Casablanca (1955 TV series)

Casablanca is an hour-long American television series, in the genre of spying and intrigue during the Cold War, which was broadcast on ABC between September 27, 1955 and April 24, 1956 as part of the wheel series Warner Bros. Presents.[1][2][3] The third of twenty filmed shows produced for ABC, between 1955 and 1963, by Warner Bros. Television, under the supervision of executive producer William T. Orr, Casablanca is also the only one among those shows to be structured in the form of a non-U.S.-based Cold-War-intrigue storyline, rather than as a western or a detective/adventure series which represented 14 of the 20 productions.[4][5]

Casablanca
Also known as''Warner Bros. Presents''
GenreCold War spy/intrigue
StarringCharles McGraw
Marcel Dalio
Dan Seymour
Country of originUSA
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes10
Production
Executive producer(s)William T. Orr
Producer(s)Roy Huggins
Production location(s)California
Running time60 mins.
Production company(s)Warner Bros. Television
Release
Original networkABC
Picture format1.33:1 monochrome
Audio formatmonaural
First shown inTuesdays at 7:30pm
Original releaseSeptember 27, 1955 
April 24, 1956

Series elements

The series was based on Everybody Comes to Rick's, a play written in 1940 by American authors Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, and the celebrated 1942 film version, Casablanca.

It starred Charles McGraw as Rick Blaine,[6] the character played in the film by Humphrey Bogart. After the 7-episode Kings Row, it was the second-least-successful among Orr's twenty ABC series, canceled after the production of only ten episodes.[7] Director John Peyser has attributed the failure to studio head Jack L. Warner's refusal to finalize the hiring of charismatic rising star Anthony Quinn to play Rick and settling instead on McGraw, an actor of whom Peyser said that "he couldn't act his way out of a hat".[1]

Although the standard length for episodes of hour-long filmed series had subsequently become established at 53 or 54 minutes, the first 23 episodes of Warner Bros. Presents, including 8 of the 10 installments of Casablanca, were timed to run 48 minutes, thus enabling Warner Bros Television to append 6-minute segments, hosted by Gig Young,[8][9][10] promoting upcoming Warners films and chatting with stars under contract to the studio.[11]

Background for the creation of the series

Buying the rights to the unpublished and unstaged play by Burnett and Allison in January 1942, Warners had, at various intervals, assigned its adaptation to scenarists Julius and Philip Epstein, Howard Koch and the uncredited Casey Robinson, while also putting at the helm one of their top directors, Michael Curtiz.[12] Production began on May 25, with final shooting concluded on August 3.[13][14] Casablanca's New York City premiere was rushed to take place in November, thus taking advantage of the newspaper headlines announcing Allied capture of North African ports, including Casablanca. Because of the November release, the New York Film Critics included the film in its 1942 award season for best picture (the ultimate winner turned out to be the British wartime naval saga, In Which We Serve), but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences insisted that since Casablanca was not released nationally until early 1943, it would compete at the Award ceremony taking place in 1944. Sixteen months after its New York premiere, Casablanca won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch. There were five additional nominations: Best Actor (Humphrey Bogart), Best Supporting Actor (Claude Rains), Best Cinematography, Black-and White (Arthur Edeson), Best Film Editing (Owen Marks) and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Max Steiner).

More than a decade later, Warner Bros Television chose its Best Picture nominees for 1943, Casablanca (in addition to the winner, Warners had a second nominee, Watch on the Rhine), and 1942, Kings Row (the studio had one other nominee, Yankee Doodle Dandy), as television's initial two series to be directly derived from theatrical films. The third rotating element of Warner Brothers Presents, Cheyenne, the first of seven westerns produced for ABC, was a non-directly-derivative concept (Warners 1947 western, Cheyenne has no connection to the series) which also made history as TV's first hour-long western and also the first western series made for adults, rather than children, who had been watching such half-hour series as The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid since the earliest years of full-schedule TV programming. Analogous to the abbreviated time allotted for 8 of Casablanca's 10 installments, the 48-minute episode length was also applicable to 8 of Cheyenne's 15 installments and all 7 installments of Kings Row.[15][16]

