You must remember this, perhaps the most famous film in Hollywood history (maybe bar Gone With The Wind), is also one of the most quoted and mis-quoted films of all, Bogart never did say “Play it again, Sam”, but he did say “Here’s looking at you kid” many times.
So much has been written about this film, I’m just going to talk about my memories of it and Curtiz himself.
Michael Curtiz was born in Hungary and made more than sixty films in Europe before settling in Hollywood and started to work at Warner Bros. where he made the excellent “Doctor X” with Lionel Atlwell who also starred in “Mystery Of The Wax Museum” with Fay Wray just before “King Kong”, both were filmed in an early two colour Technicolor process which advanced colour cinema no end as did his definitive “The Adventures Of Robin Hood” in 1938, one of his many films with Errol Flynn (including “Dodge City”, “Captain Blood”, “The Charge Of The Light Brigade”, “The Sea Hawk” and “Virginia City”). He gave James Cagney two of his best roles in “Angels With Dirty Faces” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (the same year as “Casablanca”!), he made films fast that came in on budget, but eventually the hits dried up and he moved to Paramount.
At Paramount , perhaps his two most famous films were musicals “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby and “King Creole”, considered by many to be Elvis Presley’s best film, but his final film came at 20th Century Fox with John Wayne giving one of his best performances (away from John Ford and Howard Hawks) “The Comancheros”, a rousing Western with a young Lee Marvin, but it is for his 100 plus films he made at Warner Brothers that he will and should be remembered and so I always come back to the one for which he won an Academy Award for best director.
“Casablanca” is a film you can watch at least twice a year and never get bored of and I did back in those early days of film viewing, when you have so much time and there are so many films to discover, when old films where actually shown on television (I know it is difficult to believe now!), I saw most of Bogart’s films on Channel Four and BBC-2 (these days I can’t remember actually watching anything on these channels as BBC-4 has turned into the new BBC-2 as BBC-2 is the new BBC-1 and BBC-1 is the new ITV!), but none was as good as this one I saw for the first time on VHS (the same day as I saw “It’s A Wonderful Life” for the first time), I was totally blown away, as much as you read about “Casablanca” nothing really compares to when you first see it, as soon as the credits rolled I wanted to rewind it and watch it again.
So now you see it on the big screen for the first time (just hope it is a good print, I seen plenty of bad ones!), which I saw at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool on National Cinema Day in 1996 for £1, it is still one of the best cinema experiences I have ever had, it is like seeing a totally new film when you see one of your favourite films you have only ever seen on TV.
When the last cinema in Bolton decided to close down, what was the film they decided to show? What else? “Casablanca”, there are many people that I now know that I didn’t at the time that were in the audience that night for a scratchy print of a film released over 50 years earlier.
It is still re-released occasionally and nothing compares to seeing “Casablanca” on the big screen with a full audience, your love for the film just grows more and more. The more people you introduce this too will thank you forever and if they don’t, just don’t speak to them again!
US Release November 1942
DF Viewing 26/10/1991 0n VHS