How many of you sit down at your computer to write a new book thinking that it will be a great story? Excitement powers your fingers on the keys and everything is great…until it’s not. Ideas start to sputter, finally ending in a whimpering mess and you have no clue where to go next. You wonder if you have any talent at all.
Storylines are difficult to create and even more difficult to maintain throughout the course of events unfolding on your pages. Why can’t you write a great novel? Why can’t you create a classic like Casablanca?
It had everything. Mystery, intrigue, conflict, romance, tortured souls and redemption- they are all in the movie. It’s no wonder that it took so many awards and has remained a favorite for the last 70 years. This amazing story, made into a movie, didn’t quite start out as the gem we see on our screens. In fact, it wasn’t even a complete script while they were filming!
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see Casablanca at the movie theatre. It was terrific! Not only was it great to see a brilliant film on the big screen, like it was meant to be seen, but I got to go with Will Graham and Melissa Ohnoutka (fellow writers and guests on Muse Tracks). It felt absolutely decadent to shirk our responsibilities in the middle of a work week and enter into the magical world of Morocco during World War II.
The movie was adapted from a screenplay called Everybody Comes To Rick’s. It was shot on a shoestring budget and the lead male was best known for playing tough mob guys, not romantic leads. They had the essence of a story but when filming began, no one knew where the story was going nor did they know how it would end. (Hmmm-sounds like me while I’m writing my books.) In fact, Ingrid Bergman complained quite loudly because she didn’t even know who she was really supposed to be in love with and that made her job more difficult.
The writers, Julius and Philip Epstein along with Howard Koch, wrote and re-wrote the story almost every day. The actors had no time to learn their lines prior to shooting because it literally changed with every hour. To keep themselves on tract, they would review the film shot the day before otherwise they found themselves following wrong plot turns.
Did they know they were filming a grand classic? No.
Did they know that the writing would be quoted and misquoted for the next seventy years? No.
Did they know they had a great idea that deserved hard work and a million rewrites?
Writers don’t often sit down and create a masterpiece on the first take. I guarantee all the greats from Ernest Hemingway to Shakespeare threw away their fair share of wadded up paper and broke a quill or two out of frustration. I’ll bet some of them thought their best known works were nothing more than drivel slopped down on paper. Being a writer inherently means being plagued by doubt. Will anyone like what I’m writing? Does it make sense? Is it even a story? Trust me when I say I’ve asked every question that has run through your head and probably even a few more you haven’t thought of yet! The real question is whether you let it stop you from writing.
If something as wonderful as Casablanca was created through sheer resolve, then we should all have the determination to push through the road blocks- self created and others- to finish our own masterpieces. They may not all become classics made into film, but that doesn’t negate their worth and the satisfaction of doing something everyone wishes they could. Do you have that courage? What will you write today?
Fun Facts About Casablanca:
Nobody ever says, “Play it again, Sam.”
There were no “letters of transit” used during the war and there were never any uniformed German soldiers in Casablanca.
It is never revealed why Rick couldn’t return to America because the writers never could come up with a good reason so they left it as a mystery.
The twin brothers who wrote this are the only pair of twins to ever win an Oscar.
Dooley Wilson who played Sam, the piano player and Rick’s confidante, couldn’t play the piano in real life.
There really is a Rick’s Café in Casablanca today. It was opened by an American diplomat and the piano player plays As Time Goes By every night. The musician’s name is Isam. (Pronounced I Sam) Now that’s something you couldn’t make up!