Casablanca, Morocco, was one of the key stops for refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe, which is why the original playwrights chose the city for the setting of their play (though initially they had opted for Lisbon).
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.
In the 1980s, this film's script was sent to readers at a number of major studios and production companies under its original title, "Everybody Comes to Rick's". Some readers recognized the script but most did not. Many complained that the script was "not good enough" to make a decent movie. Others gave such complaints as "too dated", "too much dialog" and "not enough sex".
Conrad Veidt, who played Maj. Strasser, was well known in the theatrical community in Germany for his hatred of the Nazis, and his friendship with Jews (including his Jewish wife), 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. Veidt had it in his contract that he only played villains because he was convinced that playing suave Nazi baddies would help the war effort.
It is never revealed why Rick cannot return to America. Julius J. Epstein later said that "My brother (Philip G. Epstein) and I tried very hard to come up with a reason why Rick couldn't return to America. But nothing seemed right. We finally decided not to give a reason at all."
Some years ago in a shop dealing with historic documents, a photo still from Casablanca (1942) was found, showing Rick sitting at the chess board. Accompanying the photo was a letter from Humphrey Bogart to a friend in New York, indicating a specific chess move. The document dealer explained that the chess game in the movie was a real game Bogart was playing by mail with his friend during the course of filming.
Humphrey Bogart's wife Mayo Methot continually accused him of having an affair with Ingrid Bergman, often confronting him in his dressing room before a shot. Bogart would come onto the set in a rage. In fact, despite the undeniable on-screen chemistry between Bogart and Bergman, they hardly spoke, and the only time they bonded was when the two had lunch with Geraldine Fitzgerald. According to Fitzgerald, "the whole subject at lunch was how they could get out of that movie. They thought the dialogue was ridiculous and the situations were unbelievable... I knew Bogart very well, and I think he wanted to join forces with Bergman, to make sure they both said the same things." For whatever reasons, Bogart and Bergman rarely spoke after that.
Director Michael Curtiz' Hungarian accent often caused confusion on the set. He asked a prop man for a "poodle" to appear in one scene. The prop man searched high and low for a poodle while the entire crew waited. He found one and presented it to Curtiz, who screamed "A poodle! A poodle of water!" See also The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936).
During the shoot, Humphrey Bogart was called to the studio to stand in the middle of the Rick's Cafe set and nod. He had no idea what the nod meant in the story - that he was giving his O.K. for the band in the cafe to play the "Marseillaise."
"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.
When this film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Jack L. Warner was first on stage to accept the award, beating the film's actual producer, Hal B. Wallis, who was incensed at this slight and never forgave Warner. Wallis, at the time regarded as the "wunderkind" at the studio, left Warner Brothers shortly afterwards.
Ingrid Bergman's line "Victor Laszlo is my husband, and was, even when I knew you in Paris" was almost cut from the film because during that time it was deemed inappropriate for a film to depict or suggest a woman romancing with another man if she were already married. However, it was pointed out that later in the film she explains that she had thought Laszlo was dead at the time, and the censors allowed the line to stay in.
Rick never says "Play it again, Sam." He says: "You played it for her, you can play it for me. If she can take it, I can take it so Play it!". Ilsa says "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By"'. The incorrect line has become the basis for spoofs in movies such as A Night in Casablanca (1946) and Play It Again, Sam (1972).
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 little people to portray the crew preparing the plane for take-off. Years later the same technique was used in the film Alien (1979), with director Ridley Scott's son and some of his friends in scaled down spacesuits.
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.
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.
The letters of transit that motivate so many characters in the film did not exist in Vichy-controlled France - they are purely a plot device invented by the screenwriters. Playwright Joan Alison always expected somebody to challenge her about the letters, but nobody ever did.
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).
Sydney Greenstreet wanted to wear something more ethnic to show that his character had assimilated into the Moroccan lifestyle. This idea was nixed by producer Hal B. Wallis who insisted that he wear his now-iconic white suit.
