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Hey, who says Hollywood’s wrong by not giving a shit about writing these days? Is it REALLY that bad to go into productions with unfinished scripts? They can all point to the fact that one of the greatest movies of all time, Casablanca, went into production only half-finished! You heard that right. Casablanca didn’t have a finished script when they started filming! But here’s what’s always bothered me about this often brought up piece of cinema history. There’s a difference between “writing the script during production” and “writing an already well thought-through tightly outlined script during production.” If all your scenes are in place. If you already know how your characters are going to evolve and change. If you already know where your story is going. And in some cases, you already have the scenes thought out. That kind of “writing during production” actually still has a chance of being good. But if you’re literally making up the entire plot as you go along, that’s a different kind of “writing during production.” As much as I love Gareth Edwards as a director (the guy is going to be a freaking All-Star), you can get a sense of what REALLY going into a production without a script results in by watching his first film, “Monsters.” You’ll spot a lot of repetition, a hazy through-line, and a lack of character development, all things that need to be ironed out ahead of time. My point being, don’t think that because Hollywood lore states that Casablanca’s script was unfinished when filming began, that the underpinnings weren’t in place. It was probably mostly there. There are lots of cool other things we could discuss about Casablanca if we had more time. There were four writers revolving in and out as the script was written. A few of them had different takes on the story, making it even more miraculous that the story came together. For example, there was a lot of internal discussion over whether they should ditch the flashbacks (I personally think they could’ve). To think that they were debating the flashback device all the way back in the 1940s! That argument will never go away! Anyway, since Casablanca is well known for its dialogue, I’ll try to focus a lot of today’s tips on dialogue. But there are some other lessons we can learn here as well. Let’s take a look.

1) Combine scenes whenever possible – This is an old tip, but a good tip. Our protagonist, Rick, digs some money out of his safe for Emil, his casino runner, WHILE discussing with Casablanca’s head policeman, Renault, his planned arrest of Victor Laszlo. An amateur writer would’ve addressed each of these situations separately, taking up valuable screenwriting real estate. Pro writers combine scenes so the story moves along faster!

2) Use a clever exchange/sparring to hide backstory and/or exposition – After Head Policeman Renault tells Rick that they’re going to arrest Victor Laszlo, the writer needs to get in some backstory that Laszlo escaped from a concentration camp, as his time at the camp is an integral plot point. Now a bad writer would’ve had Rick bring this up immediately in his response, resulting in an “obvious backstory” line like, “But he escaped from a concentration camp. He’ll probably escape you.” Instead, the writer diverts attention from the line by creating a playful sparring, allowing him to hide the backstory within the exchange organically: “It’ll be interesting to see how he manages,” Rick says. “Manages what?” Renault asks. “His escape.” “Oh, but I just told you.—“ “—Stop it.” Rick replies. “He escaped from a concentration camp and the Nazis have been chasing him all over Europe.” The sparring here makes the backstory line invisible.

3) For good dialogue, make sure each character has a set of clearly defined opinions about the world/life – The more you know about your characters, the more likely they’ll deliver good lines of dialogue. Let me give you an example. Early in the script, Renault tells Rick’s head waiter, Carl, to give our villain, the Nazi Major Strasser, “a good table, one close to the ladies.” Now say the writer knows nothing about his waiter, Carl, here. Most bad writers wouldn’t. They’d say, ehh, he’s a minor character. I don’t need to know anything about him. In that case, you’re likely to get a weak generic line, something like, “You got it, boss.” But had you given some thought to Carl, you may have decided he harbors a deep resentment towards Nazis, and likes to get in subtle digs at them whenever possible. Now as you approach his response, you have a lot more to play with. It is for this reason that we get the line in the script, which is a thousand times better: “I have already given him the best, knowing he is German and would take it anyway.”

