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Book Vs. Movie "Casablanca"
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Book Vs. Movie: Casablanca

The 1940 Play Vs. the 1942 Classic Film

This January, we are saluting plays that were turned into films, and this episode covers one of the most beloved and celebrated films of all time–Casablanca. Yes, it was a play first by playwrights Murray Burnett and Joan Allison, who were offered $20,000 in 1940 (over $300,000 in today’s costs) for their story about a cafe in Africa helping refugees seek asylum in America during WW2. 

The timing between the movie’s release in 1942, as the war effort in Northern Africa, was gaining and America was no longer playing neutral in the international crisis with Germany and Japan, was not a coincidence. The film was rushed into production to promote America’s armed forces and the people fleeing Europe from the Nazis. 

Everybody Comes to Rick’s has the basics of the film’s plot, with two former lovers meeting again at Rick’s cafe. Rick and Lois met in Paris before the Germans invaded France and became illicit lovers. Two years later, Rick has a “gin joint” in Casablanca (Rick’s Cafe) and assists people looking to exile into America. His friend is a piano player who goes by the name “Rabbit,” and he gets visits from former Parisian residents like Luis Rinaldo. Lois is married to a man named Victor Lazlo, and they are fleeing from the Nazis.  

They have a song, As Time Goes By, and reminisce about their affair in Paris. In the end, Rick helps Lois and her husband leave Casablanca while he takes off for parts unknown with Italian buddy Luis Rinaldo. 

Burnett and Alison could not find a Broadway producer for the play, so they sold the rights and went on with their lives, not realizing the movie would go on to be a Hollywood classic, winning several awards and with a screenplay people quote 80 years later. Worse, their contributions would not be recognized. Eventually, they were able to put on their play in 1991. 

The film stars Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as his love interest–Ilsa Lund. The rest of the cast includes dozens of immigrants and refugees who felt passionate about the project. Casablanca is considered one of the best examples of propaganda in American film. We feel silly justifying how wonderful it is, but that is what we do at Book Vs. Movie

In this episode, the Margos discuss the significant differences between the book and the play and try to decide which we like better. (It’s not going to be close!) 

In this ep the Margos discuss:

  • The backstory of the play and movie
  • The international cast and what the world was like during filming    
  • The differences between the play and the movie
  • The cast: Humphrey Bogart (Rick,) Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa,) Paul Henreid (Victor Lazlo,) Claude Rains (Captain Louis Renault,) Conrad Veidt (Major Heinrich Strasser,) Sydney Greenstreet (Signor Ferrari,) Dooley Wilson (Sam,) and Peter Lorre as Signor Ugarte. 

Clips used:

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