10 crazy attempts to continue the Casablanca story
Is today the beginning of a beautiful Casablanca sequel? Producer Cass Warner, who runs a company called Warner Sisters, has announced that she's attempting to push a Casablanca follow-up — tentatively titled Return to Casablanca — into production. Warner Bros. passed on it in 2011, she says. “But they indicated they were willing to revisit this if I could find a filmmaker they were interested in working with.” Return to Casablanca would center on the love child of Rick and Ilsa, the central couple played by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the original Casablanca. Though raised by Ilsa and her husband Victor Laszlo, the boy "has a deep desire to find his real father," and ventures into Casablanca circa 1961 to track Rick down. Cinema purists are predictably horrified. But this isn't the first attempt to milk more money out of the 1942 Best Picture-winning classic. Here, 10 stabs at expanding the Casablanca universe:
1. Brazzaville (1943)
Shortly after Casablanca won the Best Picture Oscar, Warner Bros. announced plans to release a sequel titled Brazzaville based on the further adventures of Rick and Captain Renault. But the studio rejected the story that writer Frederic Stephani outlined — which intended to reveal that Rick and Renault had secretly been Allied operatives all along — and the idea of a sequel was soon scrapped altogether.
2. Casablanca TV series (1955-1956)
For ABC's "Warner Bros. Presents," the studio's first foray into television, execs conceived a Charles McGraw-starring prequel to Casablanca, set in the years before the events of the original. In a strained bid for credibility, minor actors from the film were cast in major roles for the series, including Dan Seymour (who played a bodyguard in the film) as Ferrari, and Marcel Dalio (who played a crooked roulette table operator in the film) as Captain Renault. The series was mercifully canceled after one low-rated season.
3. Play It Again, Sam (1972)
Woody Allen adapted his successful play of the same name into this 1972 film, which features Jerry Lacy as the "ghost of Humphrey Bogart," who periodically arrives to advise Allen's neurotic protagonist about dating. The film loosely retells the Casablanca story in San Francisco, liberally using the theme song "As Time Goes By" and closing with a parody of the original film's famous ending. A moderately impressed Roger Ebert called Jerry Lacy's Bogart impersonation "good, if not great."
4. Another Casablanca TV series (1983)
The failure of ABC's Casablanca series in the 1950s didn't dissuade NBC from taking another crack in 1983, with Starsky and Hutch's David Soul stepping in as Rick Blaine. The TV series, which took place roughly a year before the events of Casablanca, also included Hector Elizondo as Captain Renault, Ray Liotta as Sacha, and Scatman Crothers as Sam. The poorly-reviewed show lasted just five episodes, though it did win an Emmy Award for cinematography.
5. Suspects (1985)
For his 1985 book Suspects, film critic David Thomson imagines non-canonical biographies for many of cinema's most indelible characters, including Rick and Captain Renault from Casablanca. And fans of the film may be surprised by his conclusions, as excerpted at Strange Horizons: Shortly after the film's ending, writes Thomson, Captain Renault "took one long look at Rick and knew he was homosexual under all the brooding and the sneers about women," and "was decent enough to do what he could for him."
6. Carrotblanca (1995)
Families attending 1995's The Amazing Panda Adventure in theaters got a pre-screening bonus: Carrotblanca, an 8-minute Looney Tunes parody of Casablanca. The Looney Tunes cast steps into their roles surprisingly well: An unusually dapper Bugs Bunny plays Rick while Tweety Bird offers an unsettling version of Peter Lorre's Ugarte. And Casablanca viewers who find Rick and Ilsa's parting a little too tragic will be relieved by the less bittersweet version Carrotblanca offers. (Watch the cartoon in full on YouTube.)
7. Barb Wire (1996)
It's hard to think of a less faithful retelling of Casablanca than Barb Wire, which stars Pamela Anderson as "Barb Wire," a night club owner during the Second American Civil War in 2017. The film was blasted by critics and decried as a soulless ripoff by Casablanca purists, but Barb Wire does have its defenders. "The parallels with Casablanca are fun to spot," defends Roger Ebert, and the film — while not Casablanca — has its own sense of "deranged fun."
8. As Time Goes By (1998)
Former Time music critic Michael Walsh attempted to combine both a prequel and a sequel to Casablanca in his 1998 novel As Time Goes By. The book parallels Rick's pre-war life as a gangster in New York with Victor Laszlo's assassination plot in the Czech Underground. "Rock-hard and stone-cold would be the heart untouched by Rick's putting Ilsa on the plane with Laszlo," said David Hinckley at the New York Daily News, but "I have never, not for the length of a firefly's flicker, wanted to know what happens next." Readers apparently agreed.
9. Casablanca: A Japanese, all-female musical revue (2009-2010)
Japan's famed Takarazuka revue — which puts on Broadway-style productions of Western-style musicals — staged an original, well-received version of Casablanca. The play's website claims that the Takarazuka version is the first-ever musical adaptation of Casablanca, and sells both CDs and DVDs for fans curious to see the film's iconic characters, as embodied by Japanese women, singing and dancing their hearts out on stage.
10. Return to Casablanca (potentially upcoming)
If Return to Casablanca really happens, what can fans expect to see? Aljean Harmetz, who wrote the "definitive history of the film" (1993's Round Up the Usual Suspects), has some thoughts on who could play Rick and Ilsa's love child: “Certainly not Robert Pattinson, though maybe that guy who’s popping up everywhere, Joseph Gordon-Levitt,” says Harmetz at The New York Post. Here's lookin' at you, Joseph.