Casablanca, the series

One of the most iconic films in Hollywood history, Casablanca perfectly caught the present-day (1942) wartime spirit of the age, but the TV series set, as it was, during the latter-day (1955) present of the Cold War, with its spies and intrigue, could not compete.[17] Its stories were molded into the style of standard TV drama of the era, omitting any mention of themes which would have been considered inappropriate for an early-evening audience. Actor Paul Stewart, assigned to direct the first episode of WB Presents, an installment of Kings Row, told columnist Bob Thomas that "the company will rehearse five days and shoot five days for the 48-minute dramas". "Everything is done in the authentic 1905 era", he remarked, "Some of the stuff is fabulous. I'd estimate we have $30,000 worth of furnishings here. Then we have an exterior set on the back lot of a Midwestern town".[18]

Series characters in 1955 and in the 1983 revival

The three top-billed roles in the 1942 film are played by Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund and Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo. In the series, the last name of Rick, portrayed by Charles McGraw, is Jason, while Ilsa and Victor do not appear as characters. The debut episode, "Who Holds Tomorrow?", showcases single-installment guest star Anita Ekberg playing a version of Ilsa, named Trina, but the storyline's reminiscence of Rick and Trina's past relationship veers into spies, killers and Cold War intrigue.[19]

Billed fourth through seventh in the film's credits are Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault, Conrad Veidt as Major Strasser, Sydney Greenstreet as Ferrari and Peter Lorre as Ugarte. The TV series retains the French police chief who bears a slightly different surname, Captain Renaud, played by Marcel Dalio (who was unbilled as Emil, Rick's gambling table croupier in 1942). The Nazi major, who had been fatally shot by Rick at the end of the film, was eliminated as a character, but Ferrari, the Fat Man with the powerful connections, was now portrayed by heavily built Dan Seymour (who was unbilled as Abdul the doorman at Rick's in 1942). Similar to the fate which befell Major Strasser, the little conniver Ugarte, who had been reported as killed near the end of the film, is another character who is not a part of the 1955 series. Among those further down the film's cast list, S. K. Sakall (credited in a number of his later roles as S. Z. "Cuddles" Sakall) as Carl, Dooley Wilson as Sam and Leonid Kinskey as Sasha are reflected in the series' three supporting regulars — Ludwig Stossel (who had an unbilled part as the refugee Mr. Leuchtag in 1942) portrays the Sakall-styled maître d', Ludwig, Clarence Muse is at the piano as Sam and Michael Fox provides slight comedy relief as Sasha the bartender.[20]

Twenty-seven years after the final first-run episode of Casablanca was broadcast in April 1956, Warner Bros. Television produced another TV series titled Casablanca which premiered on April 10, 1983. The role of Rick, whose surname was returned to its original form, Blaine, was won by David Soul who gained TV stardom as one of the stars of the popular 1975–79 police detective series Starsky & Hutch. His turn as Rick, however, had lasted only five episodes.

The setting of the 1983 series returned the action to the film's period of early World War II, with its action described as taking place over a year earlier than the events depicted in the film. All the personalities depicted in the 1955 series were the same, except for the return of Major Strasser and his aide Lieutenant Heinz. The French police captain's name also returned to its film form, Renault, and the bartender's name was now spelled "Sacha".

Episodes

No Title Directed by Written by Original air date
1"Who Holds Tomorrow?"TBATBASeptember 27, 1955 (1955-09-27)
To be determined[21]
Guest cast: Anita Ekberg as Trina, Alberto Morin as Portino
2"Black Market Operation"TBATBAOctober 18, 1955 (1955-10-18)
To be determined[22]
Guest cast: Nicole Maurey as Denise, Peter Van Eyck as Alex Thannis
3"Labor Camp Escape"TBATBANovember 8, 1955 (1955-11-08)

Rick becomes aware of plotting by Soviet spies; the wife (Maureen O'Sullivan) of an American newspaper reporter (William Hopper) captured behind the Iron Curtain is reunited with her husband.

