Casablanca: Who wrote what? An excerpt from upcoming “Six Degrees of Film”

Casablanca

Script authorship of Casablanca also was disputed, only this time it was writer versus writer who vied for the lone credits. Someone said about this B movie classic, “One of the charms of Casablanca lies in its awkwardness. Not only do the politics and romance sit side by side, but that there are two or three contrasting manners of style. There’s the comic-cynical, the soppy-elegiac, and the solemn-propagandist … [It’s] not so much a story as a stringing together of great moments to remember. How, and in what order we remember them is left to us, and this is part of why we like the film so much.”[i]

Four authors claim to be the true author of Casablanca. There is Howard Koch, who claimed he was brought in “to shape the film’s politics”; the brothers Julius and Philip Epstein, who wrote as a team; and Casey Robinson. Robinson said that he had the idea for a film “out of a ‘lousy play’ called Everybody Comes to Rick’s.”

According to Koch, the story was, “So they start shooting and Hal comes to me and says, ‘We need some help. There’s a little trouble.’ Bogart had said, ‘I won’t shoot this __________’; and he had used a very nasty word and gone home.”

Ingrid Bergman on the Casablanca shoot said this: “Every day, we were shooting off the cuff; every day they were handing out dialogue, and we were trying to make sense of it. No one knew where the picture was going, and no one knew how it was going to end … We said, “Well, who are we?” … and Curtiz would say, “We’re not quite sure … It was ridiculous. Just awful … Bogart didn’t know what was going on, so he retired to his trailer … I wanted to know who I was supposed to be in love with, Paul Henreid or Humphrey Bogart?”[ii]

The Epstein brothers had gone on to another project for Frank Capra and were not available, so they sent the script in from Washington page by page. Two scripts were floating around, one from the Epsteins and one from Howard Koch. Robinson was brought in to add the love-interest angle. It was apparent that “none of them knew he was working on a movie that would turn out to be something to boast about; all the signs were that Casablanca would be a stinker.”[iii]

The facts are this: The film used some lines from the play, Everybody Comes to Rick’s, including the line “Then play it, Sam” and the song As Time Goes By. The irony was that Julius Epstein was not proud of his part in scripting Casablanca. He called it “slick shit,” and said, “Casablanca is one of my least favorite pictures. I’m tired of talking about it after thirty years. I can explain its success only by the Bogie cult … I can recognize that the picture is entertaining and that people love it. The whole thing was shot in the back lot. Furthermore, there were never any such things as letters of transit around which the entire plot revolved. The movie is completely phony.”[iv]


[i] Adaptations from Short Story to Big Screen, Harrison, S. Three Rivers Press, New York, 2005

[ii] Adaptations from Short Story to Big Screen, Harrison, S. Three Rivers Press, New York, 2005

[iii] Adaptations from Short Story to Big Screen, Harrison, S. Three Rivers Press, New York, 2005

[iv] Mank: The wit, world, and life of Herman Mankiewicz, Meryman, Richard, Morrow, 1978

The Highest Grossing Films of all time: What do they tell us?

1 Avatar

2 Titanic

3 Marvel’s The Avengers

4 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

5 Iron Man 3

6 Transformers: Dark of the Moon

7 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

8 Skyfall

9 The Dark Knight Rises
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

11 Toy Story 3

12 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

13 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

14 Alice in Wonderland (2010)

15 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

16 The Dark Knight

17 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

18 Jurassic Park

19 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

20 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

21 The Lion King

22 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

23 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

24 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

25 Finding Nemo
*************************

If we look at the list of the highest grossing films of all time, what should we take away when we “read between the lines”?

#1. First of all, Overseas gross makes up over 50% of all these box office totals. That means more people are watching movies in other countries than in the United States. That trend has just appeared in the last few years.

#2.**All but one (Titanic) were made in the last 10 years (2003-2013). Young people don’t want to see old movies. The movies they like are action and adventure and fantasy.

#3.James Cameron made the top two highest-grossing films of all time. As of this year (2013), Director James Cameron is still “King of the World” at the box office.

#4. Three of the films in the top ten are comic book movies. Young people like comic book movies. They know what to expect, and the action is like a storyboard in one of their video games.

#5. There is only one Harry Potter movie-the last one made in 2004 –on the list at # 4. What was old is new again, but also, what was new can become old rather quickly! Harry Potter is in the top ten, but only one of the series is on the list.

