and Koch, then eighty-nine, had capitulated. “After running through the play more recently, I consider that the criticism was, at least to some degree, reasonable,” Howard Koch wrote in a formal letter for the Los Angeles Times. “After fifty years, memories can be flawed.
Actually, Koch has been apologetic for years. He didn’t intentionally rob Murray Burnett, he says. But he never read the play. He was handed a script by Julius and Philip Epstein and he assumed Koch is tall and thin, and his thinness makes him seem even taller. He stops abruptly and starts again. “All I saw was the work of the Epsteins that was handed to me.”
It is not quite that simple. Writers of fiction embellish reality almost without knowing it. Thirty years after Casablanca, in the essay from which the magazine article was adapted, Koch described how he created the characters and their motivations: “I went through the rich assembly of actors waiting to take their parts in the story and picked Peter Lorre (Ugarte) as the one to initiate the action.” A nice man, people say of Koch. He is a decent man. There is no reason to doubt that Koch believed in the alternative reality that he was inventing.
Most of the essential content of Casablanca can be found on the 3 acts of ‘Everybody Comes to Rick’s’ in a city where everything is bought and sold, a mysterious café owner bets a womanizing French policeman that a heroic anti-Fascist will escape. The embittered hero has a black piano-player friend who is asked to play “As Time Goes By”, by a woman from the hero’s past who has come to Casablanca with the heroic resistance fighter. In the end, the hero tricks the policeman and sends the woman away with the other man. The minor characters include a young couple from Bulgaria who are offered exit visas if the girl will sleep with the policeman, a black marketer who owns a competing café and wants to buy Rick’s Gestapo officer who must keep the Resistance fighter from leaving Casablanca and an ex-mistress whom the hero treats cruelly.
The movie is also studded with details from the play. Rick will not drink with his customers. The leader of the Resistance, Victor Laszlo, drowns out the Germans by leading Rick’s customers in the French national anthem, “The Marseillaise.” And dozens of lines make the transition almost unchanged:
“For a price, Ugarte, for a price! Call off your watchdogs. There are a lot of exit visas sold in this café. We know that you have never sold them. That is one of the reasons we permit you to remain open,” he said. “And if he did not leave her in Marseilles, or Oran, he will not leave her in Casablanca,” he added. “I see. Gestapo spank. What a fool I am! Talking to a beautiful woman about another man.” “Let’s see, the last time we met… Was at La Belle Aurora … How nice. You remembered.” “Boss, we’ll get the automobile and drive for the whole night. We’ll be intoxicated. We’ll set off for fishing and stay away until she’s left.” “We come from Bulgaria. Things are very bad there, M’sieur. The devil holds the people through their throats. So, Jan and I decided that we do not want our family to grow up in such a nation.”M’sieur, you have loved you very much, so that your happiness was the only thing in the world that she wanted and she did a bad thing to make certain of it, could you forgive her?” “No one ever loved me that much.
Yet, despite the similarities between play and movie, Everybody Comes to Rick’s is only the bone out of which coral was made. The seven Warner Bros. writers who were assigned to Casablanca changed motivations, structure, plot, and the attributes and personalities of three of the four central characters.
The process of finding a writer began on December 30, 1941, two days after the play was purchased with Hal Wallis’s approval by story editor Irene Lee. No one could have imagined that the central although serial-collaboration of two liberal, one radical, and one conservative screenwriter would produce a script with more memorable lines than any other Hollywood film.
As he had done with the producers and as he would do with the studio’s contract directors, Wallis circulated the play to a number of writers. Robert Buckner sent it back in a hurry. “I don’t believe the story or the characters,” Buckner wrote. “The main scenarios and the basic dealings of the main characters are completely censorable and chaotic its big moment is an absolute twaddle sentiment of the selection of E. Phillips Oppenheim*; and the man named Rick is 2 parts Hemingway, a part Scott Fitzgerald, and a bit of café Christ.”
Most of the writers would struggle with the unlawful sexual relationship with Rick and the woman he met that came from Paris. Fornication was forbidden by the Production Code, which the studios made in order to stave off the censorship of the government. In this case, the writers hinted and implied, and the movie had less trouble with the Code than anyone expected, although the overseers of morality were constantly wagging their fingers. “The current material seems to enclose a proposal of a sexual relationship that will be offensive if it came through in the finished picture,” the Code director Joseph Breen wrote Jack Warner three weeks after the movie started production, in response to a newly written scene between Rick and Ilsa in Rick’s apartment above the café.
On January 9, 1942, Wallis chose his brother-in-law Wally Kline and Kline’s writing partner, Aeneas MacKenzie. MacKenzie had told Wallis that he saw “the possibility of an excellent theme the thought that when people lose confidence in their principles, they are discouraged before they even begin to fight. That is what happened to Rick Blaine and to France.” MacKenzie and Kline would work on the script for seven weeks at a cost to Casablanca of $4,133, but their material would not be used.
*A British author (1866-1946) who wrote over 150 novels, short stories, and plays about international espionage and intrigue.
Mackenzie had been brought to the studio as a reader in 1933 by Dalton Trumbo, who lived in the same rooming house. Mackenzie’s big break came when John Huston liked the synopsis he wrote for Juarez and asked him to help write the movie. After that, Mackenzie shared credit on several historical movies, including The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. He was a $300-a-week writer, s dropped soon after he was taken off Casablanca new assignment every month but rarely and his contract was Kline stayed on, getting ending up with screen credit.
Weeks before Kline and Mackenzie finished their script; Wallis discussed Casablanca with Julius and Philip Epstein. If they were called by name, people always said “Julie and Phil,” not because Julie was the older-they was born at home on New York’s Lower East Side, and no one ever remembered which of the three-pound twins came first-but because Julie came to Warner Bros. three years before Phil. But they were rarely called by name. At the studio the identical twins were almost always referred to as The Boys or The Brothers, In 1942, they were thirty-two years old and making $1,250 a week apiece.
Nine years earlier, Julius Epstein had come to Hollywood as a ghostwriter. “I’m Julian Blumberg in What Makes Sammy Run?” he says with a mixture of pride and ruefulness. Jerry Wald, who has always been thought to be the primary model for the opportunistic Sammy Glick in Budd Schulberg’s novel, had talked his way into a writing job at Warner Bros. Almost immediately he sent for Julius Epstein. When Wald, like Sammy Glick, was a radio columnist for New York newspaper, Julie had been one of the press agents who wrote his column for him.
“Jerry and his partner, an old fraternity brother of mine, picked me up at the train station at ten-thirty on a Friday night,” says Epstein. “By midnight I was writing because they had to hand some pages in on Monday morning. I wrote all day on Saturday. On Sunday they took me to the Paramount Theater. A Bing Crosby picture was playing. As I watched the picture, they said, that’s a fade-out, that’s a dissolve, that’s a cut.’ I had a full-year college course in one afternoon.”
In What Makes Sammy Run? Schulberg describes the meeting of Sammy Glick and Julian Blumberg as follows: “One day a frightened young man with an unassuming, intelligent, unhandsome face behind glasses came in with a manuscript under his arm and inquired for Mr. Glick in a voice quavering with inferiority.” Glick puts his name on the manuscript and sells it to Hollywood. When Wald sold Epstein’s first original screenplay, living on Velvet, to Warner Bros. it became a screenplay by Jerry Wald and Julius Epstein. But Epstein, who had an intelligent, unhandsome face, also had several things Blumberg lacked, including a powerful left jab.
In August 1934, after the sale of Living on Velvet, Epstein was hired for $100 a week Warner Bros. gave him a contract and doubled his salary. He would stay at the studio for seventeen years. After a year of coauthoring Scripts with Wald, Epstein got a chance to show Warner Bros. what he could do on his own. Undaunted, Wald brought Philip Epstein to Hollywood as his new ghostwriter.
By 1938, Phil was at Warner Bros. too, and the twins were writing together as a team. They wrote the kind of dialogue that is usually referred to as sparkling, and, in addition to a full complement of screen credits (Four Wives, The Bride Came C.O.D., Strawberry Blonde), they were constantly being asked to add sparkle to other writers’ scripts. James Cagney agreed to star in Yankee Doodle Dandy only if the Epsteins were assigned to liven up Robert Buckner’s screenplay. “The Epstein boys are adding a little zip to the script,” was a typical comment, in this case by director Raoul Walsh on his movie Desperate Journey.
Witty and clever, the twins impressed young screenwriter Alvah Bessie by winning every wisecracking competition during lunch at the Warner Bros. writers’ table. They were also sophisticated practical jokes. They stole a piece of Jack Warner’s stationery and wrote a welcoming letter to Robert Hutton, a young contract actor with whom they were friendly. It ended, “Our publicity department has decided that your name is not a good name for the box office. From now on, you will be known as Robert Rabinowitz.” Forced by Jack Warner to spend eight hours a day at the studio, most of the contract writers spent part of their time playing gin rummy or working novels and plays. After Robert Rossen and Leonardo Bercovici said they were writing a play rather than attacking the script to which they had been assigned, the Epsteins had their secretary. She told Rossen and Bercovici to be in Wallis’s office in fifteen minutes with all the scenes they had written.
The Boys always stopped the jokes in time, before Hutton timidly asked to see Warner, before Rossen and Bercovici stampeded in panic. They were as alike as two peas in a pod, balding leprechauns who played a passionate game of tennis on the studio court on Saturday afternoons the only time Warner allowed writers to play. In tennis, as in everything else, they were a team. In 1929, the year Penn State won the intercollegiate boxing tournament, Julie Epstein was intercollegiate bantamweight champion, Phil, always a few pounds heavier, was Penn State’s intramural lightweight champion. They were separated only three times, briefly until February 1952, when they were separated permanently.
Julie Epstein has told some of the stories so often over the years that he is almost ashamed to repeat them. “One day coming in at one-thirty in time for lunch. Who was in a bad mood, and he said, ‘Railroad presidents get at 9 o’clock, bank presidents get in at 9 o’clock, read your contract; you’re coming in at 9 o’clock.’ We were halfway finished with a script and we sent it to the bank president conclude the script.’ A little while later, Warner read a scene we had written and said this is the worst scene I ever read in my life.’ And my brother said, ‘How is that possible? It was written at nine o’clock. After the war, when things got ugly and the studio asked them to fill out a two-page questionnaire attesting to their loyalty to America, the twins only answered the first two questions. (1) “Have you ever belonged to a subversive organization?” “Yes.” (2) “Name the organization.” “Warner Bros.” It was that combination of wit, bravado, and cynicism that would mark their contribution to Casablanca.
In contrast to Howard Koch’s reverence for Casablanca, Julie Epstein describes the script as “slick shit.” At eighty-one, he sits in the house he bought, along with two-and-a-half acres of mountain- top, in 1949, and rebuilt after he was burned out in the Bel-Air fire of 1961. A little man with big ears and a fringe of gray hair, he no longer jogs six miles a day-“Now I thank people from the bottom of my pacemaker” but he has never stopped writing. “Every script is concocted,” Epstein says. “But Casablanca was really concocted. We sat down and tried to manipulate an audience.” He insists that he is much prouder of the script that became his forty-third movie and won him an Academy Award nomination in 1983, Reuben, Reuben.
Some of Epstein’s disdain for Casablanca is a pose. He has always masked his feelings with wit and vinegar. “Julie does care says his nephew, novelist Leslie Epstein.”I think he went to bed for a week when Koch’s book came out with that introduction.” Koch wrote that after he and the Epsteins had worked together for about ten days the twins asked to be transferred to another movie. “We never sat in the same room with him,” Julie says, the words jostling against each other in an urgency to get out. “We never had one conference with him, and we never asked to be taken off the picture. But Howard is a nice man, and I think he really believed what he wrote.” (In 1985, Koch sent Julie a letter apologizing for his mistaken memories and stating that a new edition of his book would make it clear that the Epsteins had done the basic work on the script).
When Wallis discussed Casablanca with the Epsteins at the beginning of February, the twins were excited. “We thought the play would make a wonderful movie,” says Julie. “It had a lot of juice to it. And we loved Bogart’s character.” But there was one complication. The Boys had agreed-had volunteered-to go to Washington to help write a series of patriotic training documentaries for Frank Capra-now Major Frank Capra-for whom they had recently adapted the Broadway hit Arsenic and Old Lace. (Specialists at turning plays into movies, they had also recently written screen versions of The Male Animal and The Man Who Came to Dinner.) Before they left Los Angeles on February 25, the twins told Wallis that they would start writing Casablanca while they were away. In order to keep from paying his employees for wasted days, Jack Warner always made sure that the actors, writers, directors, and cameramen on forty-week-a-year contracts were put on layoff as soon as they finished assignments. When he sent a note that the Epsteins were to be taken off salary, Warner suggested that the time they were in Washington be added to the end of their contracts That way they would be bound to the studio for an extra month or two.
