DVD Rating: ****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Casablanca

Lauren Bacall, in her role as HB's widow, pops up all over these Extras, introducing this, explaining that, but her contribution is oddly artificial, as if she feels uncomfortable and doesn't really want to be there. In the Bacall On Bogart section on Disc 2, which is fascinating because people such as John Huston, Katharine Hepburn and Alastair Cooke are so good at remembering things about Bogie, she sounds as though she's reading from an autocue.

"I thought he talked like he did in the movies," she said.

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How did he talk?

"He bore little resemblance to the characters he played. He was a gent. He wouldn't tolerate a lie."

This is the only time that you feel short-changed in this galaxy of Special Extras.

There are two commentaries - critic Roger Ebert (passionate, enthusiastic) and film historian Rudy Behlmer (informative, detailed) - a cinematic biography of Bogie (Bacall On Bogart), a tribute to Casablanca (interviews with everyone still alive, who worked on the film), a "children remember" section (a little forced and unnatural), with Stephen Bogart and Pia Lindstrom, Ingrid Bergman's daughter, additional scenes (2), outtakes (1) and trailers for The Adventures Of Robin Hood and The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (why?).

Everything about Casablanca is here, from the title (the Hedy Lamarr/Charles Boyer picture Algiers had been a smash hit a few years earlier) to the reason why Max Steiner could not change As Time Goes By for one of his own compositions (it would have meant bringing Bergman back for reshoots and, by that time, she had cut her hair short for the Hemingway picture) to how Bergman was chosen to play Ilsa over the original choice Ann Sheridan (David O Selznick, who had her under contract, agreed to do a swop for Olivia de Haviland).

It appears that no one had the faintest idea that this would become a screen classic. Warner Bros was making a movie a week and this was just one of the 50 for 1942. The script wasn't finished; no one knew how to end it. Howard Koch, who was brought in when the Epstein brothers had to leave for another assignment, having written half the script, "was getting the scenes down onto the Casablanca set the morning they were being shot." Lindstrom said her mother felt very insecure "because the filmmakers didn't seem to know what they wanted, or where they were going."

The legendary Hal B Wallis ran Warners production line and was fully hands-on with Casablanca from the start. He didn't always get his way. He wanted Sam, the piano player, to be a woman. He wanted George Raft to play Rick, but Curtiz insisted on Bogart. His first choice for director was William Wyler. He payed Murray Burnett and Joan Alison $20,000 for the rights of their play Everybody Comes To Rick's, a record for an unproduced work, and was reputed to have come up with the closing line: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

The kasbah was built in the back lot at Warners and the airport, for the final scenes, was a sound stage with a one dimential cut-out plane, surrounded (in long shot) by mechanics who were midgets.

Of the entire cast, only four were born in America and that doesn't include the director, whose English no one could understand. Many well known European actors, who had flocked to Hollywood to escape the war, played bit parts as refugees.

Dooley Wilson, whose performance as Sam is one of the abiding pleasures of the film, couldn't play the piano. He was a drummer. Bogart was two inches shorter than Bergman, which caused the cinematographer a few headaches. Claude Rains taught at RADA; he taught Olivier and Gielgud. Sydney Greenstreet was 61 when he made his first film (The Maltese Falcon). This was his fourth.

Bogart and Bergman: "They have chemistry."

Bergman and Henreid: "They have no chemistry."

Bergman said, "I looked like a milkmaid." She didn't photograph so well full face, better in profile. "They used tiny little spotlights in her eyes." The cameraman took immense care with her and it paid off dividends.

Ebert said, "She looks down as good as any actress in the history of the movies."

As for Bogie, he hated to boogie. "He thought he was a bad dancer." His mother was a writer and an artist. His father was a surgeon.

"For him, acting was collaborative, never competitive," Bacall said. "He taught me to keep going, no matter what."

As for Casablanca?

"No one wanted to be there," Lindstrom said. "They saw it as a throw away thing."

Reviewed on: 21 Feb 2004
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A reunion between former lovers forces a bar owner to make an impossible choice amid the incivility of war.
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Product Code: D065681

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.33 Full Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital

Extras: Introduction by Lauren Bacall; commentary by critic Roger Ebert; commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer; trailers; deleted scenes; outtakes; You Must Remember This: The Making Of Casablanca documentary; Bacall On Bogart documentary; The Children Remember, with Stephen Bogart and Pia Lindstrom; Loony Tunes Bugs Bunny cartoon: Carrotblanca; premier episode from 1955 Casablanca TV series; Screen Guild Players radio production (audio), with Bogart, Bergman and Henreid

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