Research Programs: Public Scholars

Period of Performance

10/1/2015 - 7/31/2016

Funding Totals

$42,000.00 (approved)
$42,000.00 (awarded)

Everybody Comes to Rick's: How "Casablanca" Taught Us to Love Movies

FAIN: FZ-231630-15

Noah Isenberg
New School (New York, NY 10011-8871)

A book-length exploration of Casablanca's iconic status in American cinematic history.

"Everybody Comes to Rick’s" (under contract with W.W. Norton in the U.S.and Faber & Faber in the U.K.) is fueled by a profound desire to understand what makes a single film so unusually captivating, so enduring, and such a worldwide phenomenon--what makes it, in the eyes of Umberto Eco, not simply a stand-alone production, but somehow representative of all "movies." Through extensive research and reporting, conducting a vast array of interviews with film scholars and professionals, screenwriters and directors, relatives of the cast and crew, and also with the fans themselves, I wish to answer this question. Along the way, I seek to tell a lively, intense, and engaging story whose register of meaning far transcends the mere plot-lines of the film and taps into our continued fascination with motion pictures as a means of self-understanding. The project aims to broaden and complicate received wisdom concerning the film and to provide original insights for a new generation of viewers.

Media Coverage

The End of a Beautiful Friendship (Review)
Author(s): Laura Miller
Publication: Slate
Date: 2/27/2017

You Must Remember This: Why We Return to ‘Casablanca’ and ‘High Noon’ (Review)
Author(s): Peter Biskind
Publication: New York Times
Date: 2/27/2017

Film Notes: A Tribute to ‘Casablanca’ (Review)
Author(s): David Corriveau
Publication: Valley News
Date: 6/23/2017

Review: 'We’ll Always Have Casablanca' by Noah Isenberg (Review)
Publication: Lincoln Journal Star
Date: 7/16/2017

‘Casablanca’: It’s still the same old story, but it never gets old (Review)
Author(s): Gerald Bartell
Publication: Washington Post
Date: 2/28/2017

By Immigrants, For Immigrants: Why “Casablanca” Still Matters (Review)
Author(s): Noah Gitell
Publication: Los Angeles Review of Books
Date: 3/10/2017

Refugees and free speech: How Hollywood classics 'Casablanca' and 'High Noon' were shaped by politics (Review)
Author(s): Rebecca Prime
Publication: LA Times
Date: 2/24/2017

Noah Isenberg Shares His Book About 'Casablanca' (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Bob Kustra
Publication: Boise State Public Radio
Date: 5/23/2017

75 Years Later, A Look At The 'Life, Legend, and Afterlife' Of 'Casablanca' (Media Coverage)
Publication: Fresh Air on NPR
Date: 10/11/2017

Associated Products

We'll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood's Most Beloved Movie (Book)
Title: We'll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood's Most Beloved Movie
Author: Noah Isenberg
Abstract: Casablanca was first released in 1942, just two weeks after the city of Casablanca itself surrendered to American troops led by General Patton. Featuring a pitch-perfect screenplay, a classic soundtrack, and unforgettable performances by Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and a deep supporting cast, Casablanca was hailed in the New York Times as “a picture that makes the spine tingle and the heart take a leap.” The film won Oscars for best picture, best director, and best screenplay, and would go on to enjoy more revival screenings than any other movie in history. It became so firmly ensconced in the cultural imagination that, as Umberto Eco once said, Casablanca is “not one movie; it is ‘movies.’ ” This is celebrated film historian Noah Isenberg’s rich account of this most beloved movie’s origins. Through extensive research and interviews with filmmakers, film critics, family members of the cast and crew, and diehard fans, Isenberg reveals the myths and realities behind Casablanca’s production, exploring the transformation of the unproduced stage play into the classic screenplay, the controversial casting decisions, the battles with Production Code censors, and the effect of the war’s progress on the movie’s reception. Isenberg particularly focuses on the central role refugees from Hitler’s Europe played in the production (nearly all of the actors and actresses cast in Casablanca were immigrants). Finally, Isenberg turns to Casablanca’s long afterlife and the reasons it remains so revered. From the Marx Brothers’ 1946 spoof hit, A Night in Casablanca, to loving parodies in New Yorker cartoons, Saturday Night Live skits, and Simpsons episodes, Isenberg delves into the ways the movie has lodged itself in the American psyche. Filled with fresh insights into Casablanca’s creation, production, and legacy, this is a magnificent account of what made the movie so popular and why it continues to dazzle audiences 75 years after its release.
Year: 2017
Publisher: New York: W.W. Norton & Company
Type: Single author monograph
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes