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`Here's looking at you, kid!'

Casablanca, arguably the best romantic movie ever, turned 60 last week. ANAND PARTHASARATHY takes a fond look at the film whose chaotic making never anticipated its huge success.

THE FILM that many still consider the greatest love story of all time, "Casablanca", turned 60 years old last week. The event was marked by a function in New York where surviving relatives of the two charismatic lead stars — Humphrey Bogart's widow Lauren Bacall and son Stephen with Ingrid Bergman's daughters, Pia, Isabella and Ingrid — joined to view a brand new 35 mm print struck by Warner Brothers from the original nitrate negative.

Last Tuesday saw the issue of a new digitally re-mastered version as a two-DVD set: disk one containing the crisp black-and-white print — as it would have been seen in 1943; disk two contains a documentary on the making of "Casablanca", narrated by Lauren Bacall, as well as some priceless, archival material: several minutes of original unused film footage as well as `off-takes' (rejected takes) that were found in the vaults of the studio.

Considering the casual — even chaotic — circumstances in which the film was made during World War II, it is a wonder that the end product clicked and remained a firm favourite with film-goers for the next half century. The screenplay was being written as the film went along. Screenwriter Philip Epstein's son Leslie recalled last week that no one knew how the film would end. Ingrid Bergman wanted to know who she was supposed to be in love with — the Bogart character or Paul Henreid. ``As soon as I know, I'll tell you,'' Epstein told her. The famous song, which Dooley Wilson sings when Ingrid Bergman eggs him on saying, ``Play it Sam. Play'', "As time goes by", was almost cut from the film in final editing because the film's main composer, Max Steiner, did not like it. However, there was no time to re-shoot, so it stayed, and became one of the film's defining moments.

Today, the film can be seen in India by anyone who buys the VCD issued recently by Saregama Video (Rs. 199). It is a good print with a clean sound track... and the timeless lines still come through as powerful as ever:

``Was that cannon fire is it my heart pounding?''

``Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine!''

``I came to Casablanca for the waters.''

``What waters? We are in the desert.''

``I was misinformed.''

``Here's looking at you, kid!''

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