Yesterday marked the 75th anniversary of the release of what is unquestionably the greatest movie ever made, Casablanca.
It's therefore opportune to look at one of the film's scriptwriters, Howard Everard Koch, seen above at his typewriter. Koch not alone worked on the Casablanca script with the Epstein brothers, Julius and Philip (for which they shared an Oscar), but while working for the CBS Mercury Theatre of the Air he wrote the script for Orson Welles' famous October 30, 1938, radio version of H.G.Wells' The War of the Worlds. Koch later wrote a play about the panic caused by the Welles broadcast, Invasion From Mars, which was adapted into the 1975 TV movie, The Night That Panicked America, in which actor Joshua Bryant plays Koch.
Koch was born in Kingston, Ulster, New York, on December 12, 1901. He was a graduate of St Stephen's College (later renamed Bard College) and Columbia Law School. While practising law in Hartsdale, New York, he began to write plays and moved on to the Hollywood studios.
A year after his work on Casablanca, in 1943, Koch was asked by Jack L. Warner, of Warner Brothers, to write the screenplay for Mission to Moscow. The movie became controversial because of its positive portrayal of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union and Koch was fired by Warner. He was denounced as a Communist and criticised by the House Un-American Activities Committee for his outspoken leftist political views. Koch was blacklisted by Hollywood in 1951.
Koch moved Britain, where he wrote under the pseudonym Peter Howard. He returned to the US in 1956 and settled in Woodstock, New York, where he continued to write plays and books while remaining actively committed to progressive political and social justice causes. Koch died in Kingston, New York, on August 19, 1995, aged 93.
Casablanca was based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick's. The movie was rushed into release to take advantage of publicity from the Allied invasion of North Africa a few weeks earlier. It had its premiere on November 26, 1942, in New York City and was released nationally a month later. It went on to win three Academy Awards.