After shooting, Max Steiner spoke against using "As Time Goes By" as the song identifying Rick and Ilsa, saying he would rather compose an original song in order to qualify for royalties. However, Hal B. Wallis replied that since the filming had ended, Ingrid Bergman had cut her hair very short for For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) which was shooting at a distant locale and she therefore could not re-shoot already-completed scenes that had used "As Time Goes By".
Casey Robinson, who re-wrote the romantic scenes between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, was offered screen credit but turned it down because at the time he was only taking credit for scripts he wrote entirely by himself. By declining credit, he did himself out of an Academy Award.
Early in the production, studio head Jack L. Warner offered the role of Rick Blaine to George Raft, but the actor turned it down. As the shooting script took shape, producer Hal B. Wallis began to envision actor Humphrey Bogart in the Rick Blaine role. As Bogart was under contract to Warner Bros. the role was assigned to him by Wallis. But after Bogart had been cast in the role, George Raft reconsidered his decision and contacted Warner to deliver the news that he had decided to accept the 'Casablanca' part after all. After consulting with Wallis - who had never envisioned anyone but Bogart in the role - Warner decided to support his producer: Warner explained to Raft that Humphrey Bogart had been cast in the role of Rick Blaine, and that the part was no longer available.
Although this was an overtly anti-Nazi film, it wasn't the first one that Warner Bros. had made (it had come out several years earlier with Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939)). Warners was the first Hollywood studio to be so open about its opposition to the Nazi regime, and the first to prohibit its films from being distributed in Nazi-occupied territories. Indeed, Harry M. Warner was making speeches denouncing Nazi activities in Germany as early as 1936.
On December 7th 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered the Second World War. The next day a Warner Brothers reader began to evaluate the unproduced play "Everybody Comes To Rick's" as a possible movie. It was perfect timing as studios raced to get patriotic pictures into production. Two weeks later, Warners' executive in charge of production, Hal B. Wallis, decided to make the film, changed the title to mirror the exotic romanticism of the studio's hit Algiers, and announced it as a done deal before contracts were signed (Writers Murray Burnett and Joan Alison received a record $20,000 for the rights to an unproduced play).
In the original script for Casablanca (1942), then titled "Everyone Come to Rick's", Ilsa was not a 'virtuous' woman. She was living with an already married American business man. It was Rick who left her when he found out. And when she and Victor come to Casablanca, she is not married to him, either.
At the beginning of the film, the spinning globe shows the extent of three empires during the Second World War. The German 'Third Reich' in Europe, the 'Great Japanese Empire' in South-East Asia and the British Empire in Africa and South Asia (notably modern-day India and Pakistan).
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt returned from a wartime conference in Casablanca with Winston Churchill, he asked for a screening of the film at the White House. In Spanish, "casa blanca" means "White House."
"As Time Goes By" was written by lifelong bachelor Herman Hupfeld and debuted in 1931's Broadway show "Everybody's Welcome", sung by Frances Williams, It had been a personal favorite of playwright and high school teacher Murray Burnett who, seven years later, visited Vienna just after the Nazis had entered. Later, after visiting a café in south France where a black pianist had entertained a mixed crowd of Nazis, French and refugees, Burnett was inspired to write the melodrama "Everybody Comes to Rick's", which was optioned for production by Martin Gabel and Carly Wharton, and later, Warners. After the film's release, "As Time Goes By" stayed on radio's "Hit Parade" for 21 weeks. However, because of the coincidental musicians' union recording ban, the 1931 Rudy Vallee version became the smash hit. (It contains the rarely-sung introductory verse, not heard in the film.) Max Steiner, in a 1943 interview, admitted that the song "must have had something to attract so much attention".
Rick and Ilsa standing over Sam's piano in Paris was the first scene to be shot. Filming a tender love scene with two actors who had just met was not planned, but the filming of Now, Voyager (1942) had gone over schedule, so Paul Henreid and Claude Rains were not available.
