Tuesday, November 30, 2010

TODAY'S 2nd NUGGET: #1 WGA Script of All Time - Casablanca (1942)

[Quick Summary: Rick meets old flame Ilsa. Will he help her leave Casablanca?]

This is a fantastic script because it has great structure, & meaty characters.

But it's a very rare script because it has real humor. 

Not ha-ha humor, but subtextual humor borne out of the character & conflict.

ex. German Major Strasser wants a reason to make trouble for Rick.

STRASSER: What is your nationality?
RICK: I'm a drunkard.

Rick doesn't want to answer, but also doesn't want to offend.  So he uses humor to defuse & distract.  He's poking fun at Strasser, & sending a message that he won't be cornered.

Also, the structure lends itself beautifully for humor & conflict. 

ex. The script begins with refugees Jan & Annina who don't have money for visas. 

It then lays out in great detail that Rick thinks of himself as heartless.  He would never rig a casino game except to bribe the police.

So when Jan puts his last chips on Rick's roulette table, it's quite funny & poignant that Rick lets Jan win enough for visas.

It says a lot about how Rick is changing (without any on the nose dialogue), & shows how things are getting more desperate (raising stakes).

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I simply loved the subtext & humor. 

The script was unapologetically smart, but never forgot it was telling a good story.

I find it amazing that they shot this with a half finished script, & were writing the night before each day's shoot.

Casablanca (1942)
by Julius & Phillip Epstein, Howard Koch

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