Roundup of the usual suspects in the making of Casablanca, by Harmetz (The Making of the Wizard of Oz, 1977), the Hollywood business reporter for the New York Times.
Harmetz is an ever interesting though not lively writer, and her intense research and packaging of all possible information about Casablanca make for a book that newcomers to the film will find fulfilling and complete. Older fans of the movie and its stars, though, may not find enough that's new here to reward wading through a hill of beans this big and detailed--and it's strange that so much formidable research turned up so little fresh material. Over the years, Harmetz interviewed five cast members, three of whom are now the film's last living--and minor--players. She awards major space to Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, producer Hal Wallis and director Michael Curtiz, studio head Jack Warner, the technicians, the set designer, and what studios called "the little people'' (makeup, hairdressing, etc.). Harmetz includes the studio's vast research on North Africa, the look of Casablanca's then-current license plates and telephone poles and so on. Amusing sidelights: Bogart uncomfortable at making love to and dancing with Bergman on the first day of shooting (it was the flashback sequence of their love affair in Paris); Bergman being coy in later years about supposedly not having known how to play to Bogart and Henreid because she didn't know which one she'd wind up with (although it turns out that the last scene was shot midway during the film, so she did know); the role of character actors in filling each scene with ore (today's films, Harmetz says, "lack the thick layers of character actors who brought depth to the background and refracted the star's light so that it formed a different and more complicated image'').
It's still the same old story...