Paul Henreid was loaned to Warners for the role of Victor Lazlo by Selznick International Pictures against his will. He was concerned that playing a secondary character would ruin his career as a romantic lead.
Warner Bros. had intended to use the "Horst-Wessel-Lied", the anthem of the Nazi party, during the "battle of the anthems" sequence, but the copyright was controlled by a German company, and Warners dropped that anthem for the 1840s song "Die Wacht Am Rhein" (about a vow to defend the Rhineland from a French invasion) rather than violate the rights (which would have prompted the German copyright holder on the song to prohibit the movie from being shown in any country not at war with Germany).
Studio publicity in 1941 claimed that Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan were scheduled to appear in this film, and Dennis Morgan is mentioned as the third lead. This was never the case, however, and the false story was planted, either by a studio publicist or a press agent for the three other actors, to keep their names in the press. Meanwhile George Raft was angling for the part with Jack L. Warner, but Hal B. Wallis had been assigned to search for what would be Humphrey Bogart's next starring role. He wrote to Warner that he had found the next movie for Bogart and the role was perfect for him. Nobody else was ever considered for the part.
The French dialogue between Yvonne and the French officer translates as: French Officer: "Hey you, you're not French to go out with a German like that!" Yvonne: "What are you butting in for?" French Officer: "I am butting in..." Yvonne: "It's none of your business!"
The original unproduced play, "Everybody Comes to Rick's", was found by Irene Lee, who headed the story department at Warner Brothers, on a trip to office of Jack Wilk, story editor for Warner East Coast operations in New York, where the typed script had sat for a year. It arrived at Warner Bros. Studios to be read as a potential film project on the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
The film's success led to plans for a sequel, which was to be called Brazzaville. Ingrid Bergman was not available, so Geraldine Fitzgerald was considered for Ilsa before the project was killed. It was not until the late 1990s and Michael Walsh's novel "As Time Goes By" that a true sequel ever came to pass.
At a salary of $25,000 for five weeks' work, Conrad Veidt was the highest-paid actor on the set and on loan from MGM. His main competition for the Major Strasser role was Otto Preminger, under contract to 20th Century-Fox, for whom Darryl F. Zanuck had demanded the outrageous sum of $7,000 per week.
The phrase, "I'm shocked -- shocked!," comes from an earlier Warner Bros. film, Five Star Final (1931), in which it is spoken by Boris Karloff as a tabloid reporter who poses as a minister to get stories.
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: Humphrey Bogart, Dooley Wilson and Joy Page.
The scene in which Victor Laszlo leads the band and patrons of Rick's in singing "La Marseillaise" was copied from Jean Renoir's 1937 film The Grand Illusion (1937), in which French service members in a German POW camp sing the song as a similar gesture of defiance. In The Grand Illusion (1937) the song was led by a prisoner who was in drag for a show the prisoners were putting on.
During Rick's flashbacks to Paris, he and Ilsa are shown dancing at a nightclub. The song to which they are dancing is "Perfidia" Theme of the song is a lover's betrayal, a hint at what Rick thought of Ilsa when she disappeared and now, when she reappears.
In the market scene, as one of the Resistance members is shot, the wall of the building behind him is painted with a picture of Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain and a quote attributed to him. In English, the quote reads, "I keep my promises, even those of other people".
Although M.K. Jerome and Jack Scholl are listed in the opening credits for "Songs", they are in fact represented by only one song (Knock on Wood). The other song they wrote for Casablanca (1942) (Dat's What Noah Done) was cut from the picture.
It is unclear where the line, "Here's looking at you, kid," originated, but it definitely predated both Casablanca (1942) and earlier stage work by Bogart. On March 9, 1932 - 10 years before Casablanca (1942) - Eddie Cantor signed his name in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater and wrote, "Here's looking at you, Sid" (referring to Sid Grauman, owner of the theater). Cantor certainly meant it as a take-off on "Here's looking at you, kid", which evidently was a line in circulation at the time.