The Epsteins returned on March 17, 1942. They had already sent Wallis the first batch of the script, and, by the time they returned they had written about forty pages. According to Julie Epstein, Koch had written a treatment of the first section of the movie during their absence and they were shown his material on their return. There is very little of which one can be certain fifty years later. However, Koch’s assignment records at Warner Bros. make it unlikely that he worked on Casablanca while the Epsteins were away. Koch was assigned to The Adventures of Mark Twain from December 1, 1941, to March Catch a Falling Star For most of Casablanca, Koch was writing behind the Epsteins and revising their work. It may be that the Epsteins were shown the MacKenzie-Kline treatment, which seems to have been lost or destroyed.
Once they were back in California, the Epsteins rewrote the material they had sent Wallis from Washington and added to it. Less than two weeks after their return, they turned in what would become the first act of the movie. On March 30, Wallis sent a note to Michael Curtiz, the man he had picked to direct Casablanca:
Attached is my copy of the “CASABLANCA” script with notes. I have edited this carefully and have eliminated about 10 pages, and made other changes. I wish you would go over this in detail with the Epsteins this morning so that, when we meet this afternoon, the three of you can tell me with which of my notes you agree… At the same time, you can discuss with them the next portion of the story so that when we get together this afternoon after lunch, we can proceed.
Examining this note, the present-day producer Daniel Melnick says, “It is assuming the total accessibility of everyone. Today, to deliver the note would take three-and-a-half hours. At the earliest, they would read it overnight. It would take a minimum of four days to schedule the meeting. It’s the difference between an industry that regarded movies as product and today when even the toughest studio executives realize the films may not always be art, but the guys who make them think of themselves as artists.” As to taking the Epsteins off salary during their trip to Washington, Melnick quips, “Today, if you took a writer off salary because he wasn’t at his typewriter, there would be no scripts ever accepted.” The 66 pages of script, being known as PART I TEMP., was mimeographed on April 2. The Epsteins had written the first 3rd of the 46 movies, the section foregoing the flashback to Rick and Ilsa’s Paris romance. Ilsa and her husband arrived in Casablanca and, by the end of the script of Epstein’s’, Rick was slumped, alcohol-intoxicated in his vacant café, waiting for her to come back.”That 1st part was very close to the play, Epstein says.” It was with the second half that we had a problem.
The noble Victor Laszlo was the only one that is fundamentally same in the movie among all of the four main characters in Everybody Comes to Rick’s. Rick plays a weepy married lawyer who cheated on his spouse, takes on roughness. Says Julie Epstein, “When we all knew that Bogart was going to act for the role, we felt he was fit for it that we didn’t have to prepare anything in particular, and we just tried to make him as skeptical as possible.”
Bogart was cast in Casablanca in mid-February before a word of the Epsteins’ script was written. Whether the studio informed Bogart is another matter. Directors, writers, and actors belonged to the studio, which penciled them in and crossed them out with as little warning as a wind changing direction. It was on February 14, Steve Trilling was told by Hal Harris that Bogart will be part of Casablanca, the actor was finishing up The Big Shot, and the first of four movies he would make for Warner Bros. in 1942. He got three weeks’ vacation between The Big Shot and Across the Pacific and begged for another few weeks between Across the Pacific and Casablanca. Laurence Mark, a producer who has to deal with the stars of 1992, shakes his head at “An actor like Bogart begging for a two-week vacation.” Today, he says, “You’re lucky if you get one picture a year from them.
In that PART 1 TEMP. The script of April 2, Rick has already shed his wife and his profession. Captain Renault, who was an evil womanizer called Rinaldo in the play, has become a mocking alter ego for the Epsteins. Renault’s first line, as he meets Strasser at the airport, is “Unoccupied France welcomes you to Casablanca.” The Epsteins stage directions continue, “(It is very hard to tell whether he is being servile or mocking).” In the same vein, Renault tells Rick that “Captain Strasser is one of the grounds the Third Reich take pleasures in the standing it has at the moment.”
The character who is most changed from play to the movie is the woman in the triangle. In the stage play, Lois Meredith is an American vagrant, whose affair with Rick ended when she nonchalantly had an affair with another chap and whose changed affair with Rick in Casablanca weaken her current lover, Laszlo. In the film, she is Ilsa Lund, who met Rick when she thought her husband, Victor Laszlo, was dead and left him when Victor escaped from a concentration camp and lay, desperately ill, on the outskirts of Paris. It was Wallis’s favorite screenwriter, Casey Robinson, who took credit for suggesting that the heroine be European. In a 1974 oral history, Robinson described how he got the idea because he was “falling in love with a Russian ballerina named Tamara Toumanova.” Robinson even persuaded Wallis to test Toumanova for the part. Later, when Casablanca went into production, Robinson worked on the script for three weeks.
Wallis passed on to Epstein about Robinson’s idea of making the girl European. One of their letters from Washington jokes: “While we handle the foreign situation here, you try to get a foreign girl for the part. An American girl with big tits will do. Love and Kisses, Julie and Phil.” But even when Lois became Ilsa, the role was not shaped to fit Ingrid Bergman. She had to wear the cloak of generic European girl and cut it to her measure. By the time she was given the role in April, Bergman would have accepted a script much worse than Casablanca. She had been stuck in Rochester, New York, where her husband was in medical school, since August, and she despaired of ever making another movie.
In the first scrip of Epstein’s, Renault’s womanizing still has an unpleasant edge and Lois is still Lois. But the foundation has been laid for the connection between Rick and Renault, which may lie as close to the touching heart of the film as the relationship between Rick and Ilsa. The Epsteins have formed mockery between equals, high regard at the boundaries of the framework.
I have often wondered why you did not go back to America. Did you escape with the church finances? Did you elope the President’s wife? I should like to think you killed a man. It is the romantic in me.
Epstein says today, “I and my brother had tried earnestly to conclude with a cause why Rick could not go back to America. But nothing was seemed correct. Until finally, we are certain not to give any grounds at all.”
In keeping with what was admired as the Epsteins’ main strength, they have given the dialogue-including lines that were taken intact from the play-a twist, a kicker. In the play, Renault denies that he is influenced by the Gestapo. In the April 2 script, his denial is followed by his alacrity in jumping when Strasser calls. When Renault tells Rick that the café is allowed to stay open because Rick does not sell exit visas. Rick answers, “I thought it was because we let you win at dice.” Because of the importance of the murder of the couriers, says Renault, he is having his men round up “twice the usual number of suspects.” Rick, in particular, has taken on some of the needling quality, the verbal aggression, for which Bogart was famous. To the thief Ugarte: “I don’t mind a parasite. I object a cut-rate one.” To Yvonne, his casual mistress, when she asks, “Where do you go last night?” “That’s a very long time that I don’t really recall.” “Can I see you this evening?” “I don’t plan that far ahead.” To Strasser, who asks his nationality? “I’m a drunkard.”
But the Epsteins also began the process of sharpening the politics, a process that Howard Koch would complete. In the play, Rick didn’t flee from the Germans. He stayed around Paris for a month, hoping to bump into Lois again. In the play, the Gestapo was chasing Victor Laszlo not only because he had written “lies about them in his Prague newspaper but because he had $7 million in the Epstein’s first draft, as in the film. Strasser has a dossier on Rick, and the Gestapo wants the names of the Underground leaders from Laszlo. “If I didn’t give them to you in the concentration camp where you had more convincing systems at your disposal, I positively hand in them to you at the moment,” Laszlo responds.
Almost as soon as Wallis read the Epsteins April 2 script, he assigned Howard Koch to Casablanca without taking the twins off the picture. The Epsteins were to write part II. Working from the Epsteins’ April 2 script, Koch was to rewrite Part I. Up to this point the transformation of play to film is a straight line readable fifty years later. Now, because of the standard studio practice of using multiple writers, it becomes tangled, with unsigned and undated pages of suggestions turned into scenes in scripts that were an amalgam. In July, the pink and blue colored pages of revisions came on an almost daily basis. Much of who wrote what can only be deduced through internal evidence whether Lois has become Ilsa, whether a scene or suggestion whose original author is known has been changed in contradictory ways.
“The major work was done by the Epsteins,” says Koch. “They were on it the longest.” Koch, who was making $600 a week, was on the movie for about seven weeks at a cost to the film of $4,200. The Epsteins were charged against the movie for twelve weeks, a total of $15,208 apiece.
Koch had come to Warner Bros Huston got him a job for $300 a week. “I had slaved in New York, says Koch. “Hollywood was Utopia. The weather. Palm trees. And everything waiting for me a nice office, a chance to lie on the seashore, beautiful women.” His friend John Huston also generously helped him get a writing credit on Sergeant York Huston had starred as Abraham Lincoln in Koch’s play The Lonely Mar. And Huston and Koch were coauthors of In time to come, which reached Broadway in December 1941. A study of Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations, In Time to Come got four votes from the Drama Critics Circle for best play of the 1941-42 season.*
At the time he started working on Casablanca, Koch’s greatest notoriety had come as a $75-a-week radio writer. “John Houseman had read The Lonely Man, says Koch.”And he told me he and Orson Welles had an hour-long radio play to do and they needed a writer they could get very cheaply. They could get me for $75 a week, which I was glad to have, and it was my experience there, coming up with fifty, sixty pages every week according to their standards which were pretty high, that changed me from an amateur to a professional.” Koch’s third radio play was the
* No other play go as many votes but, unfortunately for Koch and Huston, eleven critics said that no play was worthy of the Prize.
War of the Worlds in his first two years at Warner Bros., Koch had written movies-The Sea Hauk and The Letter for the studio’s two biggest stars, Errol Flynn and Bette Davis. Koch has always said that his largest contribution to Casablanca was in making the film more political, He was never one to write froth. From the time a political satire by Koch won the $500 first prize in a national playwriting contest in 1932, his plays examined political themes. He is unquestionably responsible for providing Rick with a background of fighting for the Loyalist cause in Spain and running guns to Ethiopia. In September 1947, Koch would be one of nineteen unfriendly witnesses subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Fifteen of the others also were or had been screenwriters. But unlike almost all of the others, Koch had never joined the Communist Party. “I wanted to keep my independence,” he says. “But I was doing the same things that they were doing.” Only eleven of the unfriendly nineteen were asked to testify. The ten Americans were cited for contempt of Congress and eventually went to jail, labeled the Hollywood Ten. The eleventh, playwright Bertolt Brecht, fled to Europe. The blacklist made no distinctions. Despite the fact that he had not been called to testify and that he was not a Communist, Koch was forced into exile. “My salary was cut off,” he says. “From $3,000 a week to nothing.” Yet, as exiles go, he was benign. He and his wife spent five years in England, both of them writing successfully under assumed names. “I don’t mean to say that the blacklist was a happy period for everybody,” Koch says.”I was very unhappy. Broken marriages and jobs lost forever. But we just happened to be lucky about it.”
In their authoritative study of the blacklist era, The Inquisition in Hollywood, Larry Ceplair and Steven Englund list Koch as one of the key radicals in Hollywood, a term that means, at a minimum, people who sympathized with the Communist Party line, and that includes Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett. On a parallel list of liberals. with Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis, are the names of Julius and Philip Epstein. The twins were Jewish by birth, but their religion was Rooseveltian liberalism. Says Philip’s son, Leslie “My cousins and I were brought up as Deists, children of the Enlightenment, worshipers before the idol of FDR.” When war broke out,
* In 1988, the fiftieth anniversary of the Halloween invasion from Mars that terrified America, Koch auctioned his copy of the script for $135,000
Philip tried to enlist but was rejected as a premature anti-Fascist. People who spoke out against Hitler early or joined anti-Nazi organizations were seen as vaguely too far left, too liberal, even if they weren’t Communists. Julius finally managed to join the Navy in 1944.
