George Raft was one of the leading male stars at Warner Bros. before Humphrey Bogart entered the picture. However, when offered the lead roles in "High Sierra" (1941) and "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), Raft made some very poor choices. He rejected the roles, both of which went to Bogart. Consequently, Bogie became a star and Raft's career started to decline. One of the stories surrounding Raft is that he also turned down the male lead in "Casablanca" (1943). This story, however, is a myth. Warner Bros' studio executive Jack Warner did have Raft in mind for the role of Rick Blaine (like he stated in a memo to producer Hal B. Wallis dated 2 April 1942: "What do you think of using Raft in Casablanca? He knows we are going to make this and is starting a campaign for it"), but Wallis had someone else in mind for the role. And, as "Casablanca" was being produced independently by Wallis under the Warner Bros' logo, he was free to choose his leading man and didn't have to follow Warner's suggestion. Thus, on 13 April 1942, Hal Wallis (clearly annoyed with Raft) sent the following memo to Jack Warner:
Source: the humphrey bogart estate (facebook page)
TO MR. WARNER
FROM MR. WALLIS
DATE April 3, 1942
I have thought over very carefully the matter of George Raft in "CASABLANCA", and I have discussed this with Mike, and we both feel he should not be in this picture. Bogart is ideal for it, and it is being written for him, and I think we should forget Raft for this property.
Incidentally, he hasn't done a picture here since I was a little boy, and I don't think he should be able to put his fingers on just what he wants to do when he wants to do it.
*Note: Mike whom Wallis mentions in his memo is director Michael Curtiz.
|left photo: Hal Wallis with Ingrid Bergman on the set of "Casablanca"; right: studio chief Jack Warner|