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Sotheby's to offer the most romantic movie prop of all time: The piano used in Casablanca
The piano used in the movie Casablanca. Estimate: $1.2 million. Photo: Sotheby's.
NEW YORK, NY.- On 14 December 2012, Sotheby’s will offer an icon of the Hollywood silver screen, the Paris piano from the Oscar award-winning Warner Bros. film Casablanca. The American Film Institute has ranked Casablanca the Most Romantic Movie of All Time and the Most Quotable. It is consistently found at or near the top of any list of great films. The romance between Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is movingly established during the famous flashback scene in Paris at La Belle Aurore. The 58-key piano (est. $800,000/1.2 million) on which Sam plays “As Time Goes By” is the key prop in the intensely romantic scene. Casablanca won three Oscars in 1943 for Best Picture, Best Writing (Screenplay) and Best Director, with Oscar nominations in five other categories, including Best Score. The piano comes to auction on the 70th anniversary of the film, which premiered on Thanksgiving Day in 1942.

The flashback at La Belle Aurore, with Rick and Ilsa leaning on the piano while Sam (Dooley Wilson) sings “As Time Goes By,” was the first scene filmed by director Michael Curtiz. The three drink champagne and Bogart utters his now immortal line, “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid,” while outside the café, loudspeakers announce the imminent arrival of the German army. Rick and Ilsa make plans to escape the city together, but Ilsa fails to meet Rick at the train station and he doesn’t see her again until she walks into Rick’s Café in Casablanca. Casablanca’s Rick Blaine was Bogart’s first significant role as a romantic lead.

David Redden, Vice Chairman and Director of the Special Projects Department notes: “How can anything say ‘I love you’ better than the piano from Casablanca?”

“As Times Goes By” was written by Herman Hupfeld in 1931 for a play called Everybody’s Welcome, but it has since become synonymous with Casablanca and is one of the greatest movie songs in Hollywood history. Casablanca was adapted from a play, and the song was chosen by writers Murray Burnett and Joan Alison to be representative of the love story.

The piano was sold by Sotheby’s in 1988 to a Japanese collector and at the time the price paid was one of the highest ever achieved for a movie prop. This December, original auctioneer David Redden will be back in the saleroom to offer this important piece of movie history one more time. Over the past few decades, the interest and market for movie memorabilia has dramatically grown. In 2011, Profiles in History presented Debbie Reynolds’ costume collection in two single owner sales, selling historic items from the silent film era through the Golden Age of Hollywood and beyond. Marilyn Monroe’s William Travilla-designed subway dress from The Seven Year Itch fetched the current record for movie memorabilia at over $5 million.

* Estimates do not include Buyer’s Premium.

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