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SoundTRAX: "Casablanca"

The soundtrack for "Casablanca" has an illustration of Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart looking into each other's eyes.
Turner Entertainment
Warner Bros. Pictures

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.

This may be the oldest film I've featured as a SoundTRAX selection, but when it's one of the best movies of all time, a true classic, I make no apologies.

It was on this day in 1942 that Casablanca was released. And I don't care if you're 18 or 80 it is required viewing. If you're one of those people who has an unnatural aversion to black and white films, get over it.

It's Humphrey Bogart at his tuxedoed, moody best. It's a flawless Ingrid Bergman who was born to be fought over by warring men and nations. It's Paul Henreid, whose so smooth and valiant you almost root for him over Bogey. Almost. And don't get me started on the best character actor of all time, Claude Rains, playing the greatest pseudo-villain in filmdom, stealing scenery and blithely tossing out some of the most clever dialogue ever written.

Even if you (shamefully) have never seen it, you've quoted it: the usual suspects. We'll always have Paris. Here's looking at you, kid.

Forget the year, forget the geography. No matter what horrific, political event is currently playing out in the world, Casablanca brings out patriotism you didn't even know you had.

And the music is what drives it all.

Max Steiner's score is sublime to be sure, but it's Dooley Wilson's show as Bogey's devoted piano player and bandleader, Sam.

Fun fact: Wilson was a drummer, so he had to mime playing the piano. It's actually Jean Plummer you hear on the keys. But it Wilson's warm and inviting voice you hear on gems like "It Had to Be You" and "Knock On Wood."

Full disclosure, as with most films from the forties, a true soundtrack wasn't released at the time.

But in 1997, happily, Turner Entertainment and Rhino Records finally issued an official one, complete with original music, famous dialogue from the film, and fun outtakes like Wilson singing "Dat's What Noah Done."

There can be little doubt as to what today's SoundTRAX tune is. It would be sacrilege to go anywhere else. It's the one composer Steiner inexplicably hated and didn't want to use, but later admitted begrudgingly in an interview that it "must have had something to attract so much attention."

It did and it still does.

For the 82nd anniversary of Casablanca, it's Dooley Wilson with "As Time Goes By."

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.

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