#6.** The original Star Wars is not in top ten. In fact, none of the Star Wars movies is in the top ten list. #13 is the Phantom Menace-the Episode 1 film. Star Wars held the highest grossing film record at Number One for only five year. From 1978-1982, Star Wars was in the top spot. But, what was new became old quickly in this business!

#7. **Iron Man 3 is the most current film release on the list-made in 2013.The Avengers is at # 3-it’s second most recently-made film-2012-is in Top 3. So currently, comic book movies are doing really, really well! That means: THAT is the reason for a huge spate of comic book movies!

*8.**One Lord of the Rings film is in the top ten, at # 7. So that means that sequels and movie series are still very successful films. And the name recognition, the “brand name”, if you will, is the selling point for many of these in overseas markets.

#9.**James Bond made the top ten. It’s in Spot # 8-That is the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig. Here’s a case in point: James Bond is one of the oldest “brand name” movie series, and it is still going strong. Skyfall is now in the top ten highest grossing films of all time!

#10.Pirates of the Carribbean is in the Top Ten-at # 10. It’s not the most recent, however. It’s the one made in 2006. (It was the second film in the series). That is why there were so many sequels. They kept hoping to “recreate the magic” and make the money!

What else have we learned?

** The oldest film in top ten list is in Spot # 2- Titanic-released in 1997. Titanic was a love story and DiCaprio is still a huge box-office draw. James Cameron is still making blockbusters and having a huge impact on an ever-changing film industry.
Kids movies, Comic book films, Fantasy, and Science Fiction are all top money makers. Duh! We knew all of these things, but the numbers don’t lie. That is one reason that so many safe bets are sequels and familiar names that producers know will automatically draw people in to the theatre.
If you have a bold vision, you can make a bundle. Thus, it has always been. However, it is harder and harder to get funding for a new, young creative genius.
People still like good stories and well written scripts. There are always going to be some movies that will get made, in spite of the overwhelming odds against them. But, more and more people are lamenting the dearth of the quality films and the innovative scripts coming out of Hollywood.
Skyfall is part of the James Bond series,, then there’s the Harry Potter books, Lord of the Ring/The Hobbit

 books and other brand names that come from books. These books will sell movies. But most likely, the good books will not be the highest grossing films to make the list. (Unless it happens to be a children’s book!).
**There are no rules! Anything can happen in Hollywood-rules are made to be broken! Every time you close a window…(you know the saying), meaning that Hollywood has re-invented itself many times over, as I have documented in the past on the Six Degrees blog.( Shameless plug here: Read my upcoming book: “Six Degrees of Film”, to hear more about the history and timeline of Hollywood films).So the prediction here is that this era will lead to another wave of innovative film-making.
*To reiterate: Small, independent films are still being made…most of the creative writing is seen in these small films.. And on small screens such as HBO, Showtime, and Netflix, …they all have creative productions and are realizing a new wave of creative storytelling for a new generation of viewers.
But, “The Cinema experience” is still valid. (*See the post: “The Cinema Experience” on Six Degrees site). Overseas audiences will make up the bulk of the profit in the coming years. Film-making, and in particular Hollywood film-making, has always been moving in a fluid direction. They go where the money is.
And profits are being made overseas. But that isn’t necessarily the end of film as we know it. It will change and evolve, for sure, but there are still some good films being made. There are just fewer of them and they are harder to find these days.
Children and young people love movies. They love going to their favorite movies over and over again. And one thing still holds true: Creativity will take you far.
‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ for those who lament the death of the box-office and theatre experience. You don’t even have to be young or have a completely new idea to succeed. Look at James Bond and the Titanic and you know it’s true. It also proves that love stories and tried and true brands will still sell tickets!
One thing that lots of big Hollywood film stars don’t like to hear is this: Big name movie stars don’t necessarily draw in movie audiences. Most of the top films used little known or young up and coming actors to create their characters. DiCaprio had been in movies as a child, but became a star after Titanic.
So, to recap: Take heart from these numbers, which give us a fair amount of good news about the premature announcement that Hollywood film-making is a thing of the past and all good movies are gone forever. There is hope for the future of film. And after all, we are a nation of cock-eyed optimists who usually feel “The Best is Yet to Come!”
**Stay tuned for Part Two of this report on “Highest Grossing Films in Hollywood”