4) When placing a bunch of characters together, make sure that every single character has an angle – This is what’s so great about Casablanca. There isn’t one person in this bar who doesn’t have an angle, who isn’t looking to push their own agenda. Ugarte wants to sell those Visas. Renault wants to impress Strasser. Strasser wants to take down Laszlo. Laszlo wants to escape to America. Rick wants to avoid Ilsa. Ilsa wants to talk to Rick. And to take it one step further, make sure a lot of those angles clash. That’s where you get conflict, which is where you find drama, which is how you entertain audiences. That’s basically Casablanca in a nutshell.

Humphrey-Bogart-and-Ingrid-Bergman-in-Casablanca-1942-4

5) Whatever your character’s flaw is, make sure you write a scene that shows that flaw as a choice – Here, Rick’s flaw is that he only cares about himself. He doesn’t stick his neck out for anybody. Therefore, a scene is written where he can either save Ugarte (the man who gave him the visas) or let him be arrested. Ugarte pleads for help from Rick, but Rick just stands by as he gets arrested. Through that choice, we learn his flaw.

6) Stating one’s flaw out loud is no longer in vogue – It’s one of the most famous lines in cinema: “I stick my neck out for nobody.” And yet if you used it today, it would feel way too on-the-nose. Go with an action, as explained in the previous tip, instead. Action (show, don’t tell) always has more of an impact than words.

7) Be “disagreeable” in your dialogue as much as you can – A cute and simple way to spice up dialogue is to never have characters agree with what is said. Have them add resistance or conflict or obstacles or opposing reactions. So when the German, Strasser, says to Rick, “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? Unofficially, of course.” Rick doesn’t respond in the positive with, “Sure.” He turns it around and says, “Make it official, if you like.” If characters are just agreeing with each other all the time and having really easy conversations, there’s a 99% chance that those conversations are boring as hell.

8) Never underestimate the power of sarcasm during dialogue. It almost always makes the dialogue more fun – When Strasser asks Rick, “What is your nationality?” Rick doesn’t respond with the boring, “I’m a bar owner, in case you hadn’t noticed.” He replies. “I’m a drunkard.”

9) Add extra people to your dialogue scenes – There’s rarely a scene in Casablanca with just two people. I don’t think it’s any coincidence, then, that the movie is known for its great dialogue. Extra characters act as agitators and obstacles to dialogue, which forces characters to be more creative in the ways they talk with one another. Woody Allen, another great dialogue writer, uses this approach a lot as well.

10) Make the “other man” tough to leave, as opposed to easy – Remember that drama usually thrives on tough choices. If you make the choice for any character too easy, it’s obvious what will happen, which is boring. Make it difficult, and the audience will be hooked, as they’ll be unsure what choice the character will make. Here, the “other man” (Laszlo) is about as good a man as they come, so we really have no idea who Ilsa is going to choose, him or Rick.

11) Unless the boyfriend/husband is also the villain – There are certain situations/stories where the “other man” is also the villain. He’s beating our heroine or is the “wrong guy” for her. In those cases, it’s okay for him to be bad. But if the other man isn’t the villain in the story (here, the Nazi, Strasser, is our villain), consider making him a “good guy,” as that’ll make our heroine’s choice tougher, and therefore more dramatically compelling.

Scriptshadow_Cover_Final3These are 11 tips from the movie “Casablanca.” To get 500 more tips from movies as varied as “Aliens,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “The Hangover,” check out my book, Scriptshadow Secrets, on Amazon!

  • Poe_Serling

    Casablanca…

    A rare gem in filmdom. A picture that fired on all cylinders. Compelling storyline (interesting tidbit from CR about the half finished script). Topnotch direction. Great actors. Memorable dialogue. Iconic music score. Etc.

    Talk about making a cultural impact… it’s even spotlighted in the Scriptshadow title
    banner above. ;-)

    And don’t worry… no lengthy tangent today. I’m not a card carrying member of the cult of
    Bogart; in fact, I’m more a casual fan of his films. Though I really respect his overall body of
    work and his unique attributes that he brought to his roles, I usually preferred the pics of Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda, Monty Clift, and so on from that 40s-50s timeframe of filmmaking.

