There are a number of stories about the Golden Age of Hollywood that everyone seems to know. Some of them are true and the ones that aren’t simply persist because they simply make a good story. The stories that circulate around the classic Casablanca are no different. And with the news of the 70th Anniversary DVD/Blu-Ray release, we thought we would take a look at the most famous one.
One of the most lingering stories is that Ronald Reagan and George Raft were offered the lead part of Rick Blaine before Humphrey Bogart took it and created one of the most iconic roles in film history. But the truth is probably far less interesting than the “What if” scenarios conjured by the possibility of those other two actors in the roles.
The Reagan myth is easily explained. When Warner Brothers first acquired the unproduced play Everybody Comes To Rick’s, they sent out a press release on January 5, 1942 announcing the purchase that stated that the planned film would star Reagan and Ann Sheridan. The fact is that Warners had no intention of having these two stars in the film. The studio was actually using the press release to get some extra publicity for their two stars who were appearing in the films King’s Row which was set for release just a few weeks later. And even if Casablanca producer Hal Wallis wanted Reagan in the part, the future President was currently in the Army Reserve and could be called up to active duty at any moment with the country just entering into World War Two.
The George Raft story is slightly more complex. To say that Raft was a bit of pain in the backside of studio chief Jack Warner would probably be an understatement. The actor had turned down several parts that the studio exec wanted him to play, complaining that they weren’t good enough for him. Warner thought that Raft would actually respond to the part of Rick in Casablanca and suggested the actor to producer Wallis. The thing is, Casablanca was being produced independently by Wallis for Warner Brothers and Wallis had complete freedom to cast the film as he pleased from any of the actors under contract with the studio. As you can see from the memo below (click to enlarge), Wallis already had his own idea as to who should be playing the part and we know how that turned out.
Memo via The Humphrey Bogart Estate Page on Facebook.