Producer Hal B. Wallis considered Hedy Lamarr for the role of Ilsa, but she was then under contract to MGM (which wouldn't release her) and she didn't want to work with an unfinished script anyway. She later portrayed Ilsa in a 1944 radio show based on movie scripts, "Lux Radio Theater". At the time both Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart were overseas entertaining the troops. Rick was played on radio by Alan Ladd.
Howard Hawks had said in interviews that he was supposed to direct Casablanca (1942) and Michael Curtiz was supposed to direct Sergeant York (1941). The directors had lunch together, where Hawks said he didn't know how to make this "musical comedy", while Curtiz didn't know anything about "those hill people." They switched projects. Hawks struggled on how to direct the scenes that involved singing, namely the "La Marseillaise" scene. It is ironic to note that most of his other films involved at least one singing scene.
The music heard over the film's opening credits was a retread: composer Max Steiner had originally written and used the theme for the 1934 John Ford film, The Lost Patrol (1934). Steiner slightly altered the tempo and instrumentation of this theme music for Casablanca (1942).
The dialogue spoken by Carl when he is serving the German couple seeking to immigrate to America translates as: "I am here already, Mr. Leuchtag. I have brought the finest cognac. The drink that is otherwise only for the employees."
After hearing the French message via the loudspeaker Rick predicts "Nothing can stop them now. Wednesday, Thursday at the latest they would be in Paris". In fact, the Germans entered Paris at the morning of June 14th, 1940 - Friday.
Howard Koch was instructed to start the screenplay all over again, paying particular attention to Rick's background and the ending, while the Epsteins were struggling with their version. Writers Casey Robinson and Lenore J. Coffee were asked to critique the two versions and found much merit in both, though Robinson thought the romantic angle lacking and was subsequently tasked with ramping this up.
Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein finished their screenplay three days before the film began shooting; Howard Koch completed his two weeks after shooting had begun. All three were on call throughout the entire shooting period even though the Epsteins had been summoned to Washington to work on Frank Capra's "Why We Fight" documentary series.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
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.
No one knew right up until the filming of the last scene whether Ilsa would end up with Rick or Laszlo. During the course of the picture, when Ingrid Bergman asked director Michael Curtiz with which man her character was in love, she was told to "play it in between". Since the ending was not the final scene shot, there are some scenes where she *was* aware of how everything would turn out, and these include the scene in the black market with Rick and the scene in the Blue Parrot where Ferrari offers the Laszlos one exit visa.
The Allies invaded Casablanca in real life on 8 November 1942. As the film was not due for release until spring, studio executives suggested it be changed to incorporate the invasion. Warner Bros. chief Jack L. Warner objected, as he thought that an invasion was a subject worth a whole film, not just an epilogue, and that the main story of this film demanded a pre-invasion setting. Eventually he gave in, though, and producer Hal B. Wallis prepared to shoot an epilogue where Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains hear about the invasion. However, before Rains could travel to the studio for this, David O. Selznick (whose studio owned Bergman's contract) previewed the film and urged Warner to release it unaltered and as fast as possible. Warner agreed and the premiered in New York on November 26. It did not play in Los Angeles until its general release the following January, and hence competed against 1943 films for the Oscars.
Just before he shot Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt), Humphrey Bogart ad-libbed the line, "All right, Major, you asked for it." But Hal B. Wallis pointed out that this made it look as though when Strasser drew his gun first it was self-defense. Veidt was recalled and the scene reshot without the added line, but the original version was used in the trailer for the movie.
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).
Several times the writers discussed having Rick leave with Lois/Ilsa, but this was always rejected (and the censors would not have allowed it with her married to Victor). Their major problem was to make it plausible that despite clearly loving Rick, she would leave with Victor; the final scene was rewritten many times until this was achieved.