‘Casablanca’ has often been eyeballed as ripe for being turned into a sequel, but the various attempts have never gotten off the ground.
Casablanca is not the kind of movie one would think spawns a franchise, or even a sequel, and why would you? After all, the film ends with Rick Blaine (Humphery Bogart) forcing Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) to get on a plane and leave him so she can avoid being captured by the Nazis. The narrative is all wrapped up in a bow, perfectly finished with all the key characters having gone through a satisfying transformation. Nothing about this conclusion screams “sequel.” And yet, there were attempts to get a follow-up made. Shortly after its initial release, there was word of a Casablanca sequel, though it would never see the light of day.
The Earliest Rumblings of a ‘Casablanca’ Sequel
In general, the construct of the sequel has always existed in cinematic storytelling, but it hasn’t always been in the same dominant form it is today. Until the 1960s and 1970s, when franchises like James Bond, Planet of the Apes, and The Godfather changed the game for franchises, sequels were largely considered quick cash grabs without much artistry. They weren’t commanding all of the attention of Hollywood, they were just immediate ways for studios to build on the success of movies like King Kong or Frankenstein. This stigma surrounding sequels is important to remember because it isn’t like a Casablanca sequel would be a foregone conclusion like it would be today.
Certainly, if Casablanca was released today and became a moneymaker, we’d all be talking about a pair of sequels and an HBO Max prequel TV series before its opening weekend was finished. In 1942, though, sequels were a bit scarcer and handled much differently than in the age of Marvel Studios and the MonsterVerse. But it was big news decades earlier when, quickly after it hit theaters, word of a Casablanca sequel began to bubble in Hollywood. As reported by The Midland Journal, the feature would’ve been called Brazzaville. This title indicates that the film would’ve made followed up on a closing line of dialogue from Casablanca in which Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) mentions that French city as an option for a place to hide out.
This same report claimed that Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet would’ve reprised their roles from Casablanca in Brazzaville, though there was no word on what kind of storyline the feature would chronicle. However, decades later, in a New York Post article, it would be revealed that a treatment for this project was penned by Frederic Stephani and its plot was…well, interesting would be a kind way to phrase it. The most controversial part of this proposed narrative was how it would’ve featured a twist that Rick and Renault had been working for the Allied forces the entire time. Just think about Casablanca with that twist in mind. That means there was never any uncertainty over Rick’s actions, he would’ve had to let Ilsa go to be a good Allied spy. That’s just one of the immediate ways this storyline would’ve retroactively capsized Casablanca. Understandably, concerns over Rick’s character being diluted in this follow-up ensured that Brazzaville would get scrapped.
‘Casablanca’ Sequel Interest Returns in the 80s
The interest in a Casablanca sequel on the big screen would grow cold for decades afterward, though no film this globally popular would stay dormant in Hollywood for long. That aforementioned New York Post piece recalls how, in the early 1980s, Peter Koch, one of the sons of Casablanca screenwriter Howard Coch, had pitched a proposed sequel to Casablanca that was scrapped by Warner Bros. brass. His pitch centered on the son of Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund scouring the globe for his father and would’ve involved the likes of Ingrid Bergman reprising their roles from the first Casablanca decades later.
This is yet another proposed Casablanca sequel concept that weirdly cheapens Rick’s climactic sacrifice. They didn’t have to be separated after all in a demonstration of Rick doing something selfless, it turned out they have a living breathing human being that forever bonds the two together. The most amusing part of Coch’s pitch is how it serves as a harbinger for the kind of sequels that would dominate the Hollywood landscape decades later. His proposed follow-up would fit right into the modern age of legacy sequels. One can practically hear Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” playing over the feature’s end credits
A 21st-Century Attempt to Make a ‘Casablanca’ Sequel
Decades after this proposed concept, the concept of even approaching the idea of a Casablanca sequel became increasingly daunting. As the years went by, Casablanca was not relegated to the wastebin of history as a relic, but rather, constantly garnered new fans with each passing generation. Its pop culture legacy was enormous, which meant that the notion of tacking on a sequel to its story was becoming more and more sacrosanct with each passing day. Nobody would dare try something so innately controversial…until one fateful day in 2012 when it looked like there was some momentum on the project.
In November 2012, producer Cass Warner, who had close ties to Howard Koch, began pitching a sequel tentatively entitled Return to Casablanca. Koch had penned treatments for a follow-up that bear a great resemblance to the sequel proposed in the 1980s, with the focus shifting to the son of Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund. While Warner revealed that she was having meetings with Warner Bros. executives about the project, nobody on the internet was fond of this prospective project, including Stephen Bogart, the son of Humphery Bogart. There was never any further momentum on the proposed follow-up, though its very existence showed how much notoriety Casablanca wielded decades after its release.
Fate has not been able to stop all attempts to exploit the Casablanca brand name for profit, as seen by the existence of not one, but two separate TV shows based on this movie. However, a proper feature-length sequel to Casablanca has never emerged, even back in the 1940s when Warner Bros. seemed gung-ho about doing a follow-up with the original cast. It’s a lesson Hollywood will never learn, but not every movie needs a sequel. As countless subpar follow-up’s have shown, you often can’t recapture that wonderful magic that made so many movies iconic in the first place. That’s especially true of something like Casablanca, which functions so perfectly as a standalone sequel.
In other words, it’s no wonder studio executives have never been able to bite the bullet and green-light this sequel. It might be something that makes money in the short term but even the most craven of executives know they’d regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of their lives!