Round Up the Usual Suspects

CASABLANCA ended production on August 3, 1942, eleven days behind schedule; EDGE OF DARKNESS took over the sound stage on August 4. Both Hal Wallis, the producer, and Michael Curtiz, the director, considered it no more, no less than one of the thirty-three movies Warners was to produce during 1942 (down from the forty-eight of 1941). Neither Ingrid Bergman nor Humphrey Bogart was overly fond of the film, nor were they crazy about each other. Bogart had had more fun making ACROSS THE PACIFIC, and Bergman was waiting to discover if David O. Selznick had cast her as Maria for the film version of Ernest Hemingway’s FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, a movie that she considered important to her career. Composer Max Steiner hated the song “As Time Goes By” and had written a love song of his own, but Bergman had already had her hair cut short for FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS and couldn’t reshoot the scenes. Such is the stuff of greatness. Yet at the 1943 Academy Awards, CASABLANCA was voted best picture, Michael Curtiz the best director, and Howard Koch accepted the award for best screenplay on behalf of the three principle writers, Koch and the gifted twins, Philip and Julius Epstein. Koch was later to remark, “I’ve got an almost mystical feeling about CASABLANCA, that it made itself somehow.”

Harmetz delves into this mystery, the fortunate coming together of the disparate elements that make up this American film classic. Her research into the Warner archives and the interviews with the surviving participants reveal a story reflective of an America hesitant to become involved in the hardships of war. She notes that Rick Blaine’s journey from cynical self-interest to selfless patriotism not only mirrored the passage of the American psyche during World War II but also touched on America’s mythic vision of itself, tough on the outside but essentially idealistic and willing to sacrifice for a good cause. ROUND UP THE USUAL SUSPECTS is a work rich in anecdote, humor, and insights into times past and present.