Since Murray Burnett to the Epsteins toward Howard Koch, Casablanca was honed by men whose political beliefs and religious conviction had turned them untimely anti-Fascists. And, to take a step backward, the men who owned the studio were premature anti-Fascists, too. Because of Hitler’s anti-Semitism, Harry Warner had begun speaking out against the dictator in 1936. In his autobiography, Jack Warner created the convenient justification that he and his brother were galvanized by the murder of one of their Jewish employees in Germany, but an exhaustive Ph.D. thesis about the studio’s anti-Nazi activist says that the murder never happened.
Burnett wrote Everybody Comes to Rick’s after a trip to Europe in 1938. I had inherited $10,000 from an uncle, and it was one of my romantic dreams to go to Europe on a big ocean liner,” he says. “My wife’s kin reside in Belgium. I had read news regarding Hitler, but they were irrelevant until we went to Antwerp and my wife’s relatives told us to go to Vienna. The Anschluss had just befall; help other relatives get enough cash out of Austria. During those times, Jews could depart if they will leave money or property, nothing. There I go to seek the help of the Consulate of America to get to know why you’re going to Vienna and I do not wish to make an inquiry, but I wish to caution you that if you get into any dilemma in Vienna this regime cannot help you. He gave me a small American flag to wear in my lapel, and he said, you must never go out in the street without wearing this.
What he learned in Vienna, says Burnett more than half a century later, “was indescribable.” He went to Austria as an American. He came back to America as a Jew. In Vienna, Jews weren’t allowed to take taxicabs. When he stepped off the train with his golf clubs, tennis rackets, and American arrogance, Burnett insisted on a taxi. So his wife’s relative begged the cab driver. “I don’t speak German, but I’m fluent in obsequious,” says Burnett. They drove past a billboard “larger than any I have ever seen and on the billboard was a Jew’s caricature, and written in large letters ‘MURDERER, THIEF’. And we sat in one of the apartments of relatives’ and listen to the stomping feet you can hear outside.”
Part of the scheme involved buying merchandise. “When we got on the train, I had diamond rings on every finger and my wife was wearing a fur coat in August,” says Burnett. He was also running a 103-degree fever, since, as usual, he had responded to psychic stress with physical illness. And he was illegally carrying a camera, which he hid behind a pillow. When the uniformed border guards returned their passports, one pointed at the pillow. Burnett was terrified. When the guard left, his wife, who spoke German, burst into laughter. The guard had told left them not to take the pillows when they left the train.
In the South of France a few weeks later, Burnett made a nuisance of himself. “I was screaming, ‘Do you know what’s going on?'” he says. “And finally when people saw me coming they walked away.” One night he went to a clientele where a black man played the piano. Burnett whispered to his wife, “What a setting for a play.”
Back in New York, he told his colleague, “No one can remain middle-of-the-road, Joan, God forbid it. No one can remain not taking sides.”
Joan Alison was nearly a decade older than Burnett, a divorcee with three children. She was richer and more sophisticated, and she had myriad “contacts in the theater world. They had met a few years earlier at the Surfside Beach Club in Atlantic Beach, Long Island, where middle-class New Yorkers rented cabanas and spent summer days splashing in the Atlantic Ocean. It is instructive that Burnett remembers that they met when Alison criticized his clothing as being too formal for sun and fun. It didn’t happen that way at all, says Alison. “Murray came over and talked to my little boy, and I thought it was sweet of him. I always scream when he identifies himself as Rick, because he was the country boy, unsophisticated. My spouses were broad-shouldered and great athletes, and Rick was my idea of a man that I would be fond of. Clark Gable. I loathed Humphrey Bogart. I thought he was a regular intoxicated.”
Burnett had written a play that Alison helped revise and then passed on to a producer or two. After that, they began to collaborate purchased, they had submitted three original stories to Warner Bros. “Joan nourished me,” says Burnett. “I went to her apartment after school, and she would give me lunch. She was a marvelous cook. She was a beautiful woman. I needed Joan. Don’t for a moment think I didn’t. In a way, I think she was my mother.” The Letters of Transit were Alison’s idea. Burnett expected someone to challenge them about the absurdity of exit visas that couldn’t be canceled, but no one ever did.
Until her death on March 1992, both Burnett and Alison lived in apartments in Manhattan, but they had not seen each other for years. Something went wrong a long time ago after Casablanca was a success and they were wooed by Hollywood and failed there, and each seemed embarrassed when speaking of the other. Murray’s concept of sophisticated was me,” said Alison in the fall of 1989. “Lois was based on me. And he should see me now. I’m in the process of vanishing. This coming week maybe. Or the next week maybe. The thing that maintains me a great arrangement is a danger that shows when I can yell out more answers than the contestants.” Until her death more than two years later, at the age of ninety, Alison was still competing against the television-show contestants and winning.
The main task on the Casablanca screenplay was completed between the 6th of April when Howard Koch was made to work to the movie, and by the 1st of June when an amended final script was mimeographed. (That “final” script was by no means final. It would be changed, sometimes daily, until mid-July.) In addition to Koch and the Epsteins, the broth was stirred by Lenore Coffee, who had started writing titles for silent films in 1919 and had become a prime adaptor of popular women’s fiction, and Casey Robinson, the most expensive and deferred to of the Warner screenwriters. Coffee would be on and off the movie in a week, but Robinson would shape the love story.
“Warner Bros. was like the assembly line at an automobile plant,” says Julius Epstein. “You were assigned a script, and when you were through with it, the studio would give it to another writer, and someone else would polish it, and, if you were good at a particular thing, you would do that kind of scene on one picture and another and another.
Casablanca’ succeeding script became precise, reasonably priced, the scenes were rearranged for much theatrical effect and the speeches refined and cut off. The confinement inside of the studio that Koch and Julie Epstein expressed as “a family,” Koch wrote to the Epsteins to provide the film more depth and impact, and the Epsteins then wrote back Koch requesting to delete his heaviest symbolisms and to ease his sincerity.
This type of ‘survival-of-the-fittest’ script is not typical today, when the whole staff, crew, and executives come uncertainly and doubtfully together to make one movie, the original writer is seldom hired back after the script was revised, and having screen credit meant that somebody gets additional pay from the sales in television and videocassettes. “Everybody stakes out his territory,” says Jack Brodsky who has twenty years of experience as a producer and marketing executive. “No first draft no matter how much it cost the studio is considered any good today. The studio says, ‘We’re going to improve it. The director has to tamper to put his stamp on it. The writers are corporations, who have no loyalty to the final movie if they have to share credit. Rarely do I see a script brought to fruition good as the first draft.”
Starting of May, the second part of the script of Casablanca was finished by the Epsteins, while the job of Howard Koch gave his revision of the first act of the Epsteins’ work. Earlier, in 19 pages of “Proposal for Improved Plot,” Koch had cautioned.
There is also a risk that Rick’s sacrifice will be seen as dramatic and counterfeited except, at the beginning of the plot, we recommend his nature’s side that makes his final verdict towards the character. It would be appealing to have Renault break through the obscurity in his 1st scene with Rick when he presumes that the pessimistic American is beneath, sentimentalist. Rick express amusement at the topic, and Renault creates his record “Run guns to Ethiopia,” “fought for the Loyalists in the Spanish War.” Rick says that he acquired well compensation during both of the occasions. Renault responded to him that the victorious side would have compensated him much more. It was bizarre that he always choose to be on the side of the runner up. Rick discharges the connotation, but throughout the movie, we see proof of his weakness, in which he does his best to wrap up.
Koch’s script of May 11 also deepened Rick’s nature and emphasizes the political hesitation in delicate ways. For example, Koch formulates the man Rick bars from his gaming space who was an English cad in the play into a delegate of the Deutschebank. When the proprietor of the Blue Parrot proposed to purchase Rick’s Café, Koch has supplemented dialogues in which the character portrayed by Sydney Green Street also recommend acquiring Sam, and Rick says, “I don’t buy or sell human beings.” (In the drafting of the script that belongs to Koch, the Epsteins would construct on the line from Koch’s by having Greenstreet act in response, “That is too bad. That is the leading commodity in Casablanca.”) If Koch coated the political views heavily in the version of his, Victor Laszlo forces Renault to toast liberté, égalité, fraternité the Epsteins would emit those speaking parts of the script of the 1st of June. With sensitive steadiness, Koch administers to hold down the humor while the Epsteins handle to cut the lecturing.
Although the Epsteins and Koch worked on each other’s scripts they never worked together. Hal Wallis was always the intermediary in his nineteen pages of suggestions, Koch suggested that Renault and Rick play a chess game throughout the movie to “serve as a useful image for the chess-like intrigue which characterizes Casablanca.” Says Julie Epstein, “My brother and I hated that chess game.” It is Julie’s memory that, when he and his brother returned from Washington, they read a chess game scene written by Koch and replaced it with the scene in which Renault speculates on why Rick can’t return to America.
Koch also suggested that the movie have a scene at the Underground meeting, where Laszlo can give a fiery speech at the end of which “this brave band of patriots rises to their feet in tribute.
This scene is to show Laszlo in action as the democratic leader so that we do not have to accept his great importance to the allied cause merely by hearsay. Also, such a scene as this might enlarge the significance of the story.” Like several of Koch’s heaviest symbols, this method of expanding the importance did not make it into the movie.
However, a number of Koch’s ideas are on the screen. For years, Howard Koch took too much credit for Casablanca. Now he takes too little. He reorganized the Epsteins’ April 2 script to greater dramatic effect. For example, there is more excitement and tension in Koch’s version and the final film when Ugarte (Peter Lorre) is captured before Rick and the Gestapo agent meet; and the Norwegian Resistance fighter (played by John Qualen) is used to impart vital information to Laszlo. And Koch deciphers the play’s unusable subplot by Rick allowing the young Bulgarian couple to succeed at roulette.
In the script dated 2nd of April, the Epsteins had included true-to-life events, Lilian, the wife of Phil, had fun in Palm Springs with 25-cent roulette and then lost. “Lilian was grousing and argumentative about being behind, says Julie.”The croupier finally informs her to set her chips on 22. She succeeds, and he advises her to leave and never return.” The Epsteins formed a refugee who had been keeping for 3 years to get cash enough to depart from Casablanca and was now betting away his wager. Rick told him to put his money on 24, and he won.
In his “Suggestions for Revised Story,” Koch zeroed in on this scene as a way of showing Rick’s humanity.
Why not make this a much bigger situation-for instance, it might be the way he rescues Annina and her husband from Renault? The Perfect paid the price for the visa too expensive for the couple to compensate. In his most cordial behavior, he proposes to Annina that she can pay in a different way… Annina asks for an opinion from Rick, who allows Jan to be friends with Renault. The Prefect, when he finds out, should not be offended by this act of Rick’s, but accepts it as an honorable defeat and also as verification of his squabble that Rick is melodramatic.
On May 6, Wallis told director Michael Curtiz to expect the Epsteins’ second-act script at ten o’clock the next morning and to read it immediately so they could meet at 11 A.M. with the Epsteins who wanted some guidance on the third act. Five days later Wallis sent a Please Hurry Up note to Howard Koch, who was to revise the Epsteins’ second act as he had revised the first portion of their script. “I think this next batch of the Epsteins’ stuff is, for the most part, good,” Wallis wrote Koch. “I think almost everything about the Epsteins is useable.”
Koch immediately sent back an indignant memo:
Although the Epstein script follows in a general way the new storyline, I feel it is written in a radically different vein from the work I’ve just finished on the first half of the picture. They actually perceive the circumstances more in terms of their humorous potentials, while my attempt has been to legitimize the characters and develop a serious melodrama of present-day connotation, using comedy simply as aid from staged tension. I am not presuming to decide which the better way to attack the picture is, but certainly, they are different from the ground up…
If you are in favor of the approach taken by the Epsteins, it would seem to me best that they do the patching on the few places you don’t like. Frankly, to a large extent, I’ve been writing and would continue to write, a new screenplay, gladly availing myself of what material I feel I could use from their script and from the original play. With the best of intentions, I would be lost trying to do anything else.
Despite Koch’s pleas, he was neither allowed to write a new screenplay for Casablanca nor taken off the movie. He continued to write behind the Epsteins until June 5, ten days after the movie started shooting, when he was sent back to work on the screenplay on which he had spent four weeks in March. That script never became a movie.
By May 25, when Casablanca started production, the melodrama, the snappy dialogue, and all the characters except Ilsa Lund had been shaped and polished. But Casablanca still had two problems the love story and the ending. For the next seven weeks, they would be argued and fought over as each hot summer day brought the cast and crew of Casablanca nearer to the day when they would end that would have to shoot an ending that hadn’t yet been written.