    My favorite Bogart film?

    Sahara – the ’43 film is about ‘an American tank crew stranded in the Sahara desert in
    the path of a Nazi infantry unit.”

    A superior WWII action/adventure flick. I can’t recommend it highly enough. And speaking of WW2/tank films -

    I must admit my interest is piqued with the upcoming film Fury written/directed by David Ayer. It has Brad Pitt attached in the lead role. I think the script sold for a cool million.

    This story “takes place in 1945 as the Nazi regime collapses and the five man crew of an American tank called Fury battles a desperate German army.”

    Perhaps Fury will get a review from Carson in the near future.

    • New_E

      While CASABLANCA is not one of my favorite classic films, I enjoy catching it when it plays on TV. What’s most interesting to me about the film is the historical context and how much of it mirrored real life. Shot in 1942 at a time when the war was still raging, it’s interesting to see how many German and “Continental” expatriates had made it in Hollywood in the 40s. Michael Curtis, Conradt Veidt, Paul Henreid, and Peter Lorre had had great careers with UFA Studios in Babelsberg.

      This is a fascinating writeup on the history of the studio http://www.filmportal.de/node/1166547

      There’s also a book called TAINTED GODDESSES on the history of actresses of the Third Reich like Lilian Harvey, Zarah Leander, Olga Chekhova and actors like Willy Fritsch, etc… http://www.amazon.com/Tainted-Goddesses-Female-Stars-Third/dp/8873014631 – Interesting read.

      As for Bogart, my fave films have to be KEY LARGO, IN A LONELY PLACE, THE BIG SLEEP, and most of all THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE.

      BTW, I’m all set for watching HOME BEFORE DARK this weekend…

      E

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey E-

        ” What’s most interesting to me about the film is the historical context and how much of it mirrored real life.”

        Exactly. Even in the ’43 film Sahara, the characters played by Bogie and the others had very solid grasp and realistic take on the complex, ever-changing dynamics during that particular time period in the world, especially in regard to the final outcomes of both Hitler and Mussolini.

        Also, thanks for sharing the UFA history article – it’s amazing that the studio was still able to pump out pictures to the very end of the war in ’45.

        All the Bogart films that you mentioned above are classics for sure. During my film noir phase, I remember enjoying Dark Passage quite a bit – I think I preferred Bogie’s POV of the unfolding action when compared to the similar device being used in Robert Montgomery’s film Lady in the Lake.

        I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts regarding Home Before Dark.

        • New_E

          It’s doubly fascinating when you consider that Hollywood was run by men of Jewish heritage, whose parents had fled the Russian pogroms or who themselves were recent expats having reached America by way of France or England.

          The list of German, Austrian, Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian expats to Hollywood is a long one.

          Marlene Dietrich pretty much became the Harriet Tubman (!) of recent expats from the “Old Country”. Working with the growing German-speaking community in Hollywood and people like Michael Curtis (Hungarian) and Billy Wilder (Austrian), she helped a number of them who had left without a penny to their name, get travel visas, working papers, and jobs in Hollywood.

          Many of them had, at one point or another, been stuck in ports-of-call like the people in the film. Some never made it here and forged careers in Europe like Anton Walbrook.

          Interesting times.

          E

      • Malibo Jackk

        I would add PETRIFIED FOREST
        and HIGH SIERRA (would like to write the re-make).

        • Poe_Serling

          High Sierra by Malibo Jackk does have a nice ring to it. :-)

    • Citizen M

      SENSATIONAL!

      DRAMATIC!

      EMOTIONAL!

      MEMORABLE!

      “A STIRRING AND GRIPPING WWII WAR FILM.”

      Holy smoking thesaurus. Tell us how we’re supposed to feel, Sahara copywriters.

