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Everybody Comes to Rick's is an unpublished play which was the basis for the movie Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. It was written by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. It was produced at the Whitehall Theatre in London in 1991.



In the summer of 1938, while on vacation from his job as English teacher at a vocational school, Murray and his wife Frances travelled to occupied Vienna to help Jewish relatives there, for the Nazis had occupied the city in March that year. Later, the couple visited a small town in the south of France, where they went to a nightclub overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. There a black pianist played jazz for a crowd of French, Nazis, and refugees. Burnett returned to the USA via UK and stayed a few weeks in Bournemouth - it is at this time that the first diary notes that became the basis of the play were written. Burnett's experiences in Vienna inspired him to write a play in the summer of 1940 about a cynical bar owner of the Cafe Americain in Casablanca, Morocco named Rick. Eventually, Rick helps an idealistic Czech resistance fighter escape with the woman Rick loves.


When Burnett and Alison failed to find a Broadway producer, they sold the play to Warner Brothers for $20,000. Warner Brothers handed the script to the screenwriters Howard Koch and Julius and Philip Epstein, who changed the title to Casablanca. Otherwise fairly little was changed from the original play. Some dialogue was left out and added, the time sequence was changed a bit, and whereas the whole play takes place in Rick's cafe, the movie has some outdoor scenes. The only major change in the characters was that of Ilsa Lund, who was made more compatible with the Hays code. (In the play she wasn't married to Victor Laszlo.) Even the song "As Time Goes By" came from Burnett and Alison's play. The song, from 1931, had been Burnett's favorite when he was a student at Cornell. The café La Belle Aurore in Paris, where some of the film's most famous scenes take place, was based on the French nightclub that Murray and his first wife (Frances) had visited in 1938, where a black piano player inspired the character of Sam, played by Dooley Wilson. The real nightclub was on Cap Ferrat, on the French Riviera, and was also called Cafe Americain, as in the film.


The film's opening credits say 'Screen Play by...From a Play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison". However, after the success of Casablanca, Warner Brothers and the three screenwriters downplayed the role of Everybody Comes to Rick's in creating the movie. Although Koch and the Epsteins received an Academy Award for best screenplay in 1943, very little recognition was given to Burnett and Alison. Even the leading actors seemed unaware of Everybody Comes to Rick's. In 1974, Ingrid Bergman said in an interview: "Casablanca based on a play? No, I don't think so ... for we didn't know how the movie would end". A year earlier, Howard Koch wrote in New York Magazine that Everybody Comes to Rick's provided an exotic locale and a character named Rick who ran a café but little in the way of a story adaptable to the screen. Burnett unsuccessfully sued for $6.5 million. By 1991, Howard Koch, who was 89 years old, admitted in a letter to the Los Angeles Times that Murray's and Alison's complaints had been justified.

Burnett and Alison also sued Warner Brothers, when the television series based on Casablanca aired in 1983, but the courts decided that they had signed away all rights to their work. Finally, when they threatened not to renew their agreement with Warner Brothers when it would expire in 1997, they received $100,000 and the right to produce the original play.

Stage production

In 1991 Everybody Comes to Rick's was produced by David Kelsey at the Whitehall Theatre in London.[1] Leslie Grantham played Rick.

The authors


Murray Burnett

Murray Burnett was born in New York City in 1911. He was a high school teacher before becoming a playwright. His second wife was actress Adrienne Bayan. They met when she had a role in Hickory Street. Burnett was the uncle of documentary director Barbara Kopple. Burnett died on September 23, 1997 in New York City.

Burnett also wrote the play Hickory Street, based on his experiences as a teacher, which opened on Broadway in 1944. He wrote, produced, and directed many radio plays, including the 1952 ABC series Café Istanbul with Marlene Dietrich as Mlle. Madou. This show was transformed into Time for Love which ran for 38 episodes on CBS Radio in 1953.

Joan Alison

Joan Alison was born in 1902 and died 31 March 1992.




  • Harmetz, Aljean. Round up the Usual Suspects: The Making of "Casablanca". Bogart, Bergman, and World War II, New York: Hyperion, 1992
  • The Creator of Rick's Cafe Seeks Rights to 'Casablanca' Characters, New York Times, Oct 10, 1985
  • Obituary: Murray Burnett, 86, Writer Of Play Behind 'Casablanca', New York Times, Sep 29, 1997.
  • Obituary: Murray Burnett, The Independent, Oct 15, 1997.
  • Pay it Sam, The Weekend Australian, Jan. 31, 1998.
  • Casablanca, DVD, Turner 1999 with Murray Burnett interview about Cap Ferrat

External links


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