It is no accident that Casablanca and America’s entry into World War II coincided. In Hollywood, then as now, perception is everything, and the war that had begun the day before the play reached the studio transformed Everybody Comes to Rick’s from a standard melodrama set in an exotic land and containing a handful of interesting characters into a significant example of American ability to do the right thing and make the right choices. If the play had reached Hal Wallis’s desk in August 1941, rather than December, there is a good chance it would not have been bought; certainly much less would have been seen in the sparring between Rick Blaine and the representatives of Nazi Germany and Vichy France. If it had as to come to the studio in 1939, it would have been perceived uncomfortably aggressive anti-Nazi statement. But it arrived at the W as an exact moment when the movie industry had to change its habits to fit the realities of the war and had to change its movies to fit America’s image of the war. Everybody Comes to Rick’s would be altered both because movie audiences in a nation at war needed a less self-pitying hero and because Hollywood no longer had access to balsa wood, rubber cement, and silk. To the ordinary chaos of moviemaking would be added the middle of an industry struggling to cope with major changes.
None of that was apparent on December 7, 1941. Hollywood always played on Sunday, since the industry still worked six days a week. The director who would turn Everybody Comes to Rick’s into Casablanca spent the morning on his skeet-shooting range. Michael Curtiz’s skeet field was just beyond his small polo field and one mile by car from the main house. The Hungarian immigrant director born Mihaly Kertesz had a passion for the land. By 1941 he had wrapped himself in 165 acres. His twenty-five-acre grove of orange and grapefruit trees-grapefruit grew poorly on the other side of the mountains but thrived in the oppressive summer heat of the San Fernando Valley-was picked by Sunkist.
For the first few rounds of skeet shooting, December 7, 1941, was like every other Sunday at the ranch. Unless there was a polo match at one of the big fields over the hill, it was clay pigeons followed by lunch in the orange grove below the house. Mike-he had shed Mihaly as easily and quickly as he had shed Hungary for German and Austria expressionism for Hollywood eclecticism-was the money-earning workhorse in the Warner Bros. stable. Although a William Wyler might be brought in to direct an occasional Bette Davis film (Jezebel, The Letter), it was Curtiz whom Variety praised as the studio’s top “money getter” year after year. When he came to Warner Bros. from Austria in 1926, Curtiz had already made sixty-two silent movies. Throughout the 1930 and 1940, Curtiz directed 45 films. It differs in the genre like a mixture of melodramas, horror flicks, gangster, westerns and swashbucklers movies; he finished The Walking Dead and, a week or two later was at work on The Charge of the Light Brigade-but his movies contain 3 different things in common. All was made on time, stood by the budget, and most of them made a lot of money. That Casablanca would go eleven days over schedule was not entirely Curtiz’s fault. Because Now, Voyager finished twenty days late, Paul Henreid did not set foot on the set of Casablanca until the movie had been in production for a full month.
The skeet shooters competing with Curtiz Pearl Harbor morning were two Warner Bros. stars, George Brent and Ann Sheridan; Henry Blanke who was now a full producer; and Hal Wallis. Wallis was almost always at the ranch on Sundays. Even though the two men spent the other six days a week at the same studio, they never seemed to get tired of each other. Four days earlier, they had started a musical together, Yankee Doodle Dandy. On Saturday nights, Wallis and his wife, actress Louise Fazenda, watched movies in Curtiz’s projection room or Curtiz, his wife, and stepson watched movies at Wallis’s ranch, fifteen minutes away. Most other nights, the two men talked on the phone for hours after dinner.
When Mihaly Kertesz arrived in Los Angeles on June 1926, to a city full of orange trees and the air thick with the scent of orange blossoms, it was studio publiCity man Hal Wallis who was sent to the train station to meet him. Their friendship began that day. It was a friendship born out of mutual interests and helped along by the fact that Louise Fazenda and Curtiz’s wife, Bess Meredyth, had been close friends since long before Meredyth’s marriage to Curtiz. What the two men shared. Beyond movies were physical stamina and a need to work that was close to an addiction. If Wallis a powerfully built man with a neck so thick it seemed made of wood came to the studio first and left last, Curtiz, before there were unions to protest, worked his actors seventeen-hour days and cursed anyone who wanted to stop for lunch. On Saturday, April 2, 1932, Curtiz who had the constitution of an ox, worked for twenty hours, not allowing the cast and crew of Doctor X to go home until 5 A.M Sunday morning. In that one day, he shot 10 percent of the movie.
“Wallis was deeply admiring of Curtiz, and he wasn’t admiring of many people,” says Wallis’s biographer, Charles Higham. “He got angry at critics who said Curtiz had no personal style. He said you couldn’t mistake a Curtiz setup, that it had a stamp as marked as a Matisse.
Curtiz, in turn, always gave Hal Wallis credit for Casablanca. To the end of his life, Curtiz told friends that Hal Wallis was the only powerfully clearly person who had faith in the movie, that Jack Warner was convinced the movie would be a disaster.
Dozens of memos make it clear that, at the studio, Wallis was the boss. “I saw last night’s dailies and, again, it is just a lot of odds and bits and reactions of people in the Café to Sam’s song,” he wrote Curtiz when Casablanca had been in production for eight days. “I don’t feel yet that we have gotten into the picture.”
But both the impassioned, autocratic Curtiz and the cool efficient Wallis could be charming when they were away from the studio. Wallis usually stabled a horse or two at the Curtiz ranch, and the two men rode together. “Hal was never an in the Café to Sam’s song he wrote elegant rider,” says Curtiz’s stepson, John Meredyth Lucas. “He greatly resembled a sack of potatoes, but he rode well enough.” Curtiz, who had been in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I, rode well and with passion and kept a dozen polo ponies and riding horses. When polo was the sport of Hollywood kings, Wallis and Curtiz were part of Los Amigos, the Warner Bros. polo team, along with Jack Warner, Henry Blanke, and a ringer, a three-goal player imported from New York. Curtiz started Casablanca with his right hand wrapped in bandages because Snowy Baker, an Australian who rode at the Uplifters Club, had gouged his knuckles with a mallet.
“I think flirting with danger got them,” says Jack Warner, Jr. who played on the Warner team in 1936 and 1937, at the same time he was on the polo team at the University of Southern California. “Now they could be the heroes in their movies.
It was twenty-year-old John Meredyth Lucas who drove down to the skeet field to break the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. For the next week, the bottom dropped out of the movie business, but by December 15 the Hollywood Reporter was announcing that the lines were normal again and, at some theaters, better than normal. Whatever else the war did, it gave the movie industry a huge audience. Warner Bros. went from a $5.4 million after-tax profit in fiscal 1941 to an $8.5 million profit in 1942, Profits totaled $8.2 million in 1943, even after the studio redeemed its preferred stock and $10 million of debentures and paid off all its domestic bank loans Defense workers with money in their pockets and purses but no sugar, butter, automobiles, vacuum cleaners, or sewing machines to spend it on helped the industry sell 3.5 billion movie tickets a year.
For the movie studios, the last three weeks in December were a mixture of business as usual and preparations for invasion. While Everybody Comes to Rick’s was read and bargained over, Warner art directors drew up plans to camouflage the studio’s twenty-one soundstages, which, unfortunately, resembled the airplane hangars at Lockheed down the road. There is an apocryphal story that Jack Warner had an arrow and the words “Lockheed, that way” painted: on one of the roofs. It is doubtful that he would have had such confidence in the English language skills of Japanese pilots.
Within days, Warners had barred all visitors “with the exception of the always-welcome press,” and 20th Century-Fox announced that it would fingerprint and issue identification cards to every employee. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, whose imperial ways included impassable gates and a large police force, made no changes in security. Warner Bros. bought three “surgically equipped” ambulances and a fire engine with a giant pumper and stationed airplane spotters on the roofs of Stages 7 and 21, the two tallest on the lot.
Psychologically, Warner Brothers were two steps ahead of the other studios when it came to facing the war. Unlike the other moguls, Harry Warner had been an early and enthusiastic follower of Franklin Roosevelt and the first adversary of Hitler. Except for Darryl Zanuck, all the tycoons were Jewish, but only Harry Warner-and later, Jack Warner-were anti-Nazis when opposing Hitler was out-of-date. Warner Bros. closed down its operations in Germany in July 1934. It was the first studio to leave Germany. As Hitler consumed country after country like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Austria, Warner Bros. was almost all the time the first studio to extract, choosing belief over income. By disparity, Fox, MGM, and Paramount are all hesitant to lose such a good market for their films, was still operating in Germany in 1939. Casablanca has been used, symbolically, to illustrate many points, and one can easily compare Rick’s neutrality, the blinders that allow him to keep his café open, with the other studios’ willingness to look the other way.*
*Since the 1950s, when television replaced movies as the mass-audience entertainment, around one billion movie tickets are sold each year.
Harry was the smartest businessman of all the Warners, and he was probably more ruthless than Jack, but his toughness was yoked to a rigid moral code. “When I first came to the studio in 1936, they had this anti-Nazi drive,” says film editor Rudi Fehr. “I was from Berlin. I had very strong feelings about that, so I gave a week’s salary, a big $60. About ten days after I sent the check-in, I got a note from Harry Warner. ‘Rudi, I just looked up the payroll. I’m hereby returning your check. Please tear the check-up and give me a check for $10. That was unheard of for the head of a company.
Born in Poland and a victim of anti-Jewish pogroms, Harry Warner was speaking out against Hitler when the rest of the industry heads were talking about European markets’ being a necessary part of their fiduciary responsibility to their stockholders. In 1939, Warner Bros. made Hollywood’s first overtly anti-Nazi film, Confessions of a Nazi Spy. And, in May 1940 Harry sent a pleading telegram to President Roosevelt: he wrote that he was worried that America’s cash-and-carry policy for shipping war materials to the Allies “will work too great a hardship on these brave unfortunate nations who are, in a way, fighting our battle for us.” Harry Warner also helped the British as best a private citizen could. Warner Bros. distributed two short subjects made for Britain’s Ministry of Information, London Can Take It and Christmas Under Fire, and gave all the proceeds around $35,000, to a fund to build Spitfires.
Jack, the eighth of the twelve Warner children, was born in Canada and grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. Before he was ten, he had turned his back on Hebrew school and his real name, Jacob. Harry, eleven years older, the third child and first son, spoke Hebrew as well as he spoke English. However rich and famous he might be, Harry Warner knew that he was still a Jew boy. After a Ku Klux Klan rally in Pittsburgh on October 1941, a Warner Bros, theater there was a vandal. Iced, with the word “Jew” written in red, white, and blue on the walls.
*Unfortunately, Warner Bros. courage did not extend to the postwar foreign markets. According to GeroGandert of the Filmmuseum Berlin, the Warner Bros. office in Germany eagerly collaborated in eviscerating Casablanca in 1952 by deleting all references to Nazis in order not to offend German audiences, who had bought 555 million movie tickets in 1951
During June 1940, Harry had brought together all of his 3,411 employees and their spouses, with actors and to janitors, sitting on foldable chairs in the studio’s crafts building. He translated to them from a book of Nazi, ‘Defilement of Race’ that thoroughly laid out the plans of Germans to clear the world of Christians and Jews. His own wife was not there, Harry said because she was afraid that because he spoke out he would be the first one the Nazis would kill. “United we survive and divided we fall,” he said “We must join forces and renounce paying attention to anyone conversing about whether you and I are a Catholic or a Protestant or a Jew or of any other faith. Let us not allow them to speak anything against someone’s faith or we will collapse just like as they did.”
Three months later, in Studio Club to form the War vets, employees who were ex-servicemen and who pledged, “Americanism is my watchword and my creed… worth fighting and dying for.” By November, there were 350 War veterans guarding against saboteurs, and Warner Bros. was urging other employees to get trained in the studio’s Rifle and Pistol Club, Search Light Battery, or Medical Unit. “Through the foresight of Harry and Jack Warner,” said an editorial in the Warner Club News, “every employee of this studio has been given the opportunity to prepare himself for the protection of his Home, Job, and COUNTRY.”
Humphrey Bogart was not a member of the Warner Warvets but he was a war veteran. As an eighteen-year-old, he had served in the Navy in World War I. During World War II, he joined the Coast Guard Reserve and patrolled the California coast.
When war came, the War vets were ready to defend the studio against sabotage, a job Harry Warner gave them on December 8, 1941. Like most of the studios, Warners put guards around its power plants and fuel dumps. All the studios built air-raid shelters. Warners carved out four shelters the biggest was in the basement of its craft shop-and protected them with fifteen thousand sandbags.
