OF all the hotel rooms in all the towns in all the world… Casablanca started life here.
A Bournemouth hotelier is commemorating his business’s links with the Hollywood classic.
It was in a room at the Hotel Celebrity that writer Murray Burnett began work on the play that became the basis for the Oscar-winning romantic drama of 1942.
In those days, the hotel had a dedicated writing room where Burnett started turning his experiences of wartime Europe into the story of Everybody Comes To Rick’s.
The hotel has recently had the room decorated in Moroccan style – and guests can propose a toast of “Here’s looking at you, kid” under a picture of Humphrey Bogart.
Hotel owner Ken Robins said: “It wasn’t until the 1970s that the significance of Murray’s stay at the hotel was realised. By then, the hotel writing room had been refurbished and the original fitments and desk long replaced.
“Rather than recreate the original writing room, we decided that the room itself would be converted to a small dining room, aka Rick’s Cafe.”
Burnett and his wife Frances had travelled to Nazi-occoupied Vienna in the summer of 1938 to help Jewish relatives smuggle out money.
The couple stayed in Bournemouth for a few weeks in 1939 while Burnett made notes for his play. The hotel was then called the Durlston Court and was run by the Hancock family, whose son Tony Hancock was to become one of Britain’s greatest comedians.
Burnett completed his play in the US the following year, with co-writer Joan Alison.
Unable to find a Broadway producer, the writers sold the script to Warner Brothers for 20,000 US dollars. The studio began rounding up the usual suspects, including stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
The play was adapted into an Oscar-winning screenplay and includes many of the film’s key elements with one of Burnett’s favourite popular songs, As Time Goes By.