      • Poe_Serling

        Yeah, I noticed that too. Here’s the tagline from his next film from the studio:

        Bogart’s Biggest Absolutely! He’s back from Casablanca in Action in the North Atlantic.

        You gotta give it up for the people at Warner Brothers at that time – they sure knew how to pump up a star’s ego. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/kinnygraham Graham

    Carson – you need to edit that very bottom para: ‘These are 10 tips from the movie Rosemary’s Baby…’

    And good stuff again btw

  • EtoileBrilliant

    Couldn’t agree more, particularly on point 3. Was reading Alexander Mackendrick’s book on film making when he references a famous character map Graham Greene made for The Third Man (see below).

    The point of the map was to ensure that (i) every character had enough conflict with the others and (ii) determine whether characters were natural allies or sworn enemies through their other relationships.

  • DrMatt

    I was never a fan of the flashbacks either! That whole sequence slows the movie down so much for me. I’d much rather prefer it be implied than shown to us. Makes the characters more mysterious.

    Also, regarding those tips: the script I’m writing right now is very dialogue heavy and it’s nice to 1) realize that I’ve been consciously doing some of them already and 2) learn some more to use!

  • http://www.facebook.com/christian.zilko Christian Zilko

    Great post, fantastic movie. We all know #10 from When Harry Met Sally

  • Jonathan_D_S

    I just rewatched Casablanca last week, sort of retesting whether it was still my favorite movie. It was even better than I remembered.

    Something they did constantly with Bogey’s dialogue was use it not as a means of providing verbal information but as a vehicle to show character. He rarely gives anyone a straight answer, which speaks directly to his character… that he’s numbed himself to the world after getting his heart broken. I bet if you counted the megabytes of actual information he provides it wouldn’t even add up to a hill of beans… er, I mean a page.

    As for the flashback, I don’t love it. It’s not perfect. But, it was crucial to show the old Rick, when he used to have a heart. It makes that later scene gut wrenching, when he pulls Ilsa’s gun into his chest, saying “Go ahead and shoot. You’ll be doing me a favor.”

    I could go on…

    In fact I will. Goddamn that scene when Laszlo organizes the musical beatdown of the Nazi’s. Reduced me to a sad little baby. Just goddamn it. The movie has so much depth of humanity, I think it should have been included on the Voyager for any curious aliens out there.

    signing off.

  • Jonathan_D_S

    That reminds me: The German actor Conrad Veidt (Major Strasser) was so anti-Nazi, he checked “Jewish” on ancestry questionnaires as protest, and eventually left Germany to act in Hollywood… where he ended up being typecast as a Nazi.

  • cjob3

    Sorry to go off topic but does anyone in the SS army remember the script about the guy who runs into his girlfriend’s younger self? Like, he’s dating someone and then he sees that same person only 15 years younger. I think it was an amateur entry. All I remember was he lived in an apartment in a bridge….

  • grendl

    The reason the “I stick my neck out for no one” is such a great line is because, although it seems to show Rick Blaine’s view of life, it’s just not true.

    When that couple needs to win at the roulette table, Rick tells them the number to put it on. Granted no skin off his nose, but still it shows he has a heart.

    And the fact that he used to fight for losing causes, including the resistance shows he did in fact stick his neck on the line in the past, however someone caused him to retract it, crawl into a shell and set up the he man woman haters club in Casablanca.

    The fact that he utters such a falsehood has to be rectified, because he is at heart a patriot and hater of fascists. That line is a thesis which the whole movie spends disproving, making his sudden change of heart at the airfield both surprising and inevitable, the way Aristotle would have wanted it.

    • Malibo Jackk

      That Aristotle was one… smart… guy.