California, naked to the Pacific, was terrified of the dark sea. On December 11, an unidentified airplane triggered a blackout from Bakersfield to San Diego. In response, an industry that had worked around the clock shifted all thirty thousand employees to daylight hours on December 15. In anticipation of more blackouts, the cameras would start turning at 8 A.M. and, for the time being, stop at 5 PM. Jack Warner, who usually got to the studio in time for lunch, set a good example by arriving at 7:45 A.M. the first day, according to gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.
The preparations were in earnest, even if Paramount logged some extra publicity by re-titling one of its finished movies Pacific Blackout. Almost immediately, the studios made expensive duplicate negatives of their movies and shipped them to secret vaults in the Midwest. Southern California, with its shipyards, airplane factories, and unprotected backside, felt more at risk than any other area of the country. In a government survey taken in February 1942, 75 percent of the Southern Californians interviewed believed that “only a few” or “practically none” of the state’s Japanese residents were loyal to the United States; and the same percent recommended putting the Japanese in camps, In northern California, fewer than half of those interviewed favored imprisoning the Japanese. The eventual roundup had no effect on the studios, which found, to their surprise, how few Japanese they employed and that almost all of those were easily expendable janitors, gardeners, or window washers. When the roundup began in earnest and the government pulled out the American-born Japanese actors in Warner’s Across the Pacific, “A little righteous anger and some wire pulling held them at least until the picture was finished,” said Mary Astor, the movie’s costar. “A world-shaking tragedy comes into our lives, and characteristically all anybody was thinking of was how will it affect the picture?’
Hollywood’s fear was genuine. It can be measured by the fact that the overlords, jealous guardians of their castle gates, agreed to pool their production facilities if a studio was disabled by bombs. And the fear was justified. The government, afraid of panic, withheld the extent of the losses at Pearl Harbor for more than a month. Although the only attack on California came on February 23, 1942, when a Japanese submarine shelled an oilfield north of Santa Barbara without doing much damage, nine Japanese submarines lay off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington during the last three weeks in December. They sank tankers and waited for a signal to shell radio and navigational stations. But the signal never came, and they were withdrawn. As late as April 23, 1942, the assistant chief of staff, Major General Dwight Eisenhower, warned the Western Defense Command to expect the Japanese to retaliate for Doolittle’s bomber raid on Tokyo by sending carrier-based planes against the West Coast.
Real fear or not, the studio publicity departments jumped to take advantage. When the country was switched to Daylight Saving Time in February, Fox announced that Betty Grable was the first star to reach New York on the new wartime. Asked how the first air-raid drill had gone, Warner’s executive answered, “Oh, it was a great success. Life photographers were there and got swell pictures.” For that air-raid practice, the evacuation alarm whistle at Warner Bros. blew just before lunch on January 2-so that little production time would be lost-and reporters were invited into the biggest of the studio’s shelters, to sit “on wooden benches along sand-bagged walls” with Bette Davis, John Huston, Michael Curtiz, and Dennis Morgan.
The studios had always used the press to sell their pictures within months, the huge studio publicity departments would shift almost seamlessly to helping the United States Government sell the war. Of the $350 billion of war bonds sold during World War II, nearly one-third was sold by movie stars or in movie theaters. The studios had always lied easily about their movies and their stars; they would lie as easily about the war. And that lies-on screen and off would shape America’s picture of what it was going through.
Warners celebrated the first Los Angeles blackout by sending out a three-page account of how the studio’s stars had managed. Bette Davis and her husband stood in their garden and “watched the giant searchlights criss-cross the sky.” James Cagney calmed his hysterical cook. Olivia de Havilland lit a silver candle and “took a lovely hot bath with lots and lots of bath salts,” while Cary Grant, who had been loaned to the studio for Arsenic and Old Lace, lost his shoes on the beach, and Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan sat in their parked car with the lights out for an hour and a half, watching “excited citizens smash neon signs and break windows” of shops that were too slow turning out their lights.
Although the blackout experiences of Ann Sheridan, who decided she might as well go to bed, and Ronald Reagan sound genuine, it is always best to be suspicious of studio press releases. “I was 4F, unfit for military service,” says Arthur Wilde, who started at Warner Bros. as a seventeen-year-old laborer in 1936. “So they used to dress me up as a soldier or a sailor and photograph me out on dates with Alexis Smith to show what she was doing for the war effort. The publicity department, we had sixty people, function like a big newspaper. We had photo editors, downtown planters, telephone planters, column planters. One man had an absolute with Walter Winchell, and his job was just to keep Winchell happy (In the early 1980s, there were still a few old-timers left, old men with raspy voices who telephoned and said, “I want to plant you’ before offering artificial tidbits to the wary representatives of a more sophisticated media.) There were usually only two women in those large publicity departments, one to handle the fan magazines and the other to handle fashions. “Until World War II came along, it was almost unthinkable to give a woman the responsibility of really handling a whole campaign,” said C. E. (“Teet”) Carle, who was the head of publicity at Paramount for years.
By the time the war came, Wilde had moved up to supplying newspapers and magazines with leg art, pictures of starlets dressed in bathing suits or shorts. “National Hardware Week is coming up next? We’d photograph the poor little things with all those hammers and saws,” says Wilde. “Once, on a hot day, I took Joan Leslie, who was a sixteen-year-old girl, and filled up an old bathtub with ice cubes and photographed her in a bathing suit washing her in ice cubes. Promoting the war effort was no different. I remember taking the young contract people to the bomb shelter and having them photographed for the press.”
The name of the game was publicity. And if the war could be used to get a little extra publicity for a Warner movie, the film was the same time, getting a little extra publicity for the war. Warners made Action in the North Atlantic, Bogart’s fourth movie of 1942, as a salute to the Merchant Marine. Says Wilde, Then we promoted the public donating old furs to make vests for the Merchant Mariners in the North Atlantic. We asked the actors to model the stuff. The whole male and female contract list was expected to perform for the war effort.”
The first publicity Reporter on January 5, 1942: “Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan for the third time co-starred in Casablanca, with Dennis Morgan also coming in for top billing. The thread of war refugees in French Morocco is based on an unproduced play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison.” Two days later, the same false item was sent to dozens of newspapers as part of the studio’s weekly “Hollywood News.”
The studios sent out false items all the time, and the false nice king hem l be publicity about Ronald Reagan’s starring in Casablanca was little different from the false publicity about a star taking a lovely bath by candlelight during the first blackout of the war. “Today the press agents do the same thing,” says Jack Brodsky, a producer who started as a publicist. As director of advertising and publicity for Cleopatra in 1963, Brodsky made up an extremely successful fiction designed to associate the names of the stars with the film. “We said the billing for Rex Harrison and Richard Burton would come first would depend on which actor got a knighthood first,’’ Brodsky says. “Time magazine printed that as fact.”
There was never any chance that Ronald Reagan could star in Casablanca Reagan was a second lieutenant in the US Cavalry Reserve, and the studio had been writing deferment letters for him since September 1941. In November, he had been deferred because of poor eyesight, but, with the war on, the studio knew that there was no possibility of another deferment. Warners had already cast Reagan in Desperate Journey, which would begin production on February 2, and the studio was barely able to keep the actor long enough to finish that movie in April. Yet on March 23, the Hollywood Reporter published a studio handout that Warner’s was preparing a script called Buffalo Ball, which would star Ronald Reagan in the title role.
Today, nearly every actor has a private press agent, and a studio is solely interested in publicizing its movies since the stars will be working at a different studio the next month. In 1942, the Warner Bros. publicity department tried to keep the names of its contract actors-valuable studio property-constantly in public view. Ann Sheridan and Ronald Reagan were probably teamed in the Casablanca press release because they had just made two movies together Kings Row and Juke Girl, and Kings Row was now going into the release. A successful team was always worth a few extra dollars at the box office. A few weeks earlier, the studio had planted an item in the Los Angeles Times that Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan would be starring in Aloba Means Goodbye, a combination romance Japanese spy story. That movie never even got made. A few days after Warner’s announced the casting for Casablanca, the studio sent out another bulletin, this time saying that Reagan, Sheridan, Morgan, and George Tobias would star in Shadow of Their Wings instead of Casablanca. Sheridan and Morgan did costar in that film, renamed Wings for the Eagle, about aircraft factory workers.
During January, casting Casablanca was far from Hal Wallis’s mind. Casablanca would be the third of his independent movies to go into production, and Wallis’s chief focus in January was his first movie, Desperate Journey. He was, however, concerned with choosing a director for Casablanca, and on January 5 he had his secretary send copies of the play and identical notes to Mike Curtiz, Vincent Sherman, and William Keighley: “M Felingn Wallis will appreciate your reading the attached play CASABLANCA, which we recently purchased. Please let him know what you think of it as soon as possible. Thanks.’’
As soon as he read the play, Vincent Sherman told Wallis that he wanted to direct Casablanca, “I thought it was great movie junk,” Sherman says, “marvelous movie junk. I don’t know who’s most responsible for the script, but I thought all the ingredients were inherent in the material.
Sherman, who had come to Warner Bros. in 1937 on a contract that allowed the studio to use him as a writer, director, actor, or supervisor, remembers running upstairs to tell the story to the Epsteins, who had written his 1940 movie Saturday’s Children. If he did-and Julie Epstein does not remember being introduced to Casablanca by Sherman-nothing came of it for Sherman, who was assigned to direct the next Ida Lupino movie, The Hard Way. When Sherman found out that Curtiz had been given Casablanca, he was disappointed but “I couldn’t get sore,” he says. “Because Mike was a marvelous director, I used to watch Mike’s pictures to learn how to direct. He would shoot each picture in relation to the kind of story was. If you look at Captain Blood and Robin Hood, he was a great action director. He could do other kinds of pictures too if you gave him a halfway decent script. If you gave Mike a decent script, he would do a good job of staging it. His whole life was his pictures. I never heard of Mike having any personal or social relationships outside that mattered.”
Despite their friendship, Wallis didn’t decide on Curtiz right away. His first choice was William Wyler. Early in February, he sent the play to Wyler, who was vacationing in Sun Valley, Idaho, after finishing Mrs. Miniver. What Wyler thought of it is not recorded, only the fact that Wyler and Darryl Zanuck played gin rummy until 2:30 every morning. Wyler may never have bothered to read the play. He had already applied for a commission in the Signal Corps. By the time Casablanca went into production, Wyler had gone to Washington and was doing research on The Negro Soldier for Major Frank Capra. So Wallis turned, as he often did, to Curtiz.
The film reviewer Andrew Sarris noted Casablanca as “the happiest of joyful accidents, and the most crucial exclusion to the auteur theory”. A contract director might have a consistent style of even a consistent point of view. Curtiz signed each film in the 1930s with coherent and exciting activities within a scene that masked the fact that the heavy cameras could move only slowly and ponderously. And, if something worked in one film, it might pop up in a 76 it,” says Julius Epstein of Curtiz. “We had a very successful birthday scene in Four Daughters, so Mike wanted a birthday scene in every picture we wrote. For one picture-I forget the name of it-we said, ‘Forget it. It doesn’t belong,’ we went to the preview, and there was the birthday scene.”
In the studio system, however, ultimate control lay beyond the director. With the exception of Columbia during the years when the studio was so poor that it had to gamble on giving control to creative directors, the studio system was run by executives and producers. At MGM, directors were not even allowed to use the executives’ elevator in the administration building. Because of his relationship with Wallis and his status as a moneymaker, Curtiz, who was earning $3,600 weekly in February 1942, had more authority than most directors, but he still dispenses his main actors and lots of supporting stars. He could pick some members of his crew, but he could rarely choose his cinematographer and film editor, and on Casablanca, he was assigned a sound editor, Francis Scheid, whom he disliked. The two men would be shouting at each other before the first day of shooting was over.
Curtiz asked for George Amy as his cutter on Casablanca and was assigned, Owen Marks. Whoever had just finished a movie and already used up his twelve weeks of layoff went to the top of an assignment list kept by T. C. (“Tenny”) Wright, the studio manager. On April 4, 1942, Wallis sent a memo to assign a first or second assistant director to Curtiz, since the active preparation of Casablanca had begun.
