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On this day in 1943, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill set up the standard for product placement by meeting in Casablanca. Perhaps FDR did owe a favor to Warner Brothers, the only Democratic studio in Hollywood. Jack Warner was not deeply imbued with liberal principles; however, he felt compelled to support the political opposite of Republican Louis B. Mayer. Churchill went along with the choice of Casablanca, although he hated being mistaken for Sidney Greenstreet. The alternative site would have been far more dangerous: the set of "Kings Row".

Kings Row is now remembered as Ronald Reagan’s best film. In fact, it was also Robert Cumming’s best film. (Lourdes has yet to produce such a miracle.) The film tells of life in a small town at the turn of 20th century; mental illness runs rampant and the community is terrorized by a sadist physician (Charles Coburn in his nastiest role). Churchill also hated being mistaken for Coburn. The plot’s implications intimidated the allied leaders. Roosevelt and Churchill were prepared to fight Hitler, but not the American Medical Association.

Casablanca has a political resonance today. However inadvert, it led to the founding of Neo-Conservativism. Young Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz were indignant that Peter Lorre didn’t get the girl.

Originally posted to EugeneF on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 09:56 AM PST.

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