The World War II-era drama Casablanca staring Humprhey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman is regarded as a classic among American cinema and frequently ranks among the top films of all time, including #1 in the American Film Institute’s ranking of romantic movies. Though the film was released in 1942, it did not receive Oscar consideration until the 1944 Academy Awards. Casablanca received eight nominations and took home three trophies for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.
The award-winning screenplay is credited to three individuals — two of whom happen to be Penn State alumni.
Before Julius and Philip Epstein became Oscar winners, the two identical twin brothers spent time as undergraduate students at The Pennsylvania State College. The brothers came to State College by way of New York City, and while at the college, the twins participated in boxing. As documented in his obituary, Julius was captain of Penn State’s boxing team and earned the title of Intercollegiate Bantamweight Boxing Champion. Philip also had a proud history with the sport, performing well enough to reach the status of Intramural Lightweight Champion.
The brothers graduated in 1931 and departed for Hollywood where they began producing screenplays together. Aside from Casablanca, the brothers penned five screenplays together as well as two plays that were staged in Broadway theaters.
On their experience with Casablanca, the Epsteins are credited with the film’s witticisms and one of its most iconic lines.
“‘My brother and I were driving down Sunset Boulevard,” Julius once said, “And we looked at each other and said, ‘Round up the usual suspects.”’
Aside from their work as writers, the Epsteins are credited with helping redefine the working job description of writers at the time. During this period, writers were expected to work and fill 9-5 hours like most other occupations.
“There wasn’t one moment of reality in Casablanca. We weren’t making art. We were making a living,” Julius said on the film in 1984. “Movies in those days were prevented from reality.”
While working on another film, Philip fell ill, requiring the Epsteins to work from home. The work was produced in half the time than typical mandated studio time, convincing executives that writers need not adhere to such a stringent schedule.
“After that the Warners let them work at home, where they usually put in two intensive hours — all they felt they were good for,” The New York Times wrote in Julius’s obituary, “And spent the rest of the day playing tennis or listening to ballgames.”
While Philip passed away in 1952 from cancer, Julius lived until 2000 and remained an active member of the Penn State community. Julius was often a guest speaker for Penn State’s film department, and when he passed away in 2000, he was buried in a Penn State polo shirt.
If you’ve never seen the Epstein twins’ work, the State Theatre will show the classic film tonight at 4:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. If for no other reason, you’ll finally understand why “We’ll always have Paris.”