As the opening night for the Marx Brothers’ 1946 film A Night in Casablanca neared, the excitement and interest continued to build. One person, in particular, who took an interest was Jack Warner, the head of Warner Bros. Studios. His interest was more than idle curiosity; he had a vested interest in protecting the value of the Studios’ 1942 hit Casablanca and was very concerned about the similarities in title and plot between the two movies.
While Warner was justified in seeing the similarities, all he would have had to do was watch the new film, and his fears might have been put at ease. The zany comedy starring Groucho, Chico, and Harpo Marx bore only a passing similarity in the opening scene to the classic drama starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. From there, the story descends into classic Marx Brothers antics. Instead of the immortal Casablanca lines of, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” or “We’ll always have Paris,” views of the Marx Brothers’ film were treated to dialogue such as:
Ronald Kornblow: You know, I think you’re the most beautiful woman in the whole world.
Beatrice Rheiner: [eagerly] Do you really?
Ronald Kornblow: No, but I don’t mind lying if it’ll get me somewheres.
* * * * * * *
Mr. Smythe: Sir, this lady is my wife. You should be ashamed.
Ronald Kornblow: If this lady is your wife, YOU should be ashamed.
Groucho Marx was never one to pass up an opportunity to capitalize on a conflict. When he heard about Warner Bros.’ concern, he fired off an indignant letter, asserting that he and his siblings had use of the word brothers prior to the establishment of Warner Bros. He also said he was considering suing Warner Bros. over the title of its current hit film Night and Day. He claimed this infringed on the titles of two Marx Brothers films: A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races.
Ultimately, the comedy was released without legal action, but Warner Bros. ended up getting the last laugh. The distribution rights to A Night In Casablanca are owned by Castle Hill Productions, which, in turn, is owned by Warner Bros. Studios.