“I would never pick someone for such a key job without the approval of the director,” says today’s producer, Dan Melnick. “I would come up with a shortlist acceptable to me and let the director pick,” Curtiz could ask, wheedle, or complain, but he could not demand. As Tenny Wright told Carl Weyl, Casablanca’s art director. On May 14, “You will talk sets and everything else about the picture to director’s other films.”If something worked, Mike wanted to repeat as Wright asking him Mike Curtiz from there you will go over to Mr. Wallis and get approval screenwriters. Most of the writers on Casablanca, Curtiz’s sixty Warner Bros. movie, were chosen by Hal Wallis weeks before he picked Curtiz as the film’s director. After he finished Yankee Doodle Dandy, Curtiz worked with the Epsteins, who had done four other movies with him,* but even after fifteen years at Warner Bros. the English language was not Curtiz’s strong suit. Wallis had the final say on the script. Yet, within the checks and balances of the studio system, Wallis’s control over the movie was not complete either. Tenny Wright, with Warner’s approval, had the final say on assigning craftsmen. And Wright refused to take cameraman James Wong Howe off The Hard Way and put him on Casablanca, even when Wallis demanded that he do so.
Lee Katz has a director on Casablanca, and he was vice president in charge of physical production at United Artists in 1980, when Heaven’s Gate, the wildly out-of-control movie written and directed by Michael Cimino, wrecked the studio.
“Michael Cimino would not have lasted ten minutes in the studio system, says Katz.”Nor should he have. Cimino was a thoroughly irresponsible man, and the studio system didn’t allow that.’’
Writers and directors alike had to play by the studio’s rules of discipline and frugality. At Warner Bros., the rules included the fact that directors directed and writers wrote. John Huston broke that rule with The Maltese Falcon in 1941. However much Huston had to do with the scripts of his next two movies, the screenplay credits went to Howard Koch (In This Our Life) and Richard Macaulay (Across the Pacific). When director Delmer Daves tried to take credit for the screenplay of Destination Tokyo in 1943, Jack Warner sent a blistering telegram: “He will be a director and that’s all the credit he will get. This is one practice I won’t stand for.” And Warner continually pounced on directors who changed scripts. In a typical 1943 memo, he harangued all his directors and producers about the continuous re-writing of scenes” on the set, which he saw as a waste of time and money.
The studio was always being combed for the waste of time, waste of money. On vacation in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Warner wrote his assistant, Steve Trilling, and complained that Trilling used too many n the future please see that any unnecessary words are left out thus reducing the cost of wires accordingly.’’ (Warmer was clever and penurious enough to send his own daily telegrams to the studio collect; they sometimes included messages to be typed up and for. awarded to non-studio acquaintances, including songwriter Cole Porter.)
*Little Big Shot (1935) had a screenplay by Jerry Wald and Julius J. Epstein. Four Daughters (1938) credited Julius J. Epstein and Lenore Coffee. Daughters Courageous (1939) and Four Wives (1939) had screenplays by Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein.
Rarely did a penny escape the studio’s eye. In January 1942, Orry-Kelly, Warner’s costume designer, was asked to pay the $1.85 he owed for telephone calls. That same month, RJ Obringer, head of the legal department, wrote testily to Curtiz that, as he well knew, he owed the studio $26.95 for personal telephone calls. Since he had already been billed several times, would Curtiz please pay immediately It is impossible to imagine M-G-M hounding a director who was making $3,600 a week for such a small amount of money but Warner Bros. went after stars and directors alike. Helmut Dantine owed the studio $27.16 for one sports shirt and one T-shirt. Perhaps he had ‘’overlooked’’ the bill. And Warner instructed the wardrobe department not to make any clothes for an actor’s personal until the actor or actress had signed a written agreement to pay on delivery or authorize the studio to deduct the amount from his or her salary.
Early in the New Deal, Jack Warner had been appointed an official of the NRA (National Recovery Administration) for California. “I have a poster of his, a proclamation; with the Blue Eagle says Jack Warner, Ir. “Within a few months or so, the Supreme Court heard the case that overturned the NRA. Here we were stuck with all this stationery and letterheads and memo pads. So he had the company chop them up, and for years we used these memos with the Blue Eagle on the back”
Beginning in the winter of 1941, the war added patriotism to the studio’s parsimony. “The thoughtless waste of one hundred feet of the film may cost the life of an American soldier who maybe your son or your brother,” went a speech delivered by Harry layer of Warner to a group of actors, writers, directors, and cameramen. The “careless waste of material” not only costs dollars but lives and Is “worse than the sabotage of enemy agents, Warner said with his usual moral passion. When a take is ruined “because a carelessly suspended microphone casts a shadow across an actor s face or a Player rushes into a scene missing cues,” the needlessly ruined film stock, and the waste of electricity, manpower, and machinery takes on “tremendous significance.”
Frequent notices To OUR EMPLOYEES played the same tune. “A single sheet of paper may seer 130,000,000 other Americans thought it unimportant, however, the total daily waste in stationery, copy paper, or wrapping paper would seriously handicap war production,” went one. Do not destroy paper that might be used for notes. Make large envelopes serve their purpose more than once.
Even a light bulb left on unnecessarily or a nail thrown away would lead to disaster. If nails weren’t saved, said an editorial in the March 1942 issue of the Warner Club News, the studio would be destroyed. “Without them, we cannot build sets, without sets it would be almost impossible to take pictures. When we can’t take pictures there are no jobs for any of us.”
This was the uneasy climate of fear, exhilaration, and the usual movie industry hyperbole within which Casablanca was conceived.
Bogart Bergman and Henreid: A Date with Fate
In the summer of 1991, Curt Bois barely remembered Casablanca. Joy Page found it too painful to remember. Paul Henreid had shuffled the deck of his memories into new and more pleasing shapes. Leonid Kinskey occasionally thought of the acci- dent that brought him to Casablanca two weeks after the movie started shooting. Dan Seymour, who had guarded the door to Rick’s gambling room so long ago, lingered over his memories the most and enjoyed doing interviews at the Casablanca Restaurant, an imitation Rick’s Café in Southern California.
These five the pickpocket, the young Bulgarian girl, the heroic Victor Laszlo, Sacha the bartender, and Abdul the doorman were all that remained of the actors who had filled Warner Bros. Stage No. 8, “INTERIOR RICK’S CAFE, main room and gambling room,” in 1942. By the spring of 1992, Curt Bois and Paul Henreid had died and there were only three.
In January of 1942, Warner Bros. had eighty-seven actors and actresses under contract. The studio divided them into nineteen stars and sixty-eight featured players. Although the featured players could hold their own against similar lists at M-G-M and Paramount, the stars could not “More stars than there are in heaven,” M-G-M once bragged. In 1942, they included Clark Gable, Greer Garson, Mickey Rooney, Robert Taylor, Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Spencer Tracy, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, and Myrna Loy. Paramount, down from its mid-thirties peak, owned Claudette Colbert, Veronica Lake, Bing Croshu Bob Hope, Ray Milland, Fred MacMurray, Dorothy Lamour, Joel McCrea, Paulette Goddard, and Ginger Rogers.
The only true stars at Warner Bros. were Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, James Cagney, and Edward G.Robinson, and Cagney would Leave the studio before summer. Of the other fifteen, Ann Sheridan 62 was wasted more often than not. Ida Lupino was given the roles that Errol Flynn always galloped back to, but she would become a major star on her own only after she sued Warner Bros., won a landmark case that limited movie contracts to seven years, and departed for Paramount in 1945. Geraldine Fitzgerald, Priscilla Lane, Joan Les- lie, Brenda Marshall, George Brent, Jeffrey Lynn, Dennis Morgan, Wayne Morris, and Ronald Reagan were all serviceable actors in the right story and with the right costar. John Garfield was definitely on the way up, George Raft on the way down. And Humphrey Bogart was indefinable.
After 11 years and 42 films, Bogart, at the age of 42, had become: a star three months earlier with The Maltese Falcon. Even if Bogart’s stardom is dated from his portrayal of the doomed gangster Roy Earle in High Sierra in January 1941, it took him 10 years and 40 movies. Few major stars ever spent as long getting to the top. Cagney was a star in Public Enemy seven months and five movies after his debut in Sinner’s Holiday. Clark Gable lit up screens in A Free Soul six movies and less than a year after he had his first speaking role as the villain in a western. Tyrone Power did four movies before Lloyds of London. The Magnificent Obsession was Robert Taylor’s ninth film. Although Spencer Tracy had to endure five years of tough-guy roles at Fox, he had the weight of a star within months after he moved to Metro. Because of the war, Van Johnson had it easiest of all. One of the sixty-eight featured players on that 1942 Warner Bros. roster, he became a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer treasure, the boy next door who was luckily 4F, before the year was out.
“Metro sprinkled stardust on you nicely,” says Bill Orr, who as William T. Orr was the fourteenth name down in the third column Warner featured players. “If you were an actor you didn’t want to be anyplace else.”
Katharine Hepburn has described M-G M as “like a marvelous school from which you never graduated,” a paternalistic kingdom where any trouble was tidied up by the publicity department and actors were not forced to make movies they didn’t want to make.
Says Geraldine Fitzgerald, who spent seven years fighting with Jack Warner about movies she didn’t want to make, “If you belonged to MGM, you were the crème de la crème. And Paramount wasn’t too bad. And 20th Century -Fox wasn’t too bad. But when you were at a party and said you belonged to Warners, people always tried to console you.
There are hundreds of examples, but one sums it up. The other studios sent hairdressers and makeup men to the stars private dressing rooms. At Warners, bit players and stars alike came to the makeup department. “As far as the organization of production was concerned, it was much better because there was no waste of time said Jean Burt, who became a hairdresser at Warner Bros. in 1941 and did Ingrid Bergman’s hair on Casablanca.”In a star’s dressing room, they can do no one else but the star.” Stars who came to Warners on loan-out usually agreed to the system. Even Greer Gar- son, the queen of M-G-M, acquiesced. Only Joan Crawford refused.
Warners sprinkled sand rather than stardust. Bogart writhed and crawled and sweated as the crooked lawyer, ex-con, bootlegger, or racketeer who was killed, usually before the last reel, by Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, or once, Errol Flynn. If the star didn’t get him, a hail of police bullets did. Occasionally and with disturbing force as Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest, Baby Face Martin in Dead End, and Mad Dog Earle in High Sierra he was the dead-eyed killer at the top of the chain, the lonely anti-hero a decade before the concept was invented. Fifteen years after Bogart’s death, his friend Nunnally Johnson reread Robert Sherwood’s play The Petrified Forest and decided that the Bogie persona was actually created by Sherwood and that Bogart wore the mantle of Duke Manatee “consciously or unconsciously Broadway in 1935 as the brooding killer changed his future. Afterward, professionally at least, there was no trace of the young stage actor who had played a serried of charming wastrels and country-club juveniles (although he never said, “Tennis, anyone?,” a line that has been attributed to him).
Bogart was born at the turn of the century in New York, into a genteel world that had more tennis than gangsters. His father, Belmont DeForest Bogart, was a doctor with inherited money and a Riverside Drive practice. His mother, Maud Humphrey, was a successful commercial artist and illustrator. The watercolor Maud Humphrey Baby was one of the most famous and often used magazine illustrations during the first decade of the twentieth century. In a magazine article published in 1949, Maud Humphrey’s son would say that he had by no means loved his mom, that he admired her but that “she was totally incapable of showing care,” even to her 3 kids.
Educated at Trinity School, Bogart suffered through the year at Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts, which was intended to prepare him to enter Yale. He left Andover early and enlisted in the Navy, working for the rest of World War I on the troopship Leviathan. He had learned to sail on Canandaigua Lake, where his family had a summer house, and for the rest of his life, the sea would represent a freedom that was not available to him on land. “He felt about the sea the way Hemingway felt about the sea,” says Lauren Bacall. “When we read The Old Man and the Sea, Bogie would hand me those passages and say, this is the way I feel.’ He thought the sea was pure. He thought it was one of the last few free places on earth.”
When Bogart was discharged and had to get a job, he drifted into acting after working as a stage manager for a producer who was a neighbor of the Bogarts. Between 1930 and 1934 make an impression in ten movies at four studios. Then he returned to the stage and was cast in The Petrified Forest. The myth-and, in this case, the myth is true-is that Leslie Howard, the star of The Petrified Forest, refused to make the movie unless Warner Bros. hired Bogart to recreate his role of Duke Mantee. As soon as the movie was finished and seven weeks before it was released on February 1936, the studio signed him to a seven-year contract, starting at $550 a week. He made five movies in 1936, seven in 1937, six in 1938, and seven again in 1939. He didn’t die or go to prison in all of them; there were a few comedies and one hillbilly farce, Swing Your Lady He was also the crusading district attorney opposite Bette Davis in Marked Woman and a vampire in The Return of Dr. X.
