So said pretty much everyone connected with the beloved film, which was first seen by the public on Nov. 26, 1942 — 75 years ago tomorrow. (It wasn’t officially released until the following January.) This most memorable of American pictures was expected to be about as lasting as a common mayfly, just one of dozens of films produced by Warner Bros. that year.
By all rights, in fact, Casablanca should have been a flop.
First, the writing. Casablanca was based on Everybody Comes to Rick’s, an unproduced play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. Warner Bros. eventually bought the rights for $20,000 — a record for an unproduced play at the time.
Clearly, Everybody Comes to Rick’s needed more work before it could be tossed on screen: Warner Bros. first brought in twins Julius and Philip Epstein, who promptly left after a month to work on another movie. Howard Koch was next in line, but then the Epsteins returned. All three continued to work, but not together. Indeed, the Epsteins and Koch never worked on the script in the same room at the same time.
And those were only the writers who received credit in the film. Others reportedly had uncredited input: “Warner had 75 writers under contract, and 75 of them tried to figure out an ending!” Julius told Hollywood Hotline in 1995.