    • Vitamin Bee-otch

      Or you could argue that the line is discretely revealing Rick’s true disposition. The line could’ve been “I don’t stick my neck out for anyone” but it’s worded precisely as “I stick my neck out for nobody.” Maybe that’s because Rick sticks his neck out for the “nobodies” of the world. The ordinary people trying to make it against all odds (fascism). He shows this with his actions even before his arc when he tells the couple which number to put it on. So maybe the word “nobody” in the dialogue is actually referring to the types of people he defends, even if it is just an ironic accident hidden behind the bitterness and sarcasm he tries to convey on the surface.

      • grendl

        That wouldn’t make sense though.

        The whole movie is set up to show him he’s lying to himself when he says he doesn;t help others. He’s been hurt by a woman, and it makes sense that he would go to his room, lock the door and hold his breath like the child he is.

        Or coward as Ilsa calls him.

        The line doesn’t make sense if he’s saying it in some noble working man’s hero fashion. Claude Raines suspects he has a heart, but then again can’t be sure which helps Bogey fool him at the end. And as it turns out Raines has a heart too when he tells his police force to round up the usual suspects after Rick kills Major Strasser.

    • tom8883

      Flaws are effective devices because they’re vehicles for revealing the hero’s ultimate likability,

      • grendl

        True,

        But flaws are also a great way to establish bonds of empathy with a protagonist,

        Anyone who’s been dumped like Rick Blaine was can understand his cynical attitude towards the world and helping others.

        You feel like a sucker for trusting someone so much only to be stabbed in the back. And part of the fun of the film is watching Ilsa come groveling back for the papers of transit, a fantasy all of the jilted can connect with on an emotional level.

        And that’s the level where so many amateurs fail in connecting with their readers. Emotionally. The most important level.

  • martin_basrawy

    Pretty good breakdown. Agree with everything that was said.
    I really need to rewatch this film. It’s been at least 5 years.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnBostonfilm John Boston

    Great article Carson, but I want to bring something up slightly off topic. I think you should really consider creating forums on this site for readers to bring up topics of their own.

    I’m bringing this up because over the past few weeks, reading the entries for amateur weekend, I found a topic I’d like to discuss with the community. Without a forum to discuss it on, the threads pertaining to specific articles can be derailed.

    The topic I’d like to bring up is that of readability. Now, Carson has gone into great detail on how to make a screenplay engaging on the story level. But what I have found is that most of the screenplays submitted are written in a way that doesn’t even allow me to break into the story. They alienate me, they discourage me, some even straight up anger me.

    For people trying to break in, like myself, I feel that the screenplay has to be written to be read. I’ve been trying to get people to read my newest screenplay, a screenplay I have written over 30 drafts to and spent upwards of 1000 hours writing, and frankly NO ONE wants to read my fucking screenplay. I’m not complaining about that, I understand that’s how it is, but when I finally do get someone to read it I want them to be instantly engaged, not alienated. 99% of the people in this community are in the same boat as me and need to realize that if your script isn’t a shining example of VERTICALITY then the reader is already telling you to go fuck yourself in his/her head.

    Most of what I read that has been submitted to this site does not take the reader into account. Dense description. Bad formatting. Terrible dialogue. Even the staccato approach to writing action paragraphs is alienating if not used properly.

    Here’s a tip I live by which everyone may not agree upon. The “density” of text is determined by the pacing of the scene. Slower scenes I use 2-3 lines of text per paragraph. High intensity scenes I use 1 line, maybe 2 in some circumstances. Using the staccato approach for all scenes is very jarring for parts that should be read slower. The reader can’t figure out what is going on naturally because you’ve turned a scene where you’re baking cookies with your mom into this high intensity debacle in which the reader is expecting the oven to explode.

    This is the point in which forums become a crucial part of this community, because I have no doubt forgotten to mention something or someone else brings up a crucial part needed to prove the point I’m trying to make. But all In all, writers must do everything in their power to not alienate the reader with the way they wrote their script. Let us break into your story, because frankly, at this point not one script has encouraged me to even get to their second act. The act that Carson’s tips on story telling can be utilized.

