Casablanca: The Bogart-Hemingway Nexus

(December 2011)

Both were born in 1899.

  • Both came from modestly wealthy, upper-class families.
  • Both of their fathers were doctors who taught their sons to fish and hunt.
  • Both had over-protective, smothering mothers who gave them sissified names.
  • Both were heavy drinkers, but neither of them got drunk.
  • And both were married four times.

    Meyers goes on to sum up this list of particulars,

    Jack Warner finally blinked, but only after Dennis Morgan had accepted the part that Bogart had rejected:

    On war and winning and losing.

    Hemingway, in a letter to Ivan Kashkin, March, 1939:

    Later, Strasser attempts to bribe him with those letters of transit. If he will only reveal the names of his associates who lead the resistance in all the occupied capitals of Europe, he will be free to leave Casablanca and go to America.

    Which segues into how the pact affected Hollywood.

    Majority of officers and many prominent members have been identified with communistic activity. In Dec. [sic] 1939, shortly after the Russian-German agreement, Hollywood anti-Nazi League changed name to Hollywood League for Democratic Action, a clear reflection of the change in Communist Party line.[32]

    The romantic and the real in Casablanca often get unintentionally mixed up. Even as the romantic still lingers on in fond memory, the distance of decades cannot completely hide a stiff, humorless Victor Laszlo, all dressed up in a custom-fitted suit and a rakish Panama hat, about to board the Lisbon plane with a hardly eager wife. Henreid himself felt uncomfortable in the part and laughed at the idea that a resistance leader would be so got-up in such an attention-getting outfit! To work underground, you needed to keep a low profile.

    What kind of a serious resistance fighter would drag a woman around with him, putting her and his work in unnecessary danger, unless his ego required her adoration? A true hero would have insisted on leaving alone, both for the good of his work and the happiness of the woman he loves. Laszlo is so blind he does not even understand what exists between Rick and Ilse.[35]

    Thus, when Ilsa walks away with Victor, she is wrapped in a cloak of misery as dark as that foggy night. One might sigh with relief at this ending rather than a happy-ever-after fade-out, which was considered but thankfully abandoned. For it is the quasi-tragic ending that rings truer and makes Casablanca the unique exception to most of the pedestrian productions of those years.


    [In grateful appreciation to Marti Verso-Smallidge of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and The Ernest Hemingway Collection for her assistance.]

    [3]Jeffrey Meyers, Bogart: A Life in Hollywood (New York: Fromm International, 1997). NB. Whoever wrote what seems to be a promotional blurb, may in good conscience have believed that Hem and Bogie met at the Casablanca (formerly the Walton House) and hoisted a few brews together; but other than the promotional blurb, there is little evidence that such a meeting took place.

    [6] Bogart: A Life in Hollywood, 1.

    [7] Howard Koch, Casablanca: Script and Legend (Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press, 1995), 58.

    [10] Harlan Lebo, Casablanca: Behind the Scenes (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 55.

    [12] Casablanca: Script and Legend, 187.

    [13] Casablanca: Script and Legend, 109.

    [14] Casablanca: Script and Legend, 223.

    [15] Casablanca: Behind the Scenes, 56-57.

    [16] Casablanca: Script and Legend, 58.

    [18] Casablanca: Script and Legend, 60.

    [22] Jeffrey Meyers, Bogart: A Life in Hollywood (New York: Fromm International, 1999), 132.

    [23] As Time Goes By, 394.

    [24] As Time Goes By, 397.

    [25] Casablanca: Script and Legend, 131.

    [26] Casablanca: Script and Legend, 98-99.

    [29] Casablanca: Script and Legend,, 222.

    [30] Casablanca: Script and Legend, 223.


    [33] David Caute, The Fellow Travelers: Intellectual Friends of Communism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 142.

    [36] Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast (New York: Simon and Schuster, A Touchstone Book, 1996), 211.

    Sam Bluefarb is Prof. Emeritus, Los Angeles Harbor College.

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