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Casablanca piano goes under the hammer

Report & Video by Lauren Hood

The iconic piano from the 1942 film Casablanca is to be auctioned at Sotheby's in New York.

The 58-key musical instrument can be seen in the film when the character Sam (Dooley Wilson) sings "As Time Goes By" in an intensely romantic flashback Paris scene between Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Isla (Ingrid Bergman). It was the first scene filmed by director Michael Curtiz.

The piano is coming up for sale on the 70th anniversary of the film, which premiered in 1942. David Redden, Sotheby's Vice Chairman, estimates the piano will fetch anywhere between $800,000 to $1.2 million.

"I think Hollywood memorabilia has become more and more significant as time's gone on, as time goes by. In fact back in 1988 this was an extraordinary object but it's grown in stature because the movie has become ever more iconic as the years go by. And this really is the symbol of the movie. It's one of the greatest romantic movie props of all time," Redden said.

In the famous piano scene at La Belle Aurore in Paris, Rick, Isla and Sam drink champagne and Bogart utters his now immortal line, "Here's lookin' at you, kid," while outside the café loudspeakers announce the imminent arrival of the German army.

Casablanca went on to win three Oscars in 1943, including for Best Picture, with Oscar nominations in five other categories, including Best Score.

The piano itself is a surprising green and yellow in colour and very compact in size.

"Seeing the piano like this is a bit of a revelation because in the movie it's in black and white. And here we are, we see green and yellow and all sorts of things. But it's as it appeared in the movie, except just now in living colour. It would've been made as a small, what they call studio piano which could be wheeled from table to table in a cafe, which is why it's small as it is. Very compact, made in Los Angeles, probably in the late 1930s," Redden said.

The piano was first auctioned by Sotheby's in 1988 to a Japanese collector. According to Sotheby's, at that time the price paid was one of the highest ever achieved for a movie prop.

The piano goes back under the hammer on 14th December.

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