Casablanca is perhaps the most popular film of all time. It is probably the most-quoted film, too, although one of the lines most associated with the film – “Play it again, Sam” – is actually a misquote. One of the film’s other prominent lines, “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid,” was not in the original draft but was actually added in as the result of Bogart and Bergman’s poker playing between takes. Six lines from Casablanca appear on the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Memorable Lines in Film History, in fact, making it the most verbally proficient film of all time. Other lines that have made the list include “We’ll always have Paris” and “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Casablanca was based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison’s play Everybody Comes to Rick’s. Warner Brothers story analysts got a hold of the play and approved of it instantaneously, leading producer Hal Wallis to buy the rights to it for about $20,000. At the time, Wallis’ price was the most anyone had ever paid for an unproduced play, so the project was seen as a gamble. The project was renamed Casablanca and shooting began on May 25, 1942. It wrapped on August 3, 1942 and went around $75,000 over budget. The final budget for the film was $1,039,000.
Casablanca was shot exclusively in the studio, save for one sequence which was shot at Van Nuys Airport. The production was built with care and much of it stayed up until the 1960s. Wallis’ attention to detail on the film has been celebrated, including his avowal that a real parrot be used in the Blue Parrot bar.
Wallis’ first choice to direct the film was William Wyler. Wyler was unavailable, however, so Wallis chose Michael Curtiz instead. Curtiz directed the film in a very frank fashion, choosing to use his shots to tell stories rather than to produce art. The end result of his directorial vision is a film that moves at a great pace and lets the characters work their magic.
Curtiz had very little creative input into the actual story of the film and, by all accounts, he wanted it that way. He was certainly not an auteur in the traditional sense, rather choosing to be very much removed from the process and to simply shoot the story.