Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, cynical “gin joint” manager
Casablanca, Morocco, December 1941
Release Date: November 26, 1942
Director: Michael Curtiz
Before Casablanca was released in 1942, Humphrey Bogart had spent the majority of his career in secondary roles as sniveling bastards. His first major role in The Petrified Forest saw him as a Dillinger-esque armed robber far more interested in his six-shooter than romance. He was the foil to Jimmy Cagney’s criminal “hero” in Warner Brothers gangster flicks like Angels With Dirty Faces and The Roaring Twenties, and it wasn’t until 1941 when he finally received star billing in both High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. The latter film is often considered his breakout role as the cynical P.I. Sam Spade, but it wasn’t until a year later with Casablanca that he would finally be a romantic lead.
The role of Rick Blaine was perfect for Bogie, finally allowing him to develop a romantic depth to his character’s cynicism. Casablanca was never intended to be anything out of the ordinary, despite the cavalcade of stars and writers involved in its production. Many, including those at Warner Brothers, considered it to be a mere copy of the now-forgotten 1938 film Algiers. The film exceeded all expectations and is considered to be one of the few true masterpieces in cinema. It took home the three major production Oscars in 1943 for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay (Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard E. Koch, and an uncredited Casey Robinson), and shines a contemporary look at World War II.
What’d He Wear?
They say April showers bring May flowers, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still get plenty of rain in May. It’s hard to look cool when it’s raining, but Bogie’s now-iconic trench coat provides the perfect basis for doing just that. Add a wet fedora and a dangling cigarette, and this could be the beginning of a beautiful wardrobe.
Of course, Bogie isn’t nude under that trench coat; he’s wearing a suit. Colorized images – and the controversial digitally colorized version of the film – have shown his suit to be anything from taupe to blue, but I think a tan shade of taupe makes the most sense given the desert context. Whatever light color the two-piece suit is, it appears to be made from a lightweight wool.
The suit coat is single-breasted with large notch lapels. The notches are gently rounded rather than pointed, and the left lapel has a buttonhole. The lapels roll down over the top button, revealing two of the three dark leather cluster buttons on the suit’s front. The four buttons on each cuff are also dark leather clusters.
Bogie’s suit coat shoulders are padded to give the small-framed actor a more imposing presence, which any man would certainly need against Sydney Greenstreet! The three outer pockets are large patches with rounded bottoms, and a white linen handkerchief casually pops out from the breast pocket. The jacket’s rear is ventless.
The suit trousers are very fitting for the early ’40s with their high rise, single forward pleats, and generous fit that slightly flares out toward the cuffed bottoms. Bogie often places his hands in the slanted side pockets.
The slim leather belt worn through the trousers’ thin loops appears to be the same light color as the rest of the suit, fastening through a simple front clasp.
Bogart’s white dress shirt has a spread collar with long, edge-stitched points. The collar’s long points look fine with the jacket on, but behind-the-scenes photos reveal a nearly disco-length collar when he takes the jacket off. The shirt also has double cuffs, but they fall short under the jacket sleeves and are hardly visible in the film itself.
Rick wears two ties with this suit. The first, for his visit to Ferrari, alternates dark and medium-colored stripes crossing diagonally down from the right to left.
The second tie, which he sports with the iconic raincoat and fedora for the finale, is a dark ground littered with small dotted squares.
And now we get to the coat itself. Now synonymous with ’40s film noir P.I.s (despite the fact that Bogart was a bar owner, not a P.I. in Casablanca), Bogart’s topcoat is a standard khaki cotton gabardine drill trench coat with a 6×3 double-breasted front. It is on the shorter side for a trench coat, extending down to his knees.
The coat worn by Bogart in Casablanca was made by Burberry, which shares Acquascutum’s claim for the invention of the trench coat. Burberry’s claim is likely the more valid of the two, with Thomas Burberry having submitted a similar design for an Army officer’s raincoat to the British War Office prior to World War I. Thomas was also the inventor of gabardine in 1880, which is used in the construction of the traditional trench coat to provide its resistance to water.