    And finally, please stop using the Shane Black acknowledging the reader type of writing. Unless you want to alienate the reader by telling them a bunch of piss poor jokes.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      I’ll read your script John. Shoot it on over to GregoryMandarano@aol.com with a copy of your logline. I’ll give you some notes too, though I prefer live conversation rather than writing detailed notes for other people.

      • http://twitter.com/JohnBostonfilm John Boston

        Thank you for your generosity. I certainly didn’t write that to troll for reads, but I won’t turn down the offer.

        I would be glad to return the favor at any time.

    • Malibo Jackk

      You say “NO ONE wants to read my fucking screenplay.”
      That, of course, could be the problem.
      If you posted your logline and the first 10 pages, we might be able to get a better idea of what you’re talking about.

      I think there are people on this site that want to be of help.
      And offer encouragement, if they see something that excites them.

      I think most professional readers have read a TON of bad scripts.
      And I think they expect every amateur script they pick up to be bad — to the point of looking for everything they can find to complain about.
      You have to surprise them.

      (BTW, I think the 30 drafts shows that you’re serious about the craft.)

      • http://twitter.com/JohnBostonfilm John Boston

        A few people have actually just emailed me and I’m exchanging my script for theirs so you are definitely right about that.

        My comment you brought up wasn’t meant to be an absolute statement but more or less the attitude I think writers should have so that they always keep the reader in mind. And I use the word fuck a lot in my writing for emphasis, not because I’m mad or anything. (Non screenwriting)

        Anyways, thank you for your comment and if you or anyone else would like to exchange scripts I would be happy to.

        I can be reached at johnbostonfilm@gmail.com

  • MWire

    #8, sarcasm is great to use in dialogue but be careful. It’s been my experience that script readers see every statement as the absolute truth and will assume that your character really does want to have his butt buttered and be called a biscuit.

  • Citizen M

    Some good points, especially 2, 3, and 5.

    Regarding point 8, sarcasm, remember that in real life people who are rivals are continually trying to assert themselves and put the other guy down, often in very polite and subtle ways. Sometimes screenplays are too direct and to the point. Take a bit of time for some verbal jousting and one-upmanship.

  • ripleyy

    Good article and all, but I for one can’t wait until the “Screenwriting Lessons You Can Learn From ‘Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3!” article. I reckon that one would be great.

  • filmklassik

    Carson’s right, the script for the one-of-a-kind CASABLANCA had a definite “through line” already in place at the start of production, one that more or less followed the contours of the (mostly mediocre) play the movie was based upon.

    What’s more, the censors of the time decreed that the story’s heroine, Ilsa Lund, could not betray her husband by running off with the Bogart character, and of course, killing the poor cuckolded sap off wasn’t really an option either — the guy was an intrepid resistance fighter standing up to the Nazis, and this was a mainstream Hollywood movie produced during wartime.

  • John Bradley

    All these tips are great, #1 is one of the most important tips I have learned in my writing and I heard it hear first awhile ago…really good stuff=)

  • Yuri Laszlo

    Carson’s right. I do want to escape to America. Although, over the course of the last eighty years, I’ve come to accept a more modest life style, perhaps living in a little midwestern cottage in the plains with my hot Swedish wife.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shaun.snyder.35 Shaun Snyder

    CASABLANCA is one of my top 3 favorite films of all time. I taught a high school film appreciation class last year and CASABLANCA was one of the films I showed. It wasn’t one of the more popular movies with the students. Their attention spans are pretty low. Plus, the girls didn’t like the fact that Rick and Ilsa didn’t end up together. Anyway, in addition to the fantastic dialogue, one of the things I pointed out was the film’s great use of subtlety. Subtlety is something that I truly appreciate in a movie; it just makes more of an impact. There are a number of great examples of subtlety in CASABLANCA. For example, during the flashback scene, when Rick asks Ilsa, “Where were you ten years ago?” Instead of having each character state their age (boring), Ilsa responds with, “I was having a brace put on my teeth,” indicating how young she was, and then Rick says that he was “looking for a job,” which shows that there is a bit of an age difference between the two. It’s a simple little subtlety, but it improves the exchange. Of course, the big subtle move is done by Renault at the conclusion. When he says the famous line, “Round up the usual suspects,” and he tosses the Vichy water into the wastebasket, it plays so much better than him just saying, “I’m not working with the Nazis anymore. I’m sticking with you, Rick.” In my opinion, subtlety is key in order to have a great script.