Much has been made of the fact that Bogart won his role in High Sierra because Paul Muni refused the part and in The Maltese Falcon because George Raft turned it down. (Raft felt it was beneath him to perform for John Huston, a first-time director.) But Warner stars were always turning roles down; Claude Rains won the lead in Mr. Skeffngton because Paul Henreid refused to play the part. In the 1940s Dennis Morgan would inherit two movies that Bogart refused Bad Men of Missouri and God Is My Co-Pilot.
Morgan, who says he was happy fairly good,” is still pleased that Bogart turned down those roles. “Bad Men of Missouri wasn’t a bad picture,” says Morgan. “I still like it. And God Is My Co-Pilot was very well received.”
By 1942, Bogart had already played, without protest, more than one part Raft had rejected, including the sympathetic gangster in It All Came True Nor was Bogart accidentally assigned to High Sierra. He campaigned for the role. “You told me once to let you know when I found a part I wanted,” he wrote to Hal Wallis.
Even before he made High Sierra in 1940, Bogart was beginning to be considered a valuable property by Warner Bros. Two years after Bogart arrived at the studio; his contract was torn up and replaced by one that almost doubled his salary. More importantly, starting i the fall of 1939, other studios begged to borrow him. Universal wanted him for a picture starring Mae West and W. C. Fields. Fox asked for him to star in The Valiant. Walter Wanger wanted him for House across the Bay, M-G-M for a very important part in the Eddie Robinson picture.” By 1941, Warner Bros. was getting, and turning down, a request every few weeks.
Even before The Maltese Falcon, Bogart knew that his status had changed. Reading through his contract files, one is struck by the diffidence with which Bogart tried to turn down roles before High Sierra and the truculence with which he refused assignments afterward. Would Warner Bros. be very disturbed if Bogart didn’t do the role in Brother Orchid? His agent asked in March 1940. When the studio threatened to withdraw the approval it had given Bogart to appear on two radio programs, the actor meekly agreed to play the racketeer. In March 1941, Bogart didn’t give in. He returned the script of Bad Men of Missouri with a note that read: “Are you kidding-this is certainly rubbing it in since Lupino and Raft are casting pictures maybe I can. . . Regards, Bogie.”
A few years earlier, Bogart had described to Geraldine Fitz Gerald his philosophy Irish actress, fresh from the Gate Theatre in Dublin, was offended by inferior scripts and kept turning down the parts Warners offered.
“Bogart had formulated his philosophy while he was working in all those B pictures,” says Fitzgerald. “He told me; don’t try to choose what you do because they won’t let you. Say yes to everything. And eventually you’ll have a body of work and you can then have a little bit of power and you can get what you want, I didn’t listen and I spent most of my seven years at Warner Bros. on suspension.’’
Both Lee Katz and Dennis Morgan action when, as an executed murderer, he returned from the dead in one of his worst movies, The Return of Dr. X. “It was a very bad script,” says Dennis Morgan, who co-starred in the 1939 film, “and they put a white streak down his head so he looked like a skunk. He laughed about that as much as the rest of us did. He wasn’t sulky His attitude was, ‘Come on and let’s get through this thing. Who wrote The Return of Dr. X and nearly a dozen other B movies at Warner Bros. in the late thirties, feel “particularly guilty” about that movie. “Jack Warner was p.o.ed at Bogie for something or others,” says Katz, “and he forced him to take this role as the mad doctor. And Bogart did it with as good grace as he could have done.
How and when he chose to fight Warner and with what success saw the arc of Bogart’s career at Warner Bros. HE got suspended for declining to play the part of Cole Younger the outlaw in Bad Men of Missouri. When George Raft refused The Maltese Falcon because “it is not an important picture,” Bogart’s suspension comes to an end on June 1941. But what could have turn out if Raft accepted to take the role of Sam Spade?
There’s a huge possibility that Bogart could see a breakthrough in some other films. The stoicism, disillusionment, and weary aloofness that he presented to the screen are suitable to the heroes of a new kind film.
Warner Bros. could overdo its actors. It could leave Van Johnson and Susan Peters in 1942 and let M-G-M build their careers. But Warner may have not continued in business if it had missed the obvious. The Maltese Falcon had been greatly profitable, and George Raft was becoming more stubborn with every role he was offered. In January 1942, Bogart demanded 3,000 dollars per week and the commanded to do 10 guest radio appearances per year. He was given a new contract, from $2,750 a week. After six years at Warner Bogart finally had a star’s contract. Warner Bros. was stuck with him for seven years, and the studio began to look for a role that would turn him into a romantic lead.
On February 14, Steve Trilling received a memo from Wallis asking if he can figure on Humphrey Bogart and Ann Sheridan for Casablanca, set to begin the late part of April. After 6 weeks, Jack Warner told Wallis that George Raft was lobbying him for the role. Wallis held firm and the movie had its first three stars.
If it was easy to find Rick Blaine and no one except Bogart was seriously considered by Wallis for the part-Ilsa Lund was another matter. Ann Sheridan may seem a puzzling choice for Ilsa, but in February Ilsa was still Lois Meredith, and Sheridan, who had a rough, wrong-side-of-the-tracks glamour, was the Warner star best suited to the part. The first rule at Warners was to squeeze one of the studio’s contract players into the starring role, even if the part didn’t quite fit. “They didn’t believe that an actor should be idle for one minute,” says Geraldine Fitzgerald. In turning down one of his producers who asked to borrow Shirley Temple from David O. Selznick in 1943, Jack Warner thundered, “We will not make stars for any other studio.” He would agree to borrow Temple, he said, only if Selznick would let him have her for one picture each year.
In the end, Warner borrowed Ingrid Bergman from Selznick for Casablanca, but that was a trade: Bergman for Olivia de Havilland. The studios were always trading their property. As part of the arrangement that brought William Wyler to Warner Bros. to direct Jezebel, Warner agreed to loan Humphrey Bogart to Samuel Goldwyn for Dead End. The position of the actor was made clear by the terminology. Bergman always described Selznick as selling her to other producers. Warner wrote about “the rental of Humphrey Bogart” to Goldwyn. Although he often did it, Warner hated to loan out his stars, particularly “Jack said they would come back spoiled.” Renting another studio’s star was always an option, but rarely the best option. As Warner put it in one of the telegrams he sent daily when he was in New York or at Saratoga for the horse racing, “See what you can do getting Dana Andrews unless we can make one our own young men a Dana Andrews. Maybe Bill Kennedy. Bill Kennedy is helluva good actor and we can make our own stars. This only way to stay in business.
One week after deciding on Ann Sheridan, Hal Wallis was negotiating for Hedy Lamarr, proof that by mid-February Wallis was exploring the idea of turning Lois into Ilsa. Louis B. Mayer, who was as stingy with his actors as Warner was, refused to loan Lamarr to Wallis.*
Once Wallis had decided on a European heroine, Ingrid Ber man was an obvious choice. At twenty-six, the Swedish actress had had a charmed career but a difficult life. Her mother died when she was three, her father when she was twelve; and the aunt who took care of her after her father’s death died six months later. So shy and awkward in school that her lips and eyelids were swollen by a nervous, she had no inhibitions on stage. Accepted at Stock was offered a film contract. She was a star eighteen months later, at the age of twenty. After seeing her in the 1936 Swedish film Inter-mezzo, Selanick brought her to America to star in his 1939 English language version. From that moment on it was almost as though she had hypnotized the critics. “Radiant” was one of the words that appeared in every review. “Natural was another. As a difficult-to-please critic, novelist Graham Greene put it, Bergman’s performance in Intermezzo: A Love Story “doesn’t give the effect of acting at all but of the living.” Of the response to her performance in Casablanca, Bergman wrote in her diary, “I was praised (as usual, I’m tempted to say) for my playing.” What snared the critics over and over again s best expressed by actress Fay Wray, who worked with Bergman the 1941 movie Adam Had Four Sons: Ingrid had a quality that was spiritual and physical at the same time. She seemed not an actress she seemed very real, not like she was performing at all.”
The irony is that Bergman could not bear real life. “Having a home, husband, and child ought to be enough for any woman’s life she wrote to her friend and dialogue coach Ruth Roberts in January 1942, “I mean, that’s what we are meant for, isn’t it? But still, I think every day is a lost day. As if only half of me being alive. The other half is pressed down in a bag and suffocated.” Bergman, who had married the first man she ever had a real date with, was in agony when she wasn’t working. When Selznick had no role for her after Intermezzo, she insisted he allow her to do a play. Selznick was terrified that a failure on Broadway would detract from Bergman’s salability as a film star, but the drama critics were captivated, and Liliom was as much a triumph for her as Intermezzo. In 1940-41 she made three movies in a row. Against Selznick’s advice, she played governess in Columbia’s Adam Had Four Sons just to have something to do. She finished “Adam” at 3 A.M. and started M-G-M’s Rage in Heaven, as the wife of the suicidal paranoid Robert Montgomery, seven hours later. Then she insisted on trading roles with Lana Turner and playing the bad girl, the barmaid, opposite Spencer Tracy in M-G-M’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When it came to acting, she was fearless, taking chances that frightened and puzzled those who saw her as a commodity. One of her chief memories of Casablanca was of Michael Curtiz warning her that she was ruining her career. She must, he said, simply be Ingrid Bergman and play the same role all the time. That was what Hollywood required.
“Success,” she wrote in her acting diary after Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reached theaters in the summer of 1941. New York had laughed at the movie, she said, but audiences came. She had been praised Awards. ..Now I never want to hear the words Academy Award until I have the prize in my hand.”
For Whom the Bell Tolls would bring Bergman her first Academy nomination. She would win the next year, 1944, as the wife whose husband tries to drive her mad in Gaslight. She would win again in 1956 for Anastastia, as a sort of “Welcome Home, All Is Forgiven present and “We’ll overlook the child you bore Roberto Rossellini while you were still married to another man. She won once more as supporting actress for her cameo in Murder on the Orient Express in 1974, but this time she was displeased. She wanted prizes not to prove she was the best but because she knew she was the best. In 1974 Bergman felt the best supporting performance had been given by Valentina Cortese in Day for Night, and, when she accepted her 92 her Oscar, she made her feelings clear to the television audience.
Bergman was elated in August 1941. In a little over six months, She had appeared in three movies. But as summer turned to fall to winter, and 1941 to 1942, she wondered if she would ever work again. She wrote despairing letters to Ruth Roberts from Rochester, talk for New York, where her husband Petter Lindstrom, who had been a dentist in Sweden, was preparing to become a neurosurgeon. I am so fed up with Rochester and Main Street I am ready wrote. She said she could not find the energy to talk to her three-year-old daughter Pia or take her to the park. She said that she hated David Selznick.
While the twenty-six-year-old Bergman waited for Selznick to find a movie that would not ruin his “marvelous property,” Hal Wallis tried to cast Ilsa. He saw Edwige Feuillere in the French movie Sarajevo and thought she “would be ideal” if she “can speak any English at all.” He debated not testing Michele Morgan because of her $55,000 asking price but went ahead with the test on April 9. By that time, he was already negotiating for Bergman with Dan O’Shea, Selznick’s second-in-command. If one actress did not work out, perhaps the other would.
The sparring that would end with Bergman’s starring in Casablanca began on April 1 when Wallis telephoned Selznick and suggested that he send the Epstein twins to tell Selznick the plot of the film. Wallis always thought that he convinced a reluctant Selznick to part with Bergman. In his 1980 autobiography, Starmaker, he tells a story of pursuing Selznick to New York because, “Knowing that I wanted and needed Bergman, Selznick avoided me and failed to return my phone calls.” Julius Epstein remembers it differently: “Wallis said to us, ‘Go to Selznick and tell him the story.’ We said, ‘What story?’ He said, ‘Wing it.’ So my brother and I went to Selznick. He was having his lunch at his desk and he was slurping his soup. He never looked up. I said, “There are refugees and transit visas and intrigue, and I suddenly realize I’ve talked about twenty minutes and Bergman isn’t even in the story. So I said, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a lot of shit like Algiers. And Selznick looked up and nodded to me that we had Bergman.”
