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Hungarians in Hollywood: Casablanca turns 75

zita kisgergely

Not many films are so notable that their birthdays get observed, but when the film is Casablanca, culture mavens are bound to make a fuss. As pointed out in this article in the Paris Review, Casablanca turns 75 soon, and its influence and renown are only growing.

Directed by Hungarian Michael Curtiz, born Mihaly Kertész in 1888 (see the Hungarian connection?), Casablanca is rarely left off of ‘best all-time films’ lists. It is more relevant now than ever, made by an immigrant (Curtiz moved to Hollywood at age 38 to direct for Warner Brothers, and many of the actors are either immigrants or refugees in this film about expats/refugees during political tumult). According to Wikipedia: “Much of the emotional impact of the film has been attributed to the large proportion of European exiles and refugees who were extras or played minor roles (in addition to leading actors Paul Henried, Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre.” Incidentally, character actor Peter Lorre also had Hungarian roots. Even though Curtiz directed many other Hollywood classics, including Yankee Doodle Dandy and Mildred Pierce, he will be best remembered for this anti-fascism-themed war film with a Hungarian flavor.

American film critic Roger Ebert once summed up his feelings for the commercially and artistically ambitious Casablanca as such: “When asked what is the greatest film of all time, I say Citizen Kane. When asked what is the movie you like the best, I say Casablanca.

Following are some of the more interesting, less known factoids about the film:

It was originally slated to be directed by Ben Hur director William Wyler.

It was a rare case of a film being shot in sequence, done so because to script wasn’t finished until halfway through shooting.

It was filmed entirely on a sound stage in Los Angeles.

Ingrid Bergman was 5 centimeters taller than Humphrey Bogart. He needed to stand on cement blocks or cushions for their more intimate scenes.

The film’s iconic line “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” was written by a producer and dubbed in a month after final shooting.

The New Yorker magazine was not impressed, calling the film “pretty tolerable”.

Casablanca was nominated for eight Oscars and won three, including best director and best picture.

The film premiered at the Hollywood Theater in New York City on November 26, 1942, to coincide with the Allied invasion of North Africa and the capture of Casablanca.

François Truffaut refused an offer to remake the film in 1974. Later there was talk of Ben Affleck remaking it with Jennifer Lopez.

There is an unconfirmed rumor that Ronald Reagan was going to play Rick instead of Bogart.

A hugely unpopular colorized version of the film was released on cable TV in the 80s.

The hero of the film is an anti-fascist with a Hungarian name – Viktor Laszlo.

The airplane in the final scene is actually constructed of cardboard.

Happy 75 Casablanca! Here's looking at you, kid.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.