  • grendl

    One of the biggest unanswered questions in the film “Casablanca” ( I don’t know if it applies to the play on which it was based ) is did Ingrid Bergman’s character really love Rick, or was she sacrificing her happiness for the sake of her husband Victor Lazlow and the resistance.

    The Epsteins who wrote the script with one other writer didn’t know, Ingrid Bergman didn’t know. She asked Michael Curtiz the director how she should play it and he told her to play it open.

    It’s hard to tell watching the film if she’s putting on a helluva show, but what makes Bogey so heroic is he gives her the benefit of the doubt. He could’ve held onto her but he didn’t. He did the right thing which is what great movies often entail at the very end.

    Whether to give in to personal selfishness, or to let go of the grudge he;s been holding since Ilsa handed him his heart on a Parisien platform. Not in person of course as she didn’t show.

    Good movies don’t answer every single question all the time. They leave room for interpretation. People can see in that ending what they want, and no one can tell them definitively whether they’re right or wrong. I think Paul Haggis said movies should ask questions not offer answers and I think writers shouldn’t be afraid to leave things open.

    Another example of this is “War of the Roses” which turns the standard marriage story upside down. Kathleen Turner grows to detest her husband, and the question running through the story is whether or not she really does love him.

    At the end when they both plummet to the floor on the chandelier and lie dying, Oliver attempts to hold her hand in a last ditch effort to go out as a couple. She brushes his hand away, which is a great answer, But the question lingered throughout the story and propelled it.

  • K.B. Houston

    I love these articles, more than anything on this site. They’re so useful. Whenever I watch a film I always try and take things away from it. But I don’t know as much about film as Carson so it’s nice to hear these things from a reliable source. I haven’t seen Casablanca in a while so I don’t remember much. I really need to re-watch it.

  • Midnight Luck

    Another odd twist of the Casablanca puzzle is

    I saw a special edition CASABLANCA years ago, it had all kinds of extra stuff with the writers included. They focused on one of the main writers ( I don’t remember which one) who went into great detail about how he and the other writers had a contract with Warner Brothers and wrote something like 40+ movies that year. He said in all honesty he can’t really remember writing Casablanca. It was a Boom time in Hollywood and they were cranking out the features and Warner just had them huddle together and hash out a ton of scripts. He ended up saying he was surprised by how successful and loved Casablanca was and yet most all of the other movies they did during that time were forever forgotten. One of his last comments, and he laughed was: if you did enough, something was going to be amazing.

  • sheliawatson

    Not to get too picky, but did you misspell Ilsa’s name every single time? Other than that, great post! I love this movie.

  • tom8883

    Movies are works of collaboration and that’s why Casablanca is so heralded in the industry. The writers, designers, actors, editors, etcetera did their thing independently, but collaborated via the universal principles of cinema. That’s why Casablanca worked. That plus a bit of magic, of course.

  • Cambias

    Casablanca may not have had a finished script, but the play “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” was complete when Warner bought it. I think the idea that Casablanca was kind of thrown together during filming is a bit of Hollywood myth-making.

  • Malibo Jackk

    With reference to #1, John Ford said that every scene should serve one purpose.
    (Maybe he thought that two would dilute the impact of the scene.)

    Saw a movie once where the protag was running, chasing after the bad guy and he yells out –
    “Make my day!”
    Now compare that to Dirty Harry standing over the bad guy — and saying the same line.