In reality, Selznick was desperate to find a movie for Bergman. Two weeks earlier he had sent a confidential memo to Dan ‘Shea. Given the state of the war in Europe, Selznick wrote, there was a good chance that Sweden would be forced to join the Axis. “If this should be true Ingrid may be in something of a spot… there may be some fear on the part of some producers in using her, which makes all the more important our bearing down on getting a picture for her immediately.”
It wasn’t only that Bergman was Swedish. Her mother had been German. Bergman, who spoke German, had made the mistake of making a movie in Germany in 1938. In her autobiography, Ingrid Bergman: My Story, she tells of being taken to a Nazi rally and refusing to Heil Hitler. In a tougher biography, As Time Goes By, by Laurence Leamer, her ex-husband Petter Lindstrom says that she was taken to a Nazi rally in Hamburg and felt that Goebbels a “fantastic speech.” Says Leamer: “In Germany as in later years, she was supremely indifferent to the political world around h Even after Germany invaded Poland, Bergman had turned down one movie, So Ends Our Night, based on an Erich Maria Remarque novel, as too anti-German. Now, with America in the war, she was vulnerable. In an odd coincidence, Paul Henreid would reluctantly agree to do Casablanca because his Austrian citizenship made him vulnerable.
In Starmaker, Wallis dismissed Selznick as an agent at heart, endlessly putting people he seldom used under long-term contracts and then farming them out at inflated prices. It was an unfair assessment of a major producer by one of his chief rivals. However, in the early 1940s, “David became virtually the agent for his stars,” says film historian David Thomson, author of a 1992 biography, Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick. “Even Selznick’s wife, Irene, said David had turned into a flesh peddler.” Selznick could make money without making movies. When a studio loaned out an actor had under contract, the studio asked for more than I or actress paid the actor and pocketed the extra money. During the seven years Bergman was under contract to Selznick, she made eleven. Movies, but only two of the pictures Intermezzo and Spellbound were for Selznick.
Between January and April, 1942; twelve possible films for Berg man were suggested by the Selznick staff or offered by other studios. Selznick put Gaslight on the list. But Selznick was too distracted by his business affairs to make movies himself, and he was handicapped by two psychological factors. He had been traumatized by the unduplicable success of Gone with the Wind in 1939, followed by another best picture Oscar for Rebecca in 1940. And, even though he was overweight, nearsighted, and flat-footed, he was trying, unsuccessfully, for some important position in the armed forces. Selz- nick made no movies between Rebecca and Since You Went Away in 1944, so Bergman was available for Casablanca, the last of the suggested movies on that list. But Selznick didn’t simply hand Bergman over to Warner Bros. He meddled in the photography and costuming of Casablanca to protect his star.
That Selznick was eager to get a movie for Bergman didn’t make the mating dance with Warner Bros. any less ritualistic. Wallis “seems very eager,” an underlying reported on April 4. On April 6, Wallis was still pursuing. I think we should strike while the iron is a “Selznick told O’Shea. And he told O’Shea to ask for top billing over Bogart.
Selznick was in the East from April 9 until late in the month. It is possible that Wallis pursued him to the Hotel Carlyle, although Selznick’s datebooks show no evidence of it. Selznick may have enioved making Wallis beg. “That was a time when Selznick was very arrogant, cock of the walk,” says Thomson. “He would have been aggressive, indifferent, tough and lordly to Wallis.” In any case, the even swap of Bergman for Olivia de Havilland was made during the third week in April. Selznick would give Warners eight weeks of Bergman’s time. In return, Warners would give David O. Selznick Productions eight weeks of de Havilland’s time.* Each studio protected its own. Selznick refused a contract that would allow Warners to make a second movie with Bergman. And Warners was not foolish enough to give someone else’s star top billing.
It was Kay Brown, Selznick’s New York story editor, who broke the news to Bergm an on April 21. Brown reported to O’Shea that the actress was “so fed up with Rochester” that she wanted to leave the city immediately. Bergman’s letter to Ruth Roberts described a greater passion at the news that she was going to work again. “I was warm and cold at the same time,” she wrote. “Then I got such chills I thought I must go to bed and of course a terrific headache into the bargain…I tried to get drunk for the celebration at dinner, but I could not. I tried to cry. I tried to laugh, but I could do nothing. I went to bed three times and went down again because Petter couldn’t sleep either with me kicking around in bed. But now it is morning and I am calmed down. The picture is called Casablanca and I really don’t know what it’s all about.”
Wallis’s choice for the third starring role in Casablanca was Philip Dorn. A year earlier, the Dutch actor had played the leader of Germany’s anti-Nazi movement in Underground for Warner Bros. But Dorn was scheduled to start Random Harvest for M-G-M, and the timing of the two movies conflicted. In mid-April tested Jean-Pierre Aumont, even though he was sure that the French war hero-Aumont had won the Croix de Guerre while fighting with the Free French was too young for the role of the heroic Resistance leader. That the part of Victor Laszlo was considered inferior to the other two roles is apparent from the actors who were considered by Wallis and Curtiz. Aumont was unknown to American audiences Carl Esmond had had sixteenth billing in Sergeant York. Joseph Cotten was new to the movies, although he had made a stunning debut in Citizen Kane. Dean Jagger, Ian Hunter, and Herbert Marshall almost defined the words “second lead.”
Hunter and Marshall had English accents, a poor second-best to the continental accents of Dorn and Paul Henreid. But Dorn was beyond reach, and Wallis was sure that Henreid, his second choice would not play the part once he read the script.
“I saw the script, and I turned it down,” said Henreid in 1991. “I thought it was a ridiculous fairy tale.”
Henreid was only a year older than Aumont, but at thirty-four he had a regal stolidity that the Frenchman lacked. Paul von Hernried was born into the Austrian aristocracy; his father had been knighted by Emperor Franz Josef I. Even after RKO changed his name to Henreid for Joan of Paris in 1941, von Hernried kept aristocratic self-esteem that rubbed against Hollywood informality Ingrid Bergman wrote in her acting diary that “Bogart was straight forward and devoid of prima donna behavior, something that can not be said about Henreid.” During the negotiations for Casablanca Trilling called him “a bit of a ham” in his insistence on important roles and suggested that Henreid might be enticed to take the part if his ego was massaged by costar billing with Bogart and Bergman.
Fifty years later, Henreid had a courtly manner, a trace of German syntax and bitterness about Casablanca that seeped into the conversation. “Mr. Bogie was nobody,” he said a few months before his death. “Before Casablanca he was nobody. He was the fellow Robinson or Cagney would say, Get him. Bogart was a mediocre actor, He was so sorry for himself in Casablanca. Unfortunately, Michael Curtiz was not a director of actors; he was a director of effects. He was first-rate at that, but he could not tell Bogart he should n look at the rushes.”
Henreid said that St. Martin’s Press deleted his negative comments about Bogart from his 1984 autobiography, Ladies Man. He winced as he said the title. “If you were to write a book about me and call it A Ladies Man it is all right,” he said. “But for me to write a book about myself and call it Ladies Man is not right.” Even though Henreid once shocked Viennese society by living in sin with a divorced woman from his own social class, by the time of his death he had been married to the woman for fifty-six years. The title Henreid wanted was Naked in Four Countries, “because I was destitute every time I moved from one country to another,” he said. His father had died when he was eight, and the cash was lost soon afterward, but his mother maneuvered an excellent education for him as a scholarship student at a boarding school for young noblemen in Vienna. From 1933 to 1938 Henreid had a successful stage career in Austria. In 1936, he was offered a movie contract with UFA, Germany’s top studio. According to Henreid’s autobiography, as he sat in the studio offices in Berlin signing the contracts he was handed an extra paper in which he agreed to become a member of the National Socialist Actors’ Guild of Germany and to uphold Nazi ideology. He destroyed the contracts and returned to Vienna, a brave act that left him naked in England once Hitler annexed Austria in 1938. At the time of the Anschluss, Henreid was in London playing Prince Albert in Laurence Housman’s play Victoria Regina, and he couldn’t go home again. In 1947 he would make an equally brave gesture by joining the Committee for the First case, Dr plays FlighHenreid Amendment and flying to Washington to protest the procedures of the House Un-American Activities Committee a dangerous thing for a newly naturalized citizen to do.
In England, a small part as a friend of Robert Donat in the movie Goodbye, Mr. Chips led to roles as suave Nazi villains in An English- man’s Home and Night Train. It is fate’s sardonic joke that any number of German and Austrian actors who fled from Hitler found new careers playing Gestapo agents. For the steadfastly anti-Nai Henreid, the irony continued when he was forced to register as an enemy alien Two years later, in 1940, he was penniless in America, since his English money was frozen and the play he had been promised in New York was canceled. Again a Nazi came to his rescue-in this opposite Now V Davis I in his roman student after F H to acc ‘You Amer your of Au you hesitdest Now Voy a bl ten. a se tha “C sucase, Dr. Hermann Walther, the Nazi diplomat in the Elmer Rice play Flight to the West. “The part is played with pitiless clarity by Paul Henreid,” wrote drama critic Brooks Atkinson in The New York Times “His acting is brilliant, without a soft spot anywhere. Hollywood came knocking. A leading role as a Free French pilot opposite Michele Morgan in RKO’s Joan of Paris led to Hal Wallis’s Now. Voyager as the married man whose love turns dowdy Bette Davis into a butterfly. It was Henreid’s idea to light two cigarettes in his own mouth and then hand one to Davis. It became the romantic gesture of the year, imitated by countless high school students and parodied by Bob Hope in Let’s Face It. Three weeks after Henreid started Now, Voyager, Wallis offered him Casablanca. Henreid’s instincts had always been good, and they told him not to accept. Said Henreid, “Then my agent Lew Wasserman said, You know, Paul, yo Americans have started interning the Japanese born in America, your situation is very ticklish. You have become by the annexation of Austria a German citizen, so you are an enemy alien. The more you can fortify your position the better.” Henreid was offered costar billing with Bogart and Bergman. He hesitated. But their w destitute in four countries, and he was reveling in the money from Now, Voyager. “I had been paid by Warner Bros. $32,000 for Now Voyager,” he said, his voice crackling like aging leather. “A fortune, a bloody fortune. That was enormous in those days. You could buy ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen Cadillacs with it.” With Casablanca and a seven-year contract at Warner Bros., he had a chance to recoup all that he had lost. Yet he may have lost more from Casablanca than he gained. “Casablanca set Paul Henreid as a stiff,” says Pauline Kael. “He was such a pompous, earnest man in Casablanca that you think, ‘Oh God, that poor girl going back to that guy. Before that, he was sort of a romantic star in Europe and he had played villains and he was the romantic lead in Now, Voyager. When you play a square it doesn’t do you much good. That happened with Ralph Bellamy when he started playing similar roles. Afterward, he didn’t play the heroes anymore. Irving Rapper, the director of Now, Voyager, thinks that Henreid was an excellent light villain and that, because of his “self-idolatry,” he made the mistake of trying to be a matinee idol. have one picture a year at RKO. Since another factor. He had been, as he says, Henreid may have had his name in the same large type, but billing obligations damned-Casablanca belong to Bogart and Bergman. In 1949, when the movie was re-released in Los Angeles, the big Warner theaters omitted Henreid’s name in their advertisements. He complained to the studio, and his name was added. In e was still fighting the same battle when United Artists, which J00 1972 had purchased the movie, left his name out of the ads Sometime in the fifty years between 1942 and 1992, Henreid reinvented the past. He spoke of a special clause in his Warner Bros. contract that ensured that he was the leading man in every movie, “Twill always have the girl,” he said. “That’s why the ending. And in the contract. It made the film one it’s a lucky thing they had a hundred percent better. It would have been such kitsch if Ingrid Bergman had gone away with Humphrey Bogart.” But neither the contract Henreid signed on February 2, 1942, for Now, Voyager nor the seven-year contract he signed on May 25, 1942, had any such clause Now Voaner was released in October 1942. Casablanca opened in New York a month later. Under “Finds of the Year” in Fil. Daily’s third annual poll of newspaper and magazine critics, Paul Henreid took fifth place, behind Teresa Wright, Alan Ladd, Janet Blair, and Van Heflin. Louella Parsons, the industry’s most powerful gossip columnist, went further. After viewing Now, Voyager, she wrote, “Within the next year, I look forward to seeing him become one of our number one stars He never did, of course, although he co-starred in half a dozen more Warner movies before his contract was dissolved by mutual agreement in 1946. Fate and fame are tricky. It was Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman whose lives and careers were transformed by Casablanca.