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Playing it again for old times

Ronald Reagan as Rick? Hedy Lamarr as Ilsa? A woman in Sam's role? A look at the myths behind 'Casablanca.'

August 05, 2003|Susan King

Here's a look at some of the myths and legends behind the making of the film.

Though Ronald Reagan was announced along with Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan in 1941 as the stars of the upcoming Warner Bros. production of "Casablanca," that was never the case. It was just a press release from either the studio publicist or a press agent to keep the three performers' names in the public eye. George Raft was interested in the part of Rick, but producer Hal Wallis had no one but Humphrey Bogart in mind.

Wallis was interested in Hedy Lamarr for the role of Ilsa, but she was under contract to MGM, which wouldn't lend her. She did get a chance to play the part in the 1944 "Lux Radio Theater" version opposite Alan Ladd. French actress Michele Morgan supposedly wanted $55,000 for the role of Ilsa, but Bergman was available for $25,000 from producer David O. Selznick, who had Bergman under contract.

At one point, Wallis was thinking of having Rick's piano-playing buddy, Sam, played by a woman. Lena Horne, Hazel Scott and Ella Fitzgerald were among the performers whose names were bandied about.

Dooley Wilson, who played Sam, was a drummer by profession. So he had to fake playing the piano in the movie. Elliot Carpenter actually performed the piano heard on the score.

A small, cardboard cut-out plane is used in the background at the airport at the film's conclusion. To make the plane look full-sized, the production employed little people as the crew in the scene. And yes, that's Van Nuys airport that substitutes for the Casablanca airfield in the film's climactic scene.

It was Wallis who came up with the final line, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Three weeks after production wrapped, Bogart was called back in to dub the famous final line.

"As Time Goes By" was written in 1931 by Herman Hupfeld and debuted in the Broadway show, "Everybody's Welcome." It was a favorite song of the "Everybody Comes to Rick's" playwright, Murray Burnett.

Bogart, Wilson and Joy Page (who played Annina Brandel) are the only American-born performers in the credited cast.

Because of his Hungarian accent, it sounds as if Peter Lorre says he has letters of transit signed by "General de Gaulle." In reality, he says that he has letters signed by General Weygand.

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