Rafael Feldman, left, and Yan Feldman in Curtiz (2018). Netflix photo

In Netflix’s black and white Hungarian film “Curtiz” we are introduced to one of Hollywood’s most notorious film makers of the past- Micheal Curtiz (played here by Ferenc Lengyel).

Curtiz was a Hungarian refugee who acted and directed myriad films in his native country after WWI, and then fled Europe in 1926 to come to America to get rich.

It’s safe to say that most of today’s viewers of writer/director Tamas Yvan Topolanszky’s film “Curtiz” will have no idea who Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca,” “The Adventures of Robin Hood” starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, and I should add “Captain Blood”) was.

As a young actor and film student, I sat through seven of Curtiz’s films, some of them 10 or 12 times each, with the exception of “Casablanca,” which I’ve seen more times than I’ve seen the sun rise.

So what then, drew me to sit through the one hour and 38 minute running time of Tamas Topolanszky’s film about the making of this classic?

Two reasons: It’s what I do for a living, and to be sure Tamas wouldn’t stoop to having an imitation Bogie in a white dinner jacket, or a Hungarian Jennifer Aniston do Ingrid Bergman.
Thankfully, he doesn’t.

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Ferenc Lengyel, who plays Curtiz, isn’t a bad actor, probably has many fans back in Hungary, but playing a philanderer seducing prop girls two at a time won’t win him an Oscar.

The strongest performance that pops out at us is Evelin Dobos as “Kitty,” Curtiz’s estranged daughter, who has been banned from the film’s set, but gets herself cast as an extra in Rick’s Cafe. She clearly has a brighter future.

As to everyone else, it’s a waste of time watching a Hungarian play the very American Warner Brother’s chief Hal Wallis. And it may be hard for movie people to get past opening scenes with Jack Warner in a fake uniform and a greasy paste on mustache.

 

A final thought, I should have remembered watching the making of anything is usually boring. That holds true.

I did learn this. It wasn’t Michael Curtiz who made “Casablanca” a timeless picture. It was Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and everyone involved.

I would like to tip my hat to an old friend, who taught me more about “Casablanca” than most.
Marcel Dalio, who played the croupier in Rick’s gambling room, was a star in Jean Renoir’s “La Grande Illusion” and “The Rules of the Game.” RIP Marcel.

Note: Interested viewers will learn all there is to know about the real making of “Casablanca” from American author Frank Miller in his big 50th Anniversary commemorative — “Casablanca — As Time Goes By,” complete with full color posters, stunning black and white photos, and richly detailed inside history of the film and every one in it. The book is available at Turner Publishing Inc. Atlanta, Georgia. Google it and enjoy.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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