In the promotional segment, Gig Young interviews Liberace on the set of his Warners film Sincerely Yours.
Guest cast: Maureen O'Sullivan as Helen, William Hopper as William Randoll, Don Randolph as Captain Rudolph
4"Hand of Fate"John PeyserNelson GiddingNovember 29, 1955 (1955-11-29)

Rick attempts to recover an extremely valuable artifact.[23]

In the promotional segment, Gig Young interviews Gary Cooper on the set of his Warners film The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell.
Guest cast: Kurt Katch as Ozmajian, David Leonard as Professor Garnier, Harry Nader as Jahmed
5"Family Dispute"TBATBADecember 20, 1955 (1955-12-20)

To be determined[24]

In the promotional segment, Gig Young introduces film clips of Al Jolson entertaining soldiers on the sidelines of battlefronts; another segment depicts Mario Lanza performing "Ave Maria".
Guest cast: Arleen Whelan, Joe De Santis, Lydia Reed, Patty McCormack
6"Fateful Night"John PeyserS: Robert Libott;
T: Nelson Gidding
January 10, 1956 (1956-01-10)
A man who opposed the Vichy government in Casablanca had been betrayed and his father asks for Rick's help in finding who was responsible.
In the promotional segment, Gig Young commemorates the 30th anniversary of the John Barrymore vehicle, Don Juan, Warner Bros. first film with recorded sound.
Guest cast: Lester Matthews as Colonel Masters, Karin Booth as Sylvia, Jean De Briac as General Dupres, Lisa Daniels as Vicki, Jon Shepodd as Larry, Morris Ankrum as Lou
7"Satan's Veil"Alvin GanzerS: Eric Ambler;
T: Nelson Gidding,
Norman Lessing
January 31, 1956 (1956-01-31)
The enticingly named international spy Ghitana Eros uses her beauty and erotic wiles to entrap innocent tourist Allardyce Newton.
Guest cast: Elliott Reid as Allardyce Newton, Rossana Rory as Ghitana Eros
8"The Alley"Don WeisSeeleg LesterFebruary 28, 1956 (1956-02-28)
A man who is fatally stabbed in the alley alongside Rick's place reveals with his last breath that a plan is afoot to assassinate the diplomats gathering that night for a peace conference.
Guest cast: Eduard Franz as Ben Hassan, Rena Clark as Rhoda, Corey Allen as Abdel
9"Siren Song"Richard L. BareFrederick Brady,
Seeleg Lester
April 10, 1956 (1956-04-10)
Trying to impress a beautiful international playgirl, retired bullfighter Francisco ignores the advice of his friend Rick and determines that he must return to the ring.
Guest cast: Mari Blanchard as Elsa Norden, James Mitchell as Francisco, Roberta Haynes as Maria, Hayden Rorke as Henderson, Ric Roman as Rossano
10"Deadlock!"Don WeisNelson GiddingApril 24, 1956 (1956-04-24)
To be determined
Guest cast: Olive Sturgess as Susette, Peter van Eyck as Chadec, Carl Milletaire as Guillot, Laurie Mitchell as Gaby, Ann Codee as Miss Stohli

Sources

  • Anderson, Christopher. Hollywood TV: The Studio System in the Fifties. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.
  • Balio, Tino, editor. Hollywood in the Age of Television. Boston: Unwin, Hyman, 1990.
  • Woolley, Lynn; Malsbary, Robert W. and Strange, Robert G., Jr. Warner Brothers Television: Every Show of the Fifties and Sixties, Episode by Episode. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1985.

