Casablanca is a movie that was directed by Michael Curtiz. It was released in 1942 when black and white film was in its prime. Casablanca has won three Academy Awards: one for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and of course Best Picture in the 1944 Academy Awards.
It is an amazing film full of a lot of little tid-bits that you don’t catch up on until you watch it a second or third time. What was fascinating to me the whole time I was watching this award winning film was how do you edit something like this? I know that in today’s technology everything is digital and we just import things to our computers and we can use software specialized to edit clips into sequences for it all to make sense, but how do you edit when all you have is a 35mm camera and all it gives you is strips of printed frames?
The film editors worked with raw footage that was given in strips. This process was a creative art in itself. The editors took little eyeglasses and specialized instruments for looking at film. The editors then had to look at all of the film that was created for the picture and make cuts on spot by literally cutting the film strips and tossing the sections they didn’t need on the cutting room floor. To make a certain scene go into another one the editors would glue the two separate pieces of film together in such a way so that it didn’t catch the viewers eye. There were three different cuts that had to happen before the film could be put together.
First the editors had to make cuts of stuff that was not needed like when the director is walking out of the frame. These first editor cuts were called rough cuts and they are intended to give a ballpark feel of what the director wanted to do with the rest of the editing.
The director’s cut is where everything starts to come together as one. This is where the film starts to get its specific look. The director and editors would go over the rough cut with a fine-toothed comb to try and reveal what works best for the film and what isn’t working. The director will reorder, cut, or add some scenes for the film to make more sense. This process can take forever and it really depends on how the editors and director get along.
The final cut is the cut that is overseen by the producers who are involved with the company making the film. This process is the hardest because it is where the director and the studio fight over what is working and what isn’t.
Casablanca was one of those films that in modern day time you look past the editing because it is so well done. The editing is one of the reasons this won Best Picture in my mind. Casablanca will forever be one of the most classic films to ever be created.