Few movies have a lasting presence in their own decade, let alone seventy years later. “Casablanca,” however, is the quintessential American film: an unforgettable love story full of vulnerabilities, romance, and one-liners. What a tremendous hole would lie in the world of cinema if this film hadn’t been made, but truth be told, it almost wasn’t.
During wartime, film studios in the 1930s and ‘40s showed the utmost patriotism — Warner Bros. being perhaps the most loyalist of all. The studios pumped out films the way factories concocted car parts; there were few classics among the assembly lines. When a story developer at Warner came across the play “Everybody Comes to Rick’s,” they ingeniously renamed it “Casablanca,” and so began the tale we know so very well today.
Gary Leva directs this terrific short documentary exploring the trials and tribulations of the “Casablanca” shoot. Whether it was a spat between director Michael Curtiz and star Humphrey Bogart, or the difficulty the writers faced in establishing the proper ending, the timeless classic closely avoided disaster. Featuring commentary from directors Steven Spielberg, William Friedkin, and others, industry greats confirm how influential the film has been in terms of editing, dialog, lighting, and costume design. (Never has the already exquisite Ingrid Bergman looked more beautiful.)
Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund will certainly live on. Let us know what you think of the film in the comments below.