Writers on Film

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Noah Isenberg: We'll Always Have Casablanca

Season 1, Ep. 39
John Bleasdale talks to Noah Isenberg about his book We'll Always Have Casablanca.


Here's the blurb:


For the 75th anniversary of its premiere—the incredible story of how Casablanca was made and why it remains the most beloved of Hollywood films.

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.’”

We’ll Always Have Casablanca 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, We’ll Always Have Casablanca is a magnificent account of what made the movie so popular and why it continues to dazzle audiences seventy-five years after its release.

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Sam Wasson's Hooray for Hollywood

Season 1, Ep. 82
The real story of Hollywood as told by such luminaries as Steven Spielberg, Frank Capra, Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Harold Lloyd, and nearly four hundred others, assembled from the American Film Institute’s treasure trove of interviews, reveals a fresh history of the American movie industry from its beginnings to today. From the archives of the American Film Institute comes a unique picture of what it was like to work in Hollywood from its beginnings to its present day. Gleaned from nearly three thousand interviews, involving four hundred voices from the industry, Hollywood: The Oral History, lets a reader “listen in” on candid remarks from the biggest names in front of the camera—Bette Davis, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Harold Lloyd—to the biggest behind it—Frank Capra, Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Jordan Peele, as well as the lesser known individuals that shaped what was heard and seen on screen: musicians, costumers, art directors, cinematographers, writers, sound men, editors, make-up artists, and even script timers, messengers, and publicists. The result is like a conversation among the gods and goddesses of film: lively, funny, insightful, historically accurate and, for the first time, authentically honest in its portrait of Hollywood. It’s the insider’s story.  Legendary film scholar Jeanine Basinger and New York Times bestselling author Sam Wasson, both acclaimed storytellers in their own right, have undertaken the monumental task of digesting these tens of thousands of hours of talk and weaving it into a definitive portrait of workaday Hollywood.