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You Must Remember This: Most Romantic Movie Prop of All Time to be Auctioned

by WorthPoint Staff (11/26/12).

The piano that Sam plays at the La Bella Aurore, with Rick and Ilsa in “Casablanca.” The piano is expected to bring between $800,000 and $1.2 million at auction on Dec. 14 at Sotheby’s.

An icon of the Hollywood silver screen, the Paris piano from the Oscar award-winning film “Casablanca,” will be auctioned on Dec. 14 at Sotheby’s in New York City. The 58-key piano on which the character Sam plays “As Time Goes By” is expected to realize between $800,000 and $1.2 million.

“Casablanca,” ranked by the American Film Institute as the Most Romantic Movie of All Time, as well as the Most Quotable, is constantly found near the top of any list of great films. It won three Oscars in 1943, taking Best Picture, Best Writing (screenplay) and Best Director, with nominations in five other categories. The piano comes to auction on the 70th anniversary of the film, which premiered on Thanksgiving Day in 1942

Over the past seventy years, “Casablanca” has become one of the most beloved movies ever made and the song so deeply entwined with it, “As Times Goes By,” has reached a similar immortality. This piano, which appeared in a flashback scene in Paris, 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.

The romance between Rich (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is movingly established during the famous flashback scene in Paris at La Bella Aurore where Sam is the piano player.

The flashback scene at La Belle Aurore, with rich and Ilsa leaning on the piano while Same (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 looking at you, kid,” while outside the café, loudspeakers announce the imminent arrival of the German army. Rich and Ilsa male plans to escape the city together, but Ilsa fails to meet Rick at the train station and he doesn’t see here again until she walks into Rick’s Café in Casablanca. The Rick Blaine character was Bogart’s first significant role as a romantic lead.

“How can anything say ‘I love you’ better than the piano from Casablanca?” asked David Redden, vice chairman and director of the Special Projects Department at Sotheby’s,

“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.

For more information about this auction, visit the Sotheby’s website.

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