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Dooley Wilson
Born Arthur Wilson
April 3, 1886(1886-04-03)?
Tyler, Texas, U.S.
Died May 30, 1953 (aged 67)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor/Singer
Years active 1908 – 1951

Arthur "Dooley" Wilson (April 3, 1886? – May 30, 1953) was an American actor and singer. He was born in Tyler, Texas, and is most famous as piano-player "Sam" who sings "As Time Goes By" at the request of Humphrey Bogart in the 1942 film Casablanca.



Wilson's precise year of birth is unknown: it may have been anywhere between 1884 and 1887. It is thought that he sang and played the drums in black clubs in the Tyler area before he moved to Chicago. He worked in black theatre in Chicago and New York for most of the period from 1908 to the 1930s, although in the 1920s he played as a drummer in a band which toured Europe. From the 1930s to the 1950s he worked in motion pictures and Broadway musicals, and played Bill Jackson on the television situation comedy Beulah during its final 1952–1953 season.

He received the nickname "Dooley" while working in the Pekin Theatre in Chicago, circa 1908, because of his then-signature Irish song "Mr. Dooley," which he performed in whiteface.

His breakthrough Broadway appearance came in the role of Little Joe, a stereotypic lazy rascal in the musical Cabin in the Sky (1940–1941). This led to his signing for the Paramount studio in Hollywood, which lent him to Warner Bros. for his role as Sam in Casablanca. He played Pompey, an escaped slave, in the musical Bloomer Girl (1946–1948). His performance of the song "The Eagle and Me" in this show was selected by Dwight Blocker Bowers for inclusion in a Smithsonian recordings compilation, American Musical Theatre.

Dooley is buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles. The cemetery is notable for the number of former Los Angeles mayors and other politicians who are buried there.


Wilson appeared in over twenty motion pictures, but won immortality for his role as Sam in the 1942 film Casablanca. For his role, he was paid $350 a week for seven weeks.[1] Sydney Greenstreet, in comparison, was paid $3750 a week.[2]

Sam is a singer and pianist employed by nightclub owner Rick (Humphrey Bogart). The Herman Hupfeld song "As Time Goes By" appears as a continuing musical and emotional motif throughout the film. Rick and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) regard it as "their song" and associate it with the days of their love affair in Paris. Because of their breakup and Ilsa's marriage to another, Rick has forbidden the song to be played in his club. When Ilsa appears in his nightclub she requests it and Sam acquiesces. Dooley Wilson gives a genial and warm rendition of the song. The performance is remembered for itself, as well as for its cinematic associations. The song makes Rick aware of Ilsa's presence and her continuing feelings for him. According to Aljean Harmetz, Variety singled him out for the effectiveness of the song, and the Hollywood Reporter said he created "something joyous."

In a later scene, Rick sits in a darkened nightclub, alone except for Sam, drinking heavily and torturing himself by insisting that Sam repeatedly play the song, saying "You played it for her, you can play it for me... If she can stand it, I can! Play it!"

In the film, Wilson as Sam performs several other songs for the cafe audience: "It Had To Be You", "Shine", "Knock On Wood", and "Parlez-moi d'amour". Dooley almost did not get his signature role, in fact, the role was almost played by a woman. A popular singer in the forties, Ella Fitzgerald, was considered for the part of Rick's nightclub entertainer.

Wilson was a singer and drummer, but not a pianist. Sam's piano playing in the film was actually performed by Elliot Carpenter, who was placed where Wilson could see and imitate his hand movements. The only black people on the Casablanca set, Wilson and Carpenter became and remained friends.



  1. ^ Harmetz, Aljean. The Making of Casablanca: Bogart, Bergman, and World War II, Hyperion, p. 144 (2002) - ISBN 0786888148
  2. ^ Harmetz, p. 145


  • Dooley Wilson Filmography at the Internet Movie Database
  • American Musical Theatre: Shows, Songs, and Stars; (1989) Dwight Blocker Bowers. Smithsonian Collection of Recordings, Washington, D. C.
  • Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca —Bogart, Bergman, and World War II; (1992) Aljean Harmetz, Hyperion, New York

See also

External links

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