'Everybody Comes to Rick's' vs. 'Casablanca'
One of the major Hollywood classics of the studio era, Casablanca, Warner Bros.' mix of international politics and romance, was not an original story. Instead, the Michael Curtiz-directed 1943 Best Picture Oscar winner starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid, was based on an unproduced play written by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison: “Everybody Comes to Rick's.”
Those interested in the film and its history might want to check out Martin N. Kriegl's brief 2004 essay “Casablanca: A Comparison between the Classic Motion Picture and Its Stage Play Source,” in which the author discusses the differences between the Burnett-Alison play and Philip G. Epstein, Julius J. Epstein, and Howard Koch's screenplay adaptation.
From 'mediocre' source material to cinematic 'gem of rare beauty'
Here are a couple of snippets from Kriegl's Casablanca vs. “Everybody Comes to Rick's” essay:
“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.”
Bear in mind that the Production Code would never have allowed Humphrey Bogart's Rick to call Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa a “bitch” or Paul Henreid's Laszlo a “high-class pimp.”
And check out the comments section further below for more info about “Everybody Comes to Rick's.”
'Casablanca': Oscar wins & nominations
In addition to winning the 1943 Best Picture Oscar, Casablanca – which actually opened in New York City the previous year – also brought Oscar statuettes to director Curtiz and its trio of screenwriters.
Humphrey Bogart was nominated for Best Actor, but lost to Paul Lukas for another Warners release, Herman Shumlin's 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 Spanish Civil War drama For Whom the Bell Tolls. She lost the Best Actress Oscar to fellow David O. Selznick contract star Jennifer Jones for The Song of Bernadette.
Also in the Casablanca cast:
'Leading Couples': Book covers Hollywood's top romantic pairings
With text by Frank Miller, whose previous books include Leading Ladies and Leading Men, introduction by Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne, and loads of photographs covering about half a century of Hollywood history, Leading Couples: The Most Unforgettable Screen Romances of the Studio Era (Chronicle Books, 2008) offers a glimpse into nearly 40 movie pairings from the so-called Golden Era (and a little later).
Among those featured are the usual suspects: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, and Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
But to its credit, Leading Couples also includes more esoteric movie pairings – well, “esoteric” when looking at Hollywood's past from a 21st-century perspective. Examples include Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney, Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr, and Betty Grable and Dan Dailey.
Top movie couple: Alan Ladd & Veronica Lake
Perhaps with the exception of Fay Wray and King Kong, my favorite film couple among those featured in the book are Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, who were ideally cast in their four pairings in the 1940s.
Ladd got his big break opposite the recently established Lake in Frank Tuttle's 1942 noir thriller This Gun for Hire, nominally starring Robert Preston. There would be three other costarring gigs for the Ladd & Lake duo: The Glass Key (1942), The Blue Dahlia (1946), and Saigon (1947).
When not working with Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd was kept busy as one of Hollywood's top male stars of the 1940s, in dramas and thrillers such as And Now Tomorrow, Salty O'Rourke, Two Years Before the Mast, and O.S.S. His career peak, however, came out in 1953: as the title character in George Stevens' Western Shane, playing opposite Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon De Wilde, and Jack Palance.
Veronica Lake's stardom all but ended along with the 1940s. When not smoldering her way into the heart of Alan Ladd's good-looking thugs, she was possibly at her best as a World War II nurse who uses her bosom – no kidding – to wipe out the evil Japanese in Mark Sandrich's So Proudly We Hail, costarring fellow Women at War Claudette Colbert and Paulette Goddard.
Alan Ladd & Veronica Lake vs. Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall
 Admittedly, Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall had the advantage of being directed by higher-end filmmakers at Warner Bros.: Henry Hathaway (To Have and Have Not), Howard Hawks (The Big Sleep), Delmer Daves (Dark Passage), John Huston (Key Largo).
Alan Ladd & Veronica Lake had to make do with Frank Tuttle (This Gun for Hire), Stuart Heisler (The Glass Key), George Marshall (The Blue Dahlia), and Leslie Fenton (Saigon).
Yet, as evidence of their combined talents, the smoldering chemistry between the two good-looking blonds – and their (however underrated) performances – unfailingly manage to enhance less-than-gripping screenplays and less-than-expert directorial hands.
Chronicle Books website.
Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart Casablanca image: Warner Bros.
Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake The Blue Dahlia image: Paramount Pictures.
“'Everybody Comes to Rick's' vs. Casablanca + Hollywood Leading Couples” last updated in December 2018.