References

  1. Hyatt, Wesley. Short-Lived Television Series, 1948-1978: Thirty Years of More Than 1,000 Flops (McFarland, January 6, 2003) ISBN 1476605157
  2. "Warner Brothers Presents / U.S. Dramatic Series" (The Museum of Broadcasting Communications — Encyclopedia of Television)
  3. "Warner Bros. Presents" at the Square One website
  4. Paietta, Ann Catherine and Kauppila, Jean L. Health Professionals on Screen. Scarecrow Press, 1999
  5. Brodie, Douglas. Shooting Stars of the Small Screen: Encyclopedia of TV Western Actors, 1946–Present. University of Texas Press, 2010
  6. Robinson, Johnny."Jack Kelly, star of Warners' Kings Row ABC-TV series, isn't letting the current Hollywood heat wave get him down" Montreal Gazette, August 13, 1955, page 23
  7. Johnson, Erskine. "Hollywood Notes / "Kings Row" is fading off TV in the Warner Bros. Presents stanzas but Jack Kelly isn't" Lakeland Ledger, June 4, 1956, page 4
  8. Robinson, Johnny. "Video Versions / Gig Young, emcee of 'Warner Bros. Presents' which had its debut last night,,," Lewiston Evening Journal, September 14, 1955, page 22
  9. "WISN–TV New Look for Fall" Milwaukee Sentinel, September 18, 1955, page 10
  10. Thomas, Bob. "Movie–TV Talk / Gig Young Glad He Said No" Daytona Beach Morning Journal, November 24, 1964, page 4
  11. Peterson, Bettelou. "Television Had Its Own 'King's Row'" St. Petersburg Evening Independent, June 25, 1981, page 10B
  12. LRampey. Web page dedicated to the life and work of Henry Bellamann
  13. Northway, Martin. "Tragic Consequences: Fulton, Missouri set the stage for the Henry Bellamann novel “Kings Row” and a future for a young Ronald Reagan" (Newcity Lit, September 30, 2011)
  14. Ball, Karen {Associated Press}. "Attitudes towards book have softened" (The Item {Sumter, South Carolina}, October 18, 1987, page 6C)
  15. "Hollywood Relents / Movies in TV Picture" (Milwaukee Sentinel TeleScope Magazine, September 18, 1955, page 41)
  16. Friedrich, Otto (1986). City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s. University of California Press (1997 reprint). pp. 86–89
  17. Fanning, Win. "Radio and TV / Some Notes on Things to Come" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 29, 1955, page 31)
  18. Thomas, Bob. "Warner Bros. Launch Filming of 'Kings Row' Series for TV" (Reading Eagle, June 26, 1955, page 35)
  19. Rode, Alan K. Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy (McFarland, August 14, 2012). Includes photograph of Charles McGraw and Anita Ekberg in the premiere episode, "Who Holds Tomorrow?" ISBN 147660035X
  20. Manners, Dorothy. "Folksy 'Little Britches' Before Cameras Soon / Victor Jory who hasn't been in Hollywood in two years (TV in New York) returns to play Dr. Towers in Warners TV serial, 'Kings Row'" (Milwaukee Sentinel, June 28, 1955, page 6, Part 2)
  21. "Saturday Show: 'Lady in Fear', Jack Kelly, Nan Leslie (Ocala Star-Banner All-Florida–TV Week Magazine, August 14, 1960, page 10)
  22. "The Saturday Film: starring Wallace Ford in 'Two of a Kind' directed by Paul Stewart (BBC Television, 11 April 1959)
  23. "Mail Bride: Lee Patrick is the 'mail order' bride who starts things stirring in "Kings Row" on Warner Bros. Presents tonight at 6:30 over WISN-TV. Miss Patrick co-stars with Rhys Williams, who plays the part of the lonely railroad man who courts her (Milwaukee Sentinel, November 15, 1955, page 12, part 1)
  24. "Hour of Stars: Victor Jory, Maria Palmer and Jack Kelly in 'Introduction to Erica'" (The Miami News, November 9, 1961, page 3B)
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