Incredible behind the scenes facts about Casablanca


Ahead of the game

One of the earliest shots of Rick Blaine is him playing chess by himself. It’s an art to be able to compete against yourself like this, but it seems that there was more to this game than met the eye. Humphrey Bogart wasn’t simply moving pieces around randomly, he was actually playing a match against someone else. However, his competitor wasn’t in the room with him. The game that was shown onscreen was the continuation of one that he’d been playing long distance with a friend for some time.

Thinking on the spot

Many Hollywood classics produced quotes and scenes that have gone down as some of the most memorable in history. “Casablanca” definitely had more than its fair share, but one of the film’s most notable phrases wasn’t actually written into the screenplay. The line “Here’s looking at you, kid,” was reportedly heard by director Michael Curtiz during a break from filming. Bogart said it to his co-star Ingrid Bergman when teaching her how to play poker, and Curtiz felt it deserved a place in the film.

Out of his comfort zone

“Casablanca” was a massive change of pace for Bogart. Before he took on the role of Rick Blaine, he’d only ever played dramatic roles in noir films. The romance genre wasn’t something he was used to, but he tried his hand at it nevertheless. Thankfully, the risk paid off, as his character’s relationship with Ilsa Lund is one of the most beloved cinematic romances of all time. The reason he’d become somewhat typecast in his roles is due to his demeanor and the lisp he developed after damaging his lip.

Tricks of the trade

The character of Sam might not have the biggest role in “Casablanca,” but he’s responsible for playing the song that’s become synonymous with the film. “As Time Goes By” is one of the most beloved songs in movie history, but there’s something you might not have realized about how it was performed. Musician Dooley Wilson who portrayed Sam wasn’t actually a piano player, but rather a drummer. He was pretending to play the instrument the whole time while someone out of shot performed the piece.

A simple misunderstanding

Michael Curtiz was one of the more prominent directors during the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema, but that didn’t mean he was always easy to work with. It wasn’t that he was necessarily unpleasant to the cast and crew, but the man’s strong accent meant people couldn’t always understand what he was saying. There was one misunderstanding between Curtiz and a prop man after the director asked for a “poodle.” It was only once the man had tracked down a dog that he discovered that Curtiz actually wanted a “puddle.”

Unexpected castings

Released in 1942, “Casablanca” was filmed in the middle of World War II, and that’s reflected in the plot. The movie is very much a product of its time, but it turns out it had a stronger connection to the tragedies of the war than merely when it was made. Many of the actors who appeared in the film were Jewish refugees who had come over from Europe to escape persecution. Characters like Ugarte and Carl, the waiter, were played by actors who had fled from Germany before it was too late.

The hero behind the villain

One of “Casablanca’s” most prominent characters, Major Heinrich Strasser, was also played by someone with a strong connection to the wartime tragedies. Conrad Veidt was a strong vocal opponent of the German regime and had to flee the country in the ‘30s alongside his Jewish wife. When cast in the film, he demanded that if he was going to play one of the Germans, he had to be portrayed as villainously as possible. He wanted to get across the message just how much he opposed the National Socialist German Worker’s Party.

Worldwide appeal

So many actors in “Casablanca” were refugees from Europe that there were only actually three Americans in the cast. That might seem a bit surprising considering that the film is lauded as one of the best in American history. The only three actors who originated from the States were Dooley Wilson, Joy Page and Humphrey Bogart, while everyone else came from overseas. Considering what was going on when “Casablanca” was filmed, the variety of Europeans involved in the movie gave it that extra edge of credibility.

Genuine emotion

It was because of “Casablanca’s” usage of European actors that one of the film’s scenes stood out so much. After the German army started singing “Die Wacht am Rhein,” the patrons of Rick’s bar fight back with their rendition of “La Marseillaise.” The performance builds in passion, with the characters displaying strong emotions as they sing the song. However, that emotion wasn’t simply for the cameras. Given what these actors had been through, those were genuine tears in their eyes as they sung their lungs out.

Growing up

One thing that the creators of “Casablanca” didn’t want was for their female lead to be taller than Humphrey Bogart. Unfortunately, they signed up Ingrid Bergman before they realized that she had a few inches on her co-star. You probably didn’t notice this, because it didn’t come across in the film. The reason for that is they did everything they could to make Bogart taller, from having him sit on cushions to wearing platform shoes. For appearance’s sake, he looked to be bigger, but that was all an illusion.

Everybody makes mistakes

Every film has the possibility of getting things wrong, especially when they’re supposed to be based in the real world. Sometimes, it’s done for the sake of the plot, while other times the producers don’t realize the mistake. In the case of “Casablanca,” there were several errors, although viewers didn’t really pick up on them. Documents which allowed refugees to travel freely didn’t actually exist, nor were there any uniformed German soldiers in Casablanca. However, these were elements that were pretty important for the film, so they were kept in.

Change of plan

Could you imagine anyone other than Humphrey Bogart playing Rick Blaine? It’s the role he’s probably now best-known for, but once upon a time, it seemed there was going to be someone else in the character’s shoes. It was widely speculated that Ronald Reagan – who at the time had yet to consider running for presidency – was going to play the part. Where did the rumor come from? Warner Bros. Studios themselves. It stated very clearly in their publicity release that he was going to be Rick, but that never happened.