  • cjob3

    no. Sorry. She just showed up randomly. And he had to hide the the younger version from the present version. I remember he had an apartment in a bridge.
    thanks for trying though

  • Sherlock

    I had never seen a Bogart flick until my mid-twenties, when I went to a Casablanca showing on the big screen at The Ohio Theater (a beautiful place on the National Historic Register). I melted. I became a movie lover that day. Humor, action, romance, intrigue, exotic locale,deep cast, great dialogue, incredible stakes: this one worked it all in without becoming a cliche.
    And I am in the cult of Bogart, though I really like some of his lesser known films like All Through the Night, Bullets or Ballots and Stand In (an under-appreciated satire of Hollywood).

    • Poe_Serling

      Just recently I saw the ’55 comedy We’re No Angels with Bogart, Aldo Ray, Basil Rathbone and Peter Ustinov.

      I found it to be a fun, light-hearted romp. Directed by Michael “Casablanca” Curtiz.

  • JWF

    a stone cold classic with some of the most memorable lines of dialogue ever.

    have never read the script but will be seeking it out now.

  • Ambrose*

    I haven’t read any of the comments yet so maybe someone else has touched on the fact that any script can be greatly helped – or hurt – by the actors who are cast in the movie.

    When you start with a great script then you’re probably 90% of the way home, but miscast even one major role and the dynamics are thrown off.

    If you don’t have a visceral on-screen chemistry between the leads then even a red-hot script can fizzle out.

    “What? We’re supposed to believe she’d really go for him? Are you kidding me?”

    “There’s no way he’d gamble losing everything for her.”

    Hollywood lore is rich with stories of actors who didn’t get cast in classic movies. What people fail to realize is that that “classic” movie might not have been so classic with another actor in the lead.

    Who can think of Indiana Jones without thinking of Harrison Ford? But with George Lucas’s first choice for the role – Tom Selleck – we’re talking another animal entirely.

    You can burn Atlanta as long as you like but without Clark Gable would ‘Gone With the Wind’ have become what it did?

    There’s an old story that Ronald Reagan was the first choice for Rick, which some say was just a studio ploy.

    But if it is true and Reagan had played Rick would we be having this discussion today?

    I doubt it.

    Bogart vs. Reagan? No contest.

    • Malibo Jackk

      So Harrison Ford makes the big bucks.
      And Larry Kasden has trouble finding work.

      • Ambrose*

        Yes, it all starts with the writer. Otherwise, no one has a job.

        Kasdan’s career started off red-hot in the early ’80s, writing two Star Wars movies, writing/directing ‘Body Heat’ and ‘The Big Chill’, and continued through the ’90s with movies like ‘Grand Canyon’, ‘The Bodyguard’ and ‘Wyatt Earp’.

        That’s why it’s almost painful to sit through dreck like ‘Dreamcatcher’ (based on a Stephen King novel, with a script by Kasdan and William Goldman) and last year’s truly hard to watch ‘Darling Companion’.

        Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

        But I hope/think he’s still got some good scripts in him yet.

  • Jonathan Soens

    Number 6 interests me.

    I think someday we need an entire article/list devoted to things that used to be acceptable but no longer work.

  • http://actfourscreenplays.com/ StoryMapsDan

    Hey guys, FYI my buddy W. Rob Rich of Screenplay How To wrote up a fantastic beat sheet for Casablanca: http://screenplayhowto.com/beat-sheet/casablanca/

  • Poe_Serling

    Arsenic and Old Lace is a good one… with Frank Capra directing and starring Cary Grant… how could it go wrong? ;-)

  • carsonreeves1

    I think that’s actually worse then. There were so many unnecessary scenes in the script, and weird moments where a monster roar could be heard in the background of a territory infested by Monsters and one of the characters would go, “What is that?” They were the kind of mistakes that are made when you haven’t thought the outline or script through at all.

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