Here’s a lovely retro treat for fans of Casablanca, the greatest love story ever told, which Park Circus is reissuing in selected cinemas from Friday 10 February 2012. What follows is an original press release for the imminent release of Casablanca back in January 1942. Written in a rich, highly charged style that signals urgency and a sense of just how important this film is going to be, these notes make fascinating reading. They certainly don’t write ’em like this anymore. We have not doctored this document, everything is as it would have looked back in those war-torn days, including a few typos. Enjoy and remember to revisit this great film at the cinema for Valentine’s Day this year.
CAYNE DEXTER DIRECTOR OF PUBLICITY
REFUGEES ESCAPED FROM GESTAPO IN CASABLANCA AND BROUGHT ITS STORY TO SCREEN
Rush Release Ordered for Timely Warner Picture Throughout World. Dual
Premiere for “Casablanca” at Warner and Regal Theatres, London, Friday, January 15, 1942
While Lisbon has always worn the dress-suit of international intrigue or the fairy godmother’s gossamer of escape, according to whether you’re a foreign agent doing a spot of dirty work or a Nazi-hunted fugitive seeking freedom overseas, the roundabout road to Lisbon is dotted with strange stopping-places.
Throughout three years of war many eyes in imprisoned Europe have turned towards that great embarkation point — the Needle’s Eye to the Americas; but not everybody could get to Lisbon directly. So a tortuous refugee trail sprang up: Paris to Marseille, across the Mediterranean to Oran, then by train, car or foot around the rim of North Africa to Casablanca in French Morocco. Here money, influence or luck secured exit permits for the fortunate ones who hurried on to Lisbon and from there to the new world. The others could only wait in Casablanca and hope.
Their numbers grew to thousands as the Axis strengthened its grip on Europe. Political fugitives, escapees from German concentration camps, members of the underground movements of all Occupied countries were dammed up. With the connivance of Vichy the Gestapo chose its prey.
Victims were surrendered and dragged back to Dachau or tossed into savage internment in the desert. A black market trafficked in forged visas at fantastic prices. Czechs, Dutch, Norwegians, anti-Nazis operated secretly to smuggle their leaders away and checkmate the Axis by counter-espionage. The psalm of life contained all the discords of danger, despair and double-cross, yet Casablanca held no more dramatic value than a thousand other border towns until a few fugitive artists wriggled through to the outside world.
Eventually they reached America. The international swarm of writers and players in Warner Bros. studios heard bits of their tale and word was passed along to Jack L. Warner and his associate producer Hal B. Wallis. They seized on the idea and location as something new. Action followed fast.
Three ace scenarists, Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch, who gathered the material and wrote the script for ”Sergeant York,” were assigned to track the story down. Michael Curtiz, who had just finished “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” was called in to direct. Then backing their judgement of screen values with the highest sum allocated for any production in 1942, Warner splurged on stars – Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre all in one cast.
That was last July. When production started Casablanca meant so little on the map that the first publicity stories had to explain where and what it was. Four months later Casablanca shot into the headlines of the world, and on the very day that the American Expeditionary Force marched in, the Hollywood laboratories were delivering to Warner Bros. the first prints of their latest picture — “Casablanca.”
Call it producer’s sixth sense, or call it his incredible good luck — it’s what makes show-business, just the same.
Because of its timeliness, release of “Casablanca” has been marked urgent in every country where Warner Bros. operate. Air-borne prints have gone throughout the world. In London it will have a simultaneous premiere at the Warner and Regal Theatres on Friday January 15 — the first time these two cinemas have played a picture concurrently. Provincial centres will follow immediately. But even without its added force of topicality, Warners still would have an outstanding picture in this drama of a hunted woman and six desperate men who keep a date with destiny in Casablanca.