A moment in history

The whole time that “Casablanca” was in production, history was being made around it. When the studio was nearing the time to debut the picture, something happened that convinced them to speed up its release. The film was first shown two weeks after America invaded and captured Casablanca, a move that nearly persuaded the studio executives to change the movie slightly. They were tempted to add a scene that included mention of this, but instead decided to bring the film forward instead.

Not finished yet

It’s extremely rare that a film or TV show will ever be filmed in chronological order, although the reason why varies. With “Casablanca,” the first scene that Bogart and Bergman shot was the flashback of them in Paris. It’s a poignant moment in the movie, but during filming, it left the actors confused. They had no idea how to act towards each other because they weren’t sure how the story was meant to play out. Hadn’t they read the script? Not all of it, because it hadn’t been finished yet!

Too late to change it

“As Time Goes By” is one of the greatest songs used in a film, but “Casablanca’s” composer wasn’t a huge fan of it. He wanted one of his own songs in its place, but convincing everyone to change the existing one didn’t go down well. Fortunately for the studio, they had an excuse to dissuade the composer from trying to tamper with the music. They told him they wouldn’t be able to reshoot the scene it was in because Bergman had cut her hair in preparation for her next role.

What was the reason?

In the film, Rick has set up his café in Casablanca because he can’t return to America. Several characters make mention of his inability to return to the States throughout the movie, yet they never give viewers a reason why. Well, it turns out that’s because there is no reason. The writers couldn’t come up with a good enough explanation for why he’s unable to return to the country, or at least one they could agree on, so they just left it as a mystery.

Re-used art

Anyone who’s ever seen classic film posters will probably recognize “Casablanca’s.” The black and white poster features Humphrey Bogart posing with a gun in front of the other cast members, but this wasn’t actually an original photo of the actor. It was first taken for the film “Across the Pacific,” which he featured in earlier that year. Warner Bros. was responsible for distributing both films, so they clearly had no problem in using the picture from one movie to advertise the other. Sharing is caring.

Mixed feelings

Victor Laszlo isn’t the most beloved character in “Casablanca.” He’s generally seen as standing in the way of Rick and Ilsa’s love which paints him to be something of an enemy, despite being one of the good guys. However, it’s not just viewers who weren’t huge fans of Laszlo. Paul Henreid, the actor who portrayed him, was also not a big supporter of the character. Having escaped from the Germans himself, he took issue with the way that the Czech Resistance leader presented himself, believing it to be too unrealistic.

A touch of color

Color films might be the norm nowadays, but back when “Casablanca” was released, they weren’t possible. Filmmakers only had black, white and varying shades of gray to work with, which meant that cinematographers had to get clever with their use of shadows. Arthur Edeson, the man responsible for this, had also worked on “Frankenstein” in the past, so he knew a thing or two about how to create an atmosphere. It’s no wonder, then, that people were so up in arms when the film was colorized in the ‘80s.

Back together again

Although the cast of “Casablanca” may have consisted of actors from across the world, they weren’t all strangers to each other. Three of the actors had actually worked together before on the film “The Maltese Falcon.” It was one of the noir films that Bogart was more accustomed to filming, and it was there that he worked alongside Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. They’d portrayed Kasper Gutman and Joel Cairo respectively in the first film, before going on to play Ugarte and Ferrari in “Casablanca.”

Not how it looks

It can be easy to forget that not only is “Casablanca” set during World War II, but it was also filmed then too. As a result, certain restrictions were in place during production. One of these was that they couldn’t shoot the airport scenes at night, because they risked attracting attention to themselves. Instead, most of those final scenes were shot on a soundstage, with the plane in the background actually being a cardboard cutout. Dwarf actors stood in front of it to make it seem bigger and more realistic.

Hollywood prohibitions

Between 1930-68, American movies were influenced by the Hays Code, a set of guidelines used to keep cinematic content appropriate. These affected plenty of decisions during the filmmaking process, including the outcome of “Casablanca.” For all the people that wanted Rick and Ilsa to be together, you should know that the Hays Code would have never allowed it. The prospect of a woman leaving her husband to be with someone else was completely inconceivable. No matter what, Ilsa had no choice but to get on that plane with Laszlo.

Watch what you say

That wasn’t the only thing that the Hays Code influenced. The guidelines were in place to affect all manner of decisions, from what people wore to the things they said. Considering the kind of events featured in the plot of “Casablanca,” it was difficult for the film to fit the guidelines, but it managed. The writers went through a lot of trouble just to get permission for the characters to say “hell” a couple of times. Whatever happened to the freedom of speech?

Talk of a sequel

“Casablanca” is over 75 years old, and it’s still as cherished as it’s always been. If Casablanca had been released decades later, it’d probably be on its fifth sequel by now, but no continuation of the movie has ever come to light. That’s not to say that it was never a possibility though. There was a lot of talk about a sequel, especially after it proved to be a big success. It was supposedly going to be focused around Rick and Renault joining the Free French, but nothing ever manifested.