All film buffs and cinephiles have seen the wonderful Casablanca, and an overwhelming majority consider it a masterpiece. The same goes for many other classics we consider to be true, lasting works of art.
And yet, if we ask ourselves, “Would this movie be made today?” Would it get past the never ending layers of filters —readers, creative execs, big-time execs, financiers, studio analysts, whatnot— that today’s Hollywood puts up to minimize commercial risk? I understand the question is not fair, because what was made at a certain time and place doesn’t necessarily have to made at a different time and place… But, since we all agree it is such a powerful film, I’ll take the liberty of posing the question.
Would Casablanca get green-lit in present-day Hollywood?
And I will answer with a real-life experiment, cited from Bill Mesce‘s book, Overkill: The Rise And Fall of The Thriller Cinema (McFarland: 2007.)
“In an infamous prankish experiment in the early 1980s, a Film Comment writer sent the screenplay for Casablanca to over 200 agencies under another title. More than half didn’t recognize the story, and of those, 41 rejected it after reading. “[The] plot had a tendency to ramble,” critiqued one, while another complained, “Too much dialogue… the story line was weak…” The experiment’s results moved critic Richard Corliss to speculate on the chances of Casablanca being made —and being successful— in the era of the blockbuster. “Most indications,” he said, “point to the negative.” He went on to detail Casablanca‘s “weaknesses”: a lack of special effects, young characters, little action. Instead, the movie offered a story operating “in the cloudlands of ideas and ideals… They don’t make movies like Casablanca any more. And all things considered, it’s no wonder”.”