“Casablanca” Director Michael Curtiz To Be Discussed In Buena Vista Library Program

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The "Casablanca" shoot was an anxious time for both of the two stars and the director (Photo Courtesy of the Lucas family).

Author Alan Rode discusses his latest book Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film with Warner Bros. Studios Senior Vice President George Feltenstein on Tuesday evening, January 23, at the Buena Vista Library.

Rode and Feltenstein will converse about Academy-Award winning director Curtiz, the auteur of Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy and White Christmas, who spent 27 years directing nearly 100 films for Warner Bros. Studios.

They will talk about the director’s career, with a focus on Casablanca. The January 23 event also coincides with the 75th anniversary of the national release of the film.

“I’m very much looking forward to the presentation about Michael Curtiz at the Burbank Library,” commented Rode. “It is a personal thrill for me to be interviewed by George Feltenstein who is one of my heroes for all he has done to make Warner Bros. vast film library available to the public.”

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The “Casablanca” shoot was an anxious time for both of the two stars and the director (Photo Courtesy of the Lucas family).

“No other film director is more identified with the brand of a movie studio than Curtiz at Warner Bros.,” added Rode. “His classic films including Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mildred Pierce and White Christmas remain revered, but the man himself is either forgotten or relegated to an anecdotal stereotype.”

Burbank Chamber

Michael Curtiz; A Life in Film sets the record straight on Curtiz’s life and career with a great deal of heretofore unpublished information and details.”

An archivist from Warner Bros. will set up some props from Casablanca for the presentation, including a reproduction of Sam’s piano, a screen from Rick’s Café and some other items that appeared in the film or were related to its production, explained Burbank Librarian and event coordinator Hubert Kozak.

Curtiz observes a shot of James Cagney and Ann Sheridan in “Angels with Dirty Faces “(1938). (Photo Courtesy of the Lucas family)

“Michael Curtiz’s years as a director spanned the early years of Hollywood and the studio system of making movies, so Alan Rode’s book is not only a wonderful portrait of the director and his work, but a reader is going to learn a great deal about how movies during this period were made, and particularly how they were made at Warner Bros. here in Burbank,” commented Kozak.

“Rode shows you how technology and social issues impacted the nature of filmmaking, but most of all you learn that making movies is a tough business, the clash of egos and artists, the relentless pressures to stay on top and turn out box office hits, and the sad arc and poignant denouement of many careers in an industry that for all the glamor, was tough and often unforgiving.”

“I was impressed with the prodigious research and mastery of his subject in Rode’s book, but what impresses me most is it’s utter integrity. And by that I mean something more than simply a ‘balanced’ portrait of Curtiz, where you hear pros and cons from various people he worked with in his life.”

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Director Michael Curtiz and cinematographer Sol Polito line up a crane shot during the production of “The Sea Wolf” (1941) on Warner’s massive Stage 21. (Photo Courtesy of the Lucas family).

“This is not an ambiguous portrait. There is a point of view. Rode doesn’t pull any punches, but gives you the facts as he has found them that show you the best and worst of the man. It’s a cold eyed approach that makes you feel you are in the hands of a narrator whose criticisms and praise can be trusted in equal measure,” Kozak continued. “In spite of the man’s foibles and failings, the reader is lead to recognize and understand Curtiz’s extraordinary skills and achievements in the development of movie making.”

“This is our second collaboration in the last year with Warner Bros.,” he added. “All of us here at the Burbank Public Library appreciate the willingness they have shown to help us develop these kinds of events for our patrons, many of whom have worked for Warner Bros. and the entertainment industry, and all who appreciate this kind of look back at the proud heritage of their community and its important contributions to our national culture.”

“Michael Curtiz and the Making of Casablanca” begins at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library on Tuesday, January 23. Plenty of free parking is available on site. The author will be available to sign books for purchase after the program. The program is free to the public.

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A quartet of “Casablanca “winners: a sleepy Michael Curtiz, Jack Warner (talking as usual), Hal Wallis (with his Thalberg Award), one of the events hosts, Jack Benny, and the screenwriter Howard Koch (Photo Courtesy of Alan Rode collection.)