How can any rational human being suggest a sequel to “Casablanca?”
It’s no coincidence that this cockamamie idea is floating around as fans of the World War II classic celebrate its 70th anniversary.
“America – land of the fee,” as Bette Midler said in “For the Boys.”
Cass Warner apparently is not content with the fact that her grandfather, Harry, and the rest of the Warner Brothers brought together Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains on screen to define the word “chemistry.”
Complemented by supporting players like Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt, Dooley Wilson and S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, the flow of intriguing characters in and out of Rick’s Café Americain created an enduring work that is consistently on every all-time top 10 list, those of critics and fans alike.
But Warner, who is living proof that good taste is not an inherited trait, is in possession of a 1980 script in which Ilsa Lund (Bergman) gives birth to Rick Blaine’s (Bogart’s) love child, who is raised by Ilsa and her husband, resistance fighter Victor Laszlo (Henreid).
To be fair, Warner has some personally compelling reasons. The screenplay was written by Howard Koch, a man of several quality credits, including “The Sea Hawk,” “The Letter,” and “Sergeant York.” He co-wrote the original “Casablanca” with Julius and Philip Epstein and won an Academy Award for it.
But Warner’s grand-uncle, the notoriously tempestuous Jack Warner, fired Koch after he was labeled a Communist and blacklisted in the 1950s.
By the time the McCarthy Era was over, Koch couldn’t find an agent who would handle someone of his advanced years. And because Koch never received any royalties from the film, he had to sell his Oscar to give one of his grandchildren a college education.
It’s a sad story that would make an excellent screenplay all by itself.
So, on one level, it’s understandable that Warner, who befriended Koch when she took a screenwriting class from him in 1988, would want to pay tribute to her late mentor by bringing his work to the screen.
But, despite her contention that she wants to use the sequel to help young viewers appreciate the original, this is more of a sentimental vanity project for Warner.
The audience is not clamoring for a “Casablanca 2.” For viewers of any age who appreciate the synchronicity of the original, the snappy, pithy dialogue, the myriad political metaphors that make it so much deeper than just a love story, nothing else could come close.
For young viewers who never will appreciate the original because of its pre-Method acting, a bias against black-and-white films or a bias against any film older than they are, it will just be another two hours avoiding being stuck at home on a Saturday night.
If you understand the ending of “Casablanca,” you understand why no sequel could suffice. It’s a film about doing the right thing by knowing when, where and with whom to get involved — and not get involved. This is one time Hollywood should not get involved.
After all, we’ll always have Paris.