Casablanca (1941-1943): War-Context, Writing, Production and Release Time Line

September, 1939  China and Japan have been fighting since 1938 in a conflict which eventually results in Japan's conquest of China.  On September 1, Germany invades Poland from the west.  Great Britain and France declare war on Germany.  German submarines begin sinking merchant and military ships in the Atlantic.  Japan and the United States announce their neutrality.  Russia invades Poland and Estonia from the east.  The French mass their army behind the "Maginot Line" of forts and walls on the French border with Germany.

October, 1939  Germany begins to arrest Jews in occupied countries and sends them to concentration camps in Poland. 

November, 1939  U.S. Neutrality Act passed by Congress, authorizing arms sales to Great Britain and France.  "Isolationists" in America protest this as involving the country in a foreign war in which it has no stake.  Russia invades Finland.  The Polish "government-in-exile" established in Great Britain to coordinate resistance activities in Poland.

May, 1940  Germany invades France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium.  British troops retreat to the beaches of Dunkirk and are evacuated by a flotilla of small craft from England.

June 1940  Italy declares war on the United Kingdom and France.  On June 14, Paris falls to the German Army, and France surrenders on June 25--Marshall Petain forms a collaborationist government at Vichy.  On June 18, General Charles de Gaulle creates the French government-in-exile in London, and the "Free French Resistance" movement begins espionage and sabotage attacks on occupying German troops in France.

July 10, 1940-June, 1941  The Battle of Britain, in which Royal Air Force fighters defend the islands against massive Luftwaffe bombing raids on all major cities in England and Ireland.  Large-scale civilian casualties. 

July-August 1940 Playwright Murray Burnett collaborates with Joan Allison to write the stage play, Everybody Comes to Rick's. In New York, they found no producers willing to back the play, which was never performed or published, but they sold the script to Warner Brothers for $20,000.  To this day, the text of the play remains the property of the studio.

March 11, 1941  President Roosevelt signs the "Lend Lease Bill," authorizing Great Britain to purchase weapons and other materials while deferring payments until after the war, effectively ending United States "neutrality," though America still has not declared war.  By April, U.S. Navy patrols are in defensive actions against German submarines in the Atlantic.

June 22, 1941  Luftwaffe bombing raids over England stop when Germany sends the planes east, breaks its non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union and invades it, reaching Moscow by  October.  Although U. S. warships have been fired on and the destroyer Ruben James has been torpedoed by a U-boat (10/31/41), American still has not declared war.

December 7, 1941  Japan attacks the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, declaring war on American and the United Kingdom.

December 8, 1941 The script of Everybody Comes to Rick's arrives at Warner Brothers in Hollywood, California.  America declares war on Japan the same day, and after Germany and Italy declare war on America on December 11, America declares war on them, as well.  On December 31, Producer Hal Wallis officially changes the film's title to Casablanca.

January-August, 1942: Production Sequence--January-March Screen tests for the leading roles. May 25 Shooting begins with the Paris flashback sequence.  July 11, Max Steiner named music director.  August 1, Humphrey Bogart completes shooting his scenes.  August 3, last official day of shooting. August 21, Bogart, Veidt, and Rains reshoot the final airport scene.

April 1942  The American army in the Philippines surrenders to the Japanese.  In the same month, the U.S. launches the "Doolittle Raid," American B-25 bombers on a one-way mission from aircraft carriers off Japan to bomb Tokyo and other industrial cities before landing in China or ditching in the sea.  This action, and the naval victories in the May "Battle the Coral Sea" and June "Battle of Midway," are major propaganda victories for Americans demoralized by losses.  In June, Japan attacks Dutch Harbor in the Alaskan Territories, and on June 18, America secretly begins the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb. The secret German nuclear weapons program had been underway since April of 1939.  American troops still have not fought in the European "theater of war."

September 22, 1942 Casablanca previewed in Huntington Park and Pasadena, California.

October, 1942  Germans launch the V-2, the first successful ballistic missile to reach outer space in a test flight. 

November 8, 1942 Allied forces land in North Africa, including American Army troops who had sailed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, on October 24.  They are the first American ground forces to fight in the European war.

November 26, 1942 Casablanca opens in New York City.

January 14, 1943  Roosevelt goes to Casablanca (the place, not the movie!) to plan the invasion of Europe with Churchill and Stalin.

January 23, 1943 Casablanca opens in general release in theaters across America.