August 16, 2007

Doomed Story Sketch # 1

Lesser-Known Facts About Casablanca

On the surface Casablanca tells the story of a doomed love affair between a casino owner and the wife of a French resistance leader. At its heart, however, the movie is a complex allegory about the ennui of small business ownership in Morocco in the late 30's.

While the film starred Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, the producers' original choices for the roles were William Holden and Shirley Temple. Holden, however, was only 24, and therefore too young to be credible as a former Ethiopian gun-runner and Spanish Civil War combatant. Temple, who was also 24, was long past her prime and anyway there were no dancing numbers.

The "world war" that provides the backdrop for the story is not the actual world war fought in the 1940's between the Axis and Allied powers, but a fictionalized account of that war that is identical to it in every respect.

While many people know that the airplane on the runway in the final scene was made of cardboard, and that the airplane attendants were played by midgets to keep the scene to scale, fewer know that midgets also played the parts of Sam, Victor Lazlo, Ugarte, Louis Renalt, Major Strasser, and all the casino patrons.

Humphrey Bogart's character, Rick Blaine, keeps a Russian dancing bear in his apartment above the bar. In one scene cut from the film just before its release, Ilsa walks in on Rick as he is teaching the bear to stand upright on a wooden circus ball. Rick, more than a little embarrassed, asks her to please leave him alone. The scene ends with the bear tilting its head and offering Rick a sympathetic pout.

Unsure of how to end the film, director Michael Curtiz shot alternate endings in which: 1) Ilsa starts toward the plane but changes her mind and doubles back, then decides she will get on the plane after all and, flustered, apologizes for being so indecisive; 2) flat-out refuses to get on the plane and throws a screaming tantrum; 3) gets on the plane but has a panic attack, thereby forcing the plane back to the terminal; 4) happily announces that she'll be glad to get on the plane and thanks Rick for his understanding; and 5) writes down her address for Rick and asks him to please visit after she and Lazlo are settled in New York.

In Lisbon, over cocktails on a beach veranda, struck by the close call he and Ilsa have just had, Victor has a sudden change of heart about devoting his life to the French resistance. Ilsa admits that, to be honest, she is also very tired, and that Lisbon is not so bad. They repeatedly postpone their flight, sleep later each morning, and after a week cancel the flight altogether. Victor uses the money to make a deposit on a small bungalow. They find a restaurant in the city that they like and begin to dine there regularly. Ilsa takes a small job to pay the rent. Slowly, over time, Victor loses touch with his contacts in New York. Years later, on a vacation to Casablanca, Ilsa runs into Rick, at his cafe of all places. He is with another woman and treats Ilsa as a casual acquaintance; embarrassed, she pretends she cannot quite remember who he is.


Ana Elisa Fuentes said...

Sean, You're breaking my heart! So who is inside the bear costume?

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