Paul Henreid’s Victor Lazslo may be the most well liked foil in Hollywood history. For Henreid’s daughter Monika, It’s the stubborn mindset of Bogey’s Rick Blaine that makes Laszlo the true hero of Casablanca.
“The majority of people in the film, my father included, all of the background people were European’s and immigrants who basically just experienced the very thing the subject matter of the film is,” said Henreid. “The film was actually put together on a wing and a prayer. Dialogue was being written on a daily basis. They did have to enlarge the part of Victor Laszlo because in the original play you hear about him but you don’t see him. They had to make him visible so you had to write dialogue for a character who doesn’t have dialogue.”
Casablanca presents a rare case for two romantic leads in a classic Hollywood film.
“It had to be written that way because in 1942, a married woman could not stay behind with her lover. That would not have passed the production code, ever.”
So Victor Laszlo did pretty good for himself being billed as third lead.
“You need your name above the title, and you need to be the one that everyone wants to follow and be with. He felt that even though he had only done two films in Hollywood at the time, both times he was the leading man, both times it was just him and his leading lady above the title. He was very pleased that Ilsa goes with Victor at the end.”
Monika Henreid is working on a documentary to celebrate her father’s life. The project is appropriately titled ‘Paul Henried…Beyond Victor Laszlo’.