Play it again, Sam
The iconic song
from a beloved film,
signed by the actress
Well into the filming of Casablanca, the ending had still not been decided upon. Film critic David Denby writes that such uncertainty “enhanced Ingrid Bergman’s anxiety, playing into her extraordinarily touching performance” in the film. Casablanca went on to become one of the most beloved films of all time, making stars of its cast and a classic of its key song.
Written in 1931 by Herman Hupfeld, “As Time Goes By” was not yet famous until it was featured in Casablanca, sung by the character Sam (Dooley Wilson) and played throughout as a leitmotif. The film’s producer. Max Steiner, thought the song was terrible, but by the time he came up with an alternative, the scenes had already been shot. Ingrid Bergman had cut her hair for a new film project, making a reshoot impossible.
With an unforgettable ending and just the right song seemingly set by the fates, Casablanca was released nationally in January of 1943 to moderate success and critical review. Its popularity grew after it won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, beginning its path to becoming an icon of American film. According to Roger Ebert, Casablanca is "probably on more lists of the greatest films of all time than any other single title, including Citizen Kane" because of its wider appeal.
After Casablanca, Ingrid Bergman became one of the most prominent leading ladies in Hollywood, winning three Academy Awards, two Emmys, and the Tony Award for Best Actress. The American Film Institute ranks her as one of the five greatest female stars of all time. The institute placed “As Time Goes By” at No. 2 on a list of the 100 greatest songs in film (“Over the Rainbow” taking No. 1).
Material signed by Bergman relating to her role as Ilsa Lund in the historic film is extremely rare. Foxtail Books is pleased to present sheet music for “As Time Goes By” in a 1942 Casablanca edition, signed “Play it again Sam” by the actress. The previous owner approached Bergman for her signature in 1975 when she was in the touring production of the play The Constant Wife. She declined when the gentleman asked her to also write “Play it again, Sam,” and originally only signed her name in green fountain pen. Bergman’s manager, Kay Brown, suggested the music be left with her so that she could try to convince Bergman to sign the full quote, with no promise that she might consent. Several weeks later, Brown telephoned to say that she was successful.
“Play it again, Sam,” oddly enough, is a common misquote. The exchange between Ilsa Lund (Bergman) and the piano player (Wilson) in actuality plays as follows:
The misquote was further popularized by the 1972 Woody Allen film Play It Again, Sam. Whether Ms. Bergman didn’t want to sign a line that had never been a part of the movie to begin with or simply didn’t like being directed in her autograph style, we will never know.
Preserved in a blue cloth folding box, the covers of the signed music (featuring an image of Bergman and Humphrey Bogart) are a little worn, and the original price is inked in the upper righthand corner. The original owner noted that the first two letters of Bergman’s signature were traced over by the actress in a darker ink when she recognized the blue ink was too light and switched to green.
Rare and unusual, this 1943 sheet music, signed by Ingrid Bergman in 1975, is listed for $5,000.