Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz and based on the unpublished stage play Everybody Comes to Rick's by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. The film stars Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid, and features Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Dooley Wilson. Set during World War II, it focuses on a man torn between, in the words of one character, love and virtue. He must choose between his love for a woman and helping her Czech Resistance leader husband escape from the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis.
Story editor Irene Diamond convinced producer Hal Wallis to purchase the film rights of the play in January 1942. Brothers Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein were initially assigned to write the script. However, the Epsteins left the project after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Howard Koch was assigned to continue writing the screenplay until the Epsteins returned to work on Casablanca. Casey Robinson assisted with three weeks of rewrites, but his work would later go uncredited. Wallis chose Curtiz to direct the film after his first choice, William Wyler, became unavailable. Filming began on May 25, 1942 and ended on August 3, and was shot entirely in the studio and Van Nuys Airport.
Although Casablanca was an A-list film, with established stars and first-rate writers—the Epsteins and Koch received credit for the screenplay—no one involved with its production expected the film to be anything out of the ordinary; it was just one of hundreds of pictures produced by Hollywood every year. Casablanca had its world premiere on November 26, 1942 in New York City, and was released on January 23, 1943 in the United States. The film was a solid, if unspectacular, success in its initial run, rushed into release to take advantage of the publicity from the Allied invasion of North Africa a few weeks earlier. Despite a changing assortment of screenwriters frantically adapting an unstaged play and barely keeping ahead of production, and Bogart attempting his first romantic leading role, Casablanca won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Its characters, dialogue, and music have increased in popularity to the point that it now consistently ranks near the top of lists of the greatest films of all time.