Casablanca, one of the major Hollywood classics of the studio era, was based on an unproduced play written by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, “Everybody Comes to Rick's.” In a brief 2004 essay, “Casablanca: A Comparison between the Classic Motion Picture and Its Stage Play Source,” Martin N. Kriegl discusses the differences between Burnett and Alison's play and the 1942 Warner Bros.' film directed by Michael Curtiz, and with a screenplay credited to Philip G. Epstein, Julius J. Epstein, and Howard Koch.
Here are a couple of snippets from Kriegl's Casablanca vs. “Everybody Comes to Rick's” text:
Upon first reading both stage play and screenplay, one is tempted to jump to the conclusion that Casablanca is one of the rare occasions where a story, through adaptation from one medium to another, is elevated from a mediocre (if promising) source material to a gem of rare beauty. …
The character Rick, a former rebel with apparently inviolable values and principles, who has lost faith in the world and humanity, but is reborn through a past that catches up with him and forces him to rediscover the hibernating fighter within himself, feels much truer and embedded with a much profounder message in the screenplay. Whereas in the stage play he seems, up to the third act, whiny and weak, always complaining how 'burnt out' he is, that he has 'no cause to believe in' and 'nothing to fight for,' the screenplay conveys a man that, even though his principles seem to have been reduced to sticking out his neck for nobody, has a strong and powerful heart pounding in his chest. Moreover, his vernacular in the play places him on a lower social scale than his speech in Casablanca does, as he often casts direct insults at both Ilsa and Laszlo, literally calling them 'bitch' and 'high class pimp' respectively.
'Casablanca': Oscar wins and nominations
Casablanca turned out to be the Best Picture Academy Award winner of 1943. (Note: The Warner Bros. release actually opened in New York City the previous year.) The film's other Oscar winners were director Curtiz, and screenwriters Koch, Epstein, and Epstein.
Humphrey Bogart was nominated for Best Actor, but lost that year's Oscar to Paul Lukas for another Warners release, Watch on the Rhine. Best Supporting Actor nominee Claude Rains lost to Charles Coburn for George Stevens' comedy The More the Merrier. Ingrid Bergman was also shortlisted that year, but for Sam Wood's For Whom the Bell Tolls; she lost the Best Actress Oscar to Jennifer Jones for The Song of Bernadette.
As a side note: Needless to say, the Production Code would never have allowed Humphrey Bogart's Rick to call either Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa a “bitch” or Paul Henreid's Laszlo a “high class pimp.” (Note: See below a commenter's remarks re: language and Everybody Comes to Rick's.)
Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart Casablanca photo: Warner Bros.