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'Casablanca' star lives in the shadow of his character

Paul Henreid, who played Nazi resistence leader Victor Laszlo, never achieved the fame of some of the movie's other stars and played largely European-type roles.

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Then a US consulate official noticed Henreid's birthplace, Trieste, formerly a part of Austria but by then in Italy. "Oh, we've got lots of space on the Italian list," his daughter says the consular official told him. "When would you like to go?"

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"Tomorrow," he answered.

Henreid created a European home in Los Angeles, a "Viennese island." It was a refuge for artists like Arthur Rubenstein, who practiced piano there, and for a never-ending troupe of scholars and intellectuals from the Old World.

Henreid existed half in and half out of Hollywood. "We didn't have Hollywood parties; it wasn't a celebrity center," his daughter says. "My father was close to Bette Davis, but we didn't live in Beverly Hills."

They had a nanny, a housekeeper, a cook, a French teacher, a gardener. "Sports wasn't something you talked about, it was something you did. You played tennis and rode horses every day," Monika Henreid says. "My mother taught the cook how to prepare Viennese food. It was very Old Europe. If the door to my parent's part of the house was closed, you didn't go in, you didn't even think about knocking."

"Casablanca," shot in 1942 just after Pearl Harbor, was based on a play by school teacher Murray Burnett ("Everybody Comes to Rick's") after a visit to Nazi-occupied Vienna. It continues to rank No. 1 or 2, along with Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane," as the best film of all time. Romance, moral tension, spies, Nazis, thieves, heroes, intrigue – all collide in Rick's Café Americain. It is run by a stoical antihero (Bogart), who, in the end, does the right thing since, "The problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy mixed up world."

Google "Casablanca" today, and the film comes up before the Moroccan city. But when it was made, "Casablanca" was an afterthought for Warner Brothers; Hungarian director Michael Curtiz said he never realized it would be a classic. Instead, emblematic music like "As Time Goes By" emerged. So did countless one-liners now echoed in pop culture: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here," "This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," "Round up the usual suspects," "Here's looking at you kid." (The oft-repeated "Play it again, Sam," isn't an actual line in "Casablanca;" Rick only says "Play it.")


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