Americana Films: Great films that define us

The type of films that define us as a culture come from the past annals of American history. We are a patriotic people, yet one of our great American actors starred in a film that defines America as a slightly cynical yet still deeply romantic persona. That would be Bogart in the classic “Casablanca.” In this film, America is seen as a beacon of hope for many who were stuck in a war-ravaged place.
Bogart is “Rick Blaine, a jaded ex-patriot who casts a cynical eye on all things political and idealistic. Bogart’s portrayal captured the pulse of America at the end of World War II. The humor that was deeply embedded in his character came through as a type of gallows humor. When asked why he came to Casablanca, he says, “For the waters.” When told they are land-locked, he says with irony, ‘I was mis-informed.”

“An American in Paris” was a romantic version of a type of character that defined our nation in the post war era. Gene Kelly was also slightly cynical but light-hearted and fun-loving.
Kelly’s athleticism, his rapport with the children in Paris, his idealism and enthusiasm are part of the American character. Kelly’s style and rough-hewn character contrasted sharply with the old-world charm of the already legendary appeal of Fred Astaire. They defined American musicals for generations to come and breathed new life into dance as an art form.

In “Pollyanna”, the stereotype of the Pollyanna-ish world view is given clear definition with a wonderful portrayal, ironically by the British born Hayley Mills. The little girl who loves to play “the glad game” comes into the lives of a group of sour and disillusioned individuals in a small town and transforms their lives. When she becomes paralyzed, they pull together to cheer her up and remind her that live is worth living again. That is part and parcel of the American pioneer spirit that is often touted in one form or another in film.

“Rebel without a Cause” is a film that gives new definition to the term American hero. Here is a young man who is filled with angst. There is no greater drama in his life than the anger and frustration he sees in his own family. James Dean’s portrayal of Jim Stark, the new kid in town, became a defining vision for so many young men and women who were beginning to forge their own identities outside of the boundaries of their cloistered family circle. The rebellion and anger that is found brewing so close to the surface in many young people had never been fully explored as it was in this defining film of the fifties.

“The Music Man”, made in 1962, was one of the last of the films made in this list of Americana movies. The film defines a part of the country that had not been touched upon in the modern era. Iowa and Indiana, the heartland that is seen as a type of “silent majority” where people live quietly, work hard and stay close to the land is examined in this musical comedy. Harold Hill, played convincingly by Robert Preston, is a con man who inevitably has a heart of gold. His love of children, his deep dreams that have never been realized, and his talent for connecting with people on a personal level and correctly reading their deepest desires is the heart of this film. The music is memorable, and it remains one of the best movie musicals of the latter part of the twentieth century. But more than that, the character of a con man and ne’er do well who is finally trapped by love, not only of a good woman but of a desire to make the dream he has conjured become a reality, is an enduring part of who we are as a people.

We are like Bogart, cynical and jaded yet still yearning for a lost love. We are forever romantic fools for love, as was Gene Kelly in “An American in Paris”. We are like Pollyanna, always hoping for the glass half full and living to fight another day. And we are a lost generation, like James Dean, in that we are foundering and always searching to create our own unique identity, above and apart from that of the previous generation.
And we are, at times, like Harold Hill, con artists who must convince the world we are unique and can do the impossible. We may never succeed, but the dream never dies. That is who we are, defined by our past in films of Americana.

The Situation is Grave, but not serious

Some of the reviews have come in for “The Lone Ranger.” Just as I suspected, the bulk of the action, the real “lead”, belongs to Tonto, played tongue-in-cheek by Johnny Depp.

This is an extension of the “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” strategy for presenting major films to audiences these days. The last few were “Cowboys & Aliens” and of course, “World War Z”-mixing apocalypse with zombies is a sure thing in the minds of Hollywood producers.

We are still mostly better served by the small scale productions. Or better still, the small screen productions being made for HBO and Showtime. Even Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have admitted that the major Hollywood Blockbuster may soon go the way of the dinosaur.

Now, that doesn’t mean James Cameron can’t produce hits these days. He has made the top two highest-grossing films in the history of cinema. His secret may be the innovative techniques he employs, his penchant for bold, large-scale productions, and probably a lot of perspiration plus inspiration combined with some luck.

