Screen on the Green

Bring on the Bogart

Monday was the last Screen on the Green of the summer, the timeless Casablanca.  I arrived at 715 pm, which usually is doable for finding a spot, but maybe since this was the last one or because of the movie itself this night was especially packed.  We still managed to converge four groups of friends into the first section in the middle, which is where I wanted to be in the first place.  I have seen the movie before, but there really are so many lines in the movie that on hears over and over again, and the chemistry between Bogart and Bergmann is fantastic. 

My only qualm was with people getting up and leaving during the movie.  Where are you all going?  Do you not like the movie?  Is it past your bed time?  Is the commute that bad?  Hungry and not enough foresight to bring food with?  Seriously, if you are going to make plans to arrive at 7 to watch a 9pm film I would figure that everything is cleared from your shedule…

 Anyway, here are 10 things about Casablanca you may not know (and for those that do check out this):

 1. Producer Hal Willis nearly made the character Sam a female. Hazel Scott, Lena Horne, and Ella Fitzgerald were considered for the role.

2. Dooley Wilson (Sam) was a professional drummer who faked playing the piano. As the music was recorded at the same time as the film, the piano playing was actually a recording of a performance by Elliot Carpenter who was playing behind a curtain but who was positioned such that Dooley could watch, and copy, his hand movements.

3. Because the film was made during WWII they were not allowed to film at an airport after dark for security reasons. Instead they used a sound stage with a small cardboard cutout airplane and forced perspective. To give the illusion that the plane was full-sized, they used midgets to portray the crew preparing the plane for take-off.

4. Conrad Veidt, who played Maj. Strasser, was well known in the theatrical community in Germany for his hatred of the Nazis, and in fact was forced to hurriedly escape the country when he found out that the SS had sent a death squad after him because of his anti-Nazi activities. Many of the actors who played the Nazis were in fact German Jews who had escaped from Nazi Germany. The influx into Hollywood of large numbers of European exiles fleeing the war helped the casting enormously. In fact, of all the featured players in the film who get screen credit, only three were born in the United States. In the famous scene where the “Marseillaise” is sung over the German song “Watch on the Rhine”, many of the extras had real tears in their eyes; a large number of them were actual refugees from Nazi persecution in Germany and elsewhere in Europe and were overcome by the emotions the scene brought out. Helmut Dantine, the Austrian playing Jan Brandel, the Bulgarian roulette player, had spent time in a concentration camp after the Anschluss. The German citizens among them had to keep curfew as enemy aliens. Ironically, they were frequently cast as the Nazis from whom they had fled.

5. “Here’s looking at you, kid” was improvised by Humphrey Bogart in the Parisian scenes and worked so well that it was used later on again in the film. He originally used the same line in Midnight (1934). It is also rumored that during breaks, Ingrid Bergman would play poker with other cast members. Since she was still learning English, Bogart would occasionally watch the game, and he added “Here’s looking at you” to her poker repertoire.

6. To maximize profits from foreign distribution of the film, the studio suggested that any unpleasant characters other than the Nazis should also be from an enemy country, namely Italy. This is why Ugarte, Ferrari, and the dark European pickpocket are Italian.

7. The difference in height between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman changes throughout the film. This is because Bergman was actually a few inches taller than Bogart, though to create the illusion that it was vice versa, Michael Curtiz had Bogart stand on boxes and sit on pillows in some shots, or had Bergman slouch down (as evident when she sits on the couch in the “franc for your thoughts” scene).

8. Ingrid Bergman considered her left side as her better side, and to the extent possible that was the side photographed throughout the film, so she is almost always on the right side of the screen looking towards the left regardless of who is in the shot with her. However, there are several shots where she is to the left and Humphrey Bogart is on the right, including the flashbacks to the street scene in Paris (0:41:50) and the scene at the window (0:43:40). There are also several scenes where Bergman is centered between Paul Henreid and Bogart, suggesting the triangle nature of their relationship; in these shots Henreid is usually to the left and Bogart is usually on the right, including the scene where she and Henreid enter the café at just before the famous “Battle of the Anthems” (1:07:40); the scene where Captain Renault arrests Victor Laszlo (1:34:00); and at the end of the final airport scene (1:39:00).

9. The film ran into some trouble from Joseph Breen of the Production Code Administration (the Hollywood self-censorship body), who opposed the suggestions Captain Renault extorted sexual favors from his supplicants, and that Rick and Ilsa had slept together in Paris. Both, however, remained strongly implied in the finished version.

10. The last line is one of the most misquoted lines in all of film history. The correct line is, “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” It has been quoted as, “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship” or “I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.” This line was a last-minute addition, thought up by producer Hal B. Wallis and dubbed in by Humphrey Bogart after filming was completed.

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