This is the fifth in a series of examinations of legends from movies and the people who make them and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous movie urban legends.
MOVIE LEGEND: “As Time Goes By” would have been removed from Casablance had it not been for a haircut.
The song “As Time Goes By” was written by Herman Hupfeld. It first appeared in a Broadway musical titled Everybody’s Welcome in 1931. The show was not particularly successful, and the song was only moderately more successful than the show, getting recorded by a few artists. For the most part, though, the song came and went and was basically forgotten.
Forgotten except for a fellow who was attending Cornell when the song came out. Murray Burnett thought that the song was excellent. So when he and Joan Allison co-wrote a play in 1940 about a bar in Casablanca named Everybody Comes to Rick’s, Burnett had the song be the song that their play’s two ill-fated lovers, Rick and Ilsa, listened to often when they spent their time together in Paris in love.
Burnett and Allison were not able to get the play produced, so they sold the rights to the play to Warner Brothers, who turned it into the classic film, Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
As it turned out, Warner Brothers’ music department owned the publishing rights to “As Time Goes By,” so they agreed to keep the song as part of the film.
The song is used to tremendous effect in the movie, performed by Dooley Wilson…
It is especially used well when Rick exhorts his piano playing friend, Sam, to play the song for him (as Sam played it at the bequest of Ilsa, who showed up in Rick’s bar not having seen him for years and now married to another man)…
However notable the song is in the film, it very nearly did not make it into the finished product!
The film was scored by noted film composer Max Steiner.
Steiner argued to producer Hal Wallis that the song just did not work for the film and should be replaced by a different song.
Steiner’s motives have been called into question by those who suggest that he really just wanted a song of HIS to make it into the movie, as he would get royalties this way.
Whatever the motivation, Steiner had Wallis just about convinced, except that since the song was a prominent part of some major scenes with Rick and Ilsa, they would need to reshoot the scenes (Casablanca had a number of scenes reshot, so it would not be unheard of to bring them back for this reason) with the song being played.
The problem was, Ingrid Bergman had already moved on to her next project, a screen adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, alongside Gary Cooper…
Now, it would be a terrible scheduling pain to get Bergman back to reshoot the scenes, but even worse, what made the reshoot basically useless is that Bergman had cut her hair MUCH shorter for her role in her new film, so that basically made reshoots impossible.
To Steiner’s credit, he then scored the film beautifully, using “As Time Goes By” as the linchpin of the score (even intercutting it here and there). So it was nice that he did not seem to bear any ill will to the song once it became clear that he was stuck with it.
Of course, when the film was released in 1942, it became a smash hit and “As Time Goes By” became a blockbuster tune, as well.
And to think – it made it there by the length of a lady’s hair. Talk about cutting it close!
MOVIE LEGEND: John Patrick Shanley has it written into his contract that no words in his screenplays can be changed.
John Patrick Shanley was a burgeoning young playwright in the 1980s when he burst on to the Hollywood scene with the screenplay to the smash hit (and Academy Award winning) film, Moonstruck, starring Cher.
The film won Shanley the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
More recently, in 2005, Shanley won the trifecta for American Drama Awards, when he was awarded the Drama Desk for Best Play, the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play, Doubt: A Parable.
Last year, the play was adapted into a critically acclaimed film starring Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman…
A legend has grown around Shanley when it came to the world of films and his screenplays. As the story goes, Shanley has it written into his contract that his screenplay is not to be changed at all. That is how it exists for playwrights with plays that have been staged. Once the play has been staged, you have to basically move mountains to get the words in the play changed (and that’s only if the playwright is actually available to approve the changes). In film, however, screenplays are often seen as starting points, not finishing points. So the idea of a screenwriter having such a demand written into his/her contract is quite shocking – and, naturally, not true.
Shanley described where the confusion arose in a great interview with Nathan Rabin at the Onion’s AV Club:
Rabin: Is it true that you have a clause in your contract that your words cannot be changed?
Shanley: Oh, that’s not true, but I think I know the genesis of that idea. What I did was, for my first four films, I wrote them on spec, and when people wanted to make them, I would get on a plane and I’d sit down with that person, like Norman Jewison, and I’d say, “Now this is a screenplay, and I own it, and I’m not going to sell it to you unless you intend to make this screenplay. If you have notes, that’s fine, let me hear them now, let’s talk about them and let’s see if we can agree. If we can, we’re in business, and if we can’t, we’re not and I’m going home.” So I did that on four films in a row, and then people just slowly got used to it. They were like, “You’ve got to talk to this guy.” [Laughs.]
I also had very powerful protectors, like Steven Spielberg, Norman Jewison, and Scott Rudin, who would protect the script. They weren’t going to allow anyone to interfere with that script. They’d give me their thoughts, but they would never impose them on me.
Rabin: That’s definitely not the norm in Hollywood. It seems like screenwriters are regarded as chefs, and if the studios want 15 different chefs, that’s what they pursue.
Shanley: That’s what happened on Live from Baghdad. I did that movie with HBO about CNN and the Gulf War. This guy was a journalist who wrote a book about it, and then he wrote a screenplay from the book, but he had never written a screenplay before, and it needed work. They brought me in and I very much wanted to write about that subject, so I did a page-one rewrite on the thing, and it came out pretty good. We got within a couple of weeks of shooting the film, and the director that they had hired, he couldn’t bear it that I had such a strong point of view. He fired me, I found out through an executive, for no discernable reason whatsoever, and then hired somebody who basically didn’t want to touch the screenplay because he thought it was really good, but then did some work on it and felt very apologetic about the whole thing. That’s the kind of thing that people run into all the time. I only ran into it that once. I was fired basically because this guy’s ego didn’t want any one screenwriter to be the author of the film.
I think Shanley’s reply is thorough enough that I believe him.
So there ya go!
Thanks to Nathan Rabin and John Patrick Shanley for setting the record straight!
MOVIE LEGEND: Kevin Smith once picketed his own film.
Dogma, a 1999 action comedy film by writer/director Kevin Smith, satirized the Catholic Church and, well, their dogma.
The film, as you might expect, drew a lot of controversy and even a smattering of protests.
One such protest was in New Jersey, outside a movie theater showing the film. It was not exactly a well attended protest, but it did have one familiar looking face in the crowd of picketers…
Kevin Smith, himself.
Smith apparently decided it would be fun to mingle with the protesters, and he even was interviewed by a local news crew!
When asked about his views, Smith (who would not admit or deny that he was, in fact, Smith, but, well, come on!) says “I don’t think it stands for anything positive.”
To this, the reporter asks, “What does it stand for?”
Smith replies, “I don’t know, but I’ve been told not good.”
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com