So we are going to have another summer of remakes. There are more waiting out there in the wings. But, there is a wonderful “Much Ado about Nothing” playing, plus a Sofia Coppola directed independent movie, “The Bling Ring”, and a litany of other small films. All is not lost in the creativity dept. However, to steal a quote from the legendary director Billy Wilder, “The situation is grave, but not serious.”

The Heat-Capsule Review

What is this? A comedy without funny lines, a buddy cop without buddies The idea is a good one. The execution of it is not. They looked like they were struggling to come up with a theme for this film in the middle of it. Melissa McCarthy is funny and talented. Her hit sit-com, “Mike & Molly” proves she can deliver funny lines and act with subtlety and sweet pathos. None of that is on display in this lame comedy.

Bullock portrays an uptight, bright FBI agent who is sent to Boston to find the bad guy. McCarthy plays a maverick cop who ends up working with her. It sounds good on paper.

But…it’s not nearly as funny as the previews. It’s downright disappointing. Comedy is a subjective thing, but this one is just not funny. I never thought “Bridesmaids” was funny. Yet I do think McCarthy is better than most of the material she is given. And I’m still waiting.

The Bad B’s of Summer-Redux

The Bad B’s of Summer are upon us. Turner Classic is offering classics such as, “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” along with “The Thing that Couldn’t Die” and “The Brain that Wouldn’t Die.” For those of us who can’t get enough of the bad stuff, there’s a surfeit of bad B movies to choose from as we while away the long, hot days of summer.

Here’s the post from 2009-Recycled, as an oldie but goodie:

The Bad B’s…I got it bad, and that ain’t good. Meaning I like to watch Bad B Movies at times and they are not always bad enough to qualify as “Good/bad”. Sometimes they are terribly bad, or they can be consciously bad (the worst kind), and then there is ”unwatch-ably” bad-those kind are alright because, frankly, I couldn’t stand it. The rules of engagement are simple: Know your Bad B ’s before the Summer starts: Beach Blanket Bingo should be near the top of the list. Here’s a guide from seasons past:

In Praise of Bad Cinema Many years ago I wrote about really bad movies. Since that time, the list of contenders has grown but the criteria by which we judge deliciously awful films remains the same

Number One– The plot must be non-existent or at least not relevant to the action of the movie. It helps if the actors stink up the joint but that is not a prerequisite.

Number Two-Most of the time it must have a very low-budget. Major films have been known to join the ranks, but as a rule, classically bad cinema usually is in the range from tin-foil robot hats to plastic doors and cardboard rocks.

Number Three-The gold standard to aim for is “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” The title is fairly important, and most bad movies are judged from the base camp of Director Ed Wood’s enduringly awful examples.

Number Four-Science-fiction is preferred, but other genres are always acceptable. If the film does delve into science-fiction, the science portion of the script is usually based on the merits upheld by a television show originally aired in the 1950’s.

Number Five-This is an important element. At some point in the action, the dialogue must be unknowingly funny. If the story line makes too much sense or they try to salvage a movie with a brave attempt at logical plot points, the film cannot qualify. Tonight movie patrons around the country are being treated with a showing of the classically bad, “Plan 9 From Outer Space”. Some bad movies are just plain bad and boring to watch. The Plan 9 club for Bad B’s is in a class that is separate and apart from your typically awful movie. Some modern nominees I have seen (over the past 20 to 30 years) are Donny & Marie’s “Goin’ Coconuts”, Snakes on a Plane, Alexander, all Chuck Norris movies, all foreign martial-arts movies, any movie with Godzilla in the title made in Japan, The Night the Lights went out in Georgia, Mad Max, Old Hercules movies, Jason & the Argonauts, the Ryan O’Neal movie, “Tough Guys Don’t Dance”, Lee Majors as a Viking in “The Norseman”, and any Paris Hilton movie. It is important to note that in my day, we did not have the luxury of “fast-forwarding” through a movie with a button. That is cheating. The dialogue must be enjoyed or endured, however you want to look at it. By the way, my favorite Ed Wood movie is not “Plan 9” but “Glen or Glenda.” It beats Plan 9 by a mile with the wooden dialogue & the inexplicable cuts of buffalo running across the plains, but the clincher is the man behind a desk explaining to the audience what a transvestite is and why they are different than homosexuals. It’s a hoot in any era!