The coat has wide edge-stitched lapels with small buttons under both sides of the collar. The epaulettes also close with a button on a pointed strap where the shoulder meets the collar. The storm flap extends to both sides of the chest and to a point in the back.
Like most trench coats, there is a belted waist in addition to the button front, tied through a buckle. There are three metal D-rings across the back of the belt. Each raglan sleeve also has a buckled strap at the cuff. There are two slanted outer hand pockets, which appear to be open with no buttons or flaps.
Trench coats grew popular during World War I as a practical and comfortable military alternative to great coats or rubber jackets when fighting in the front line trenches. After the Second World War, the military connotations of the trench coat lent it a respectability for business outerwear, but at the time of Casablanca – set in 1941 and released in 1942 – it would’ve still been primarily a military garment. Although Rick himself never actually served in an official military, he had indeed been involved in war as a pro-Ethiopian gun runner and a Loyalist fighter during the Spanish Civil War. It’s very likely that he would’ve come across the trench coat during his dealings with the military and found its practicality attractive, especially as waterproof outerwear in a warm climate country like Morocco.
Magnoli Clothiers, known for their film costume replicas, has created the “Casablanca Bogart Trenchcoat” in cotton canvas, available for $595. Offered in a range of colors from tan to black, it features “Long pointed Golden-Era style collar, Full-length working epaulettes, Dropped D-rings at back, Stitch-hemmed cuffs”, all accurate reflections of the coat worn by Bogie in the film. The Magnoli trench even features the movie’s 6-button front rather than the traditional 10-button front.
Bogart’s wide-brimmed fedora is dark felt, likely either dark gray or dark brown, with a high pinched crown and a wide black grosgrain ribbon.
Bogart’s shoes don’t receive much screen time, but it looks like he is wearing a pair of dark brown leather plain-toe slip-ons. The full break of the trousers keeps the socks out of view, but he’s probably wearing a pair of light-colored breathable cotton socks.
Bogart was able to incorporate his usual jewelry and accessories for Rick Blaine. His wristwatch is a Longines Evidenza, which had just been released in 1941 and was seen on a dark brown leather strap on Bogie’s left wrist through much of his career. The tonneau-shaped gilt case had “H.B.” inscribed on the inside.
What to Imbibe
There’s something about the way Humphrey Bogart pronounces the word “bourbon”, somehow stressing each letter rather than the more common and certainly bastardized “berbin” that one hears in bars these days. The Bourbon whiskey found throughout Casablanca has a Kentucky Hill label.
I have yet to discover whether or not this was an actual Bourbon of the era. Regardless, the “brand” was revived in 2012 for the second season of American Horror Story when Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), having been overtaken by Satan, uses ” a bottle of, um, Kentucky’s” to lure the troubled Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) back to drink.
(In case you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, this is about halfway through “Dark Cousin”, the seventh episode of American Horror Story: Asylum.)
The brand is likely not real and is a prop house’s attempt to mimic the look of the venerable Heaven Hill brand of Bourbon, which has been producing continuously since 1935. Interestingly, and sadly, the distillery chugged along for sixty years until the evening of November 7, 1996 when a fire broke out in an aging warehouse and spread to other buildings and vehicles, consuming 90,000 barrels of bourbon and creating a “river of fire” from the warehouses.
In addition to its multiple Bourbon brands (including Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, J.T.S. Brown, and Fighting Cock), Heaven Hill also produces a variety of other low-priced booze, ranging from whiskey and gin to tequila and brightly-colored, fruit-flavored liqueurs.
How to Get the Look
This is the classic Bogart look, oozing with cynicism and failed romance. Wear it if it’s raining or if you just feel like being extra cool.
- Light taupe lightweight wool suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted suit coat with large rounded notch lapels, 3-roll-2 button front, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and ventless rear
- Single-pleated high rise trousers with belt loops, slightly slanted side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Khaki cotton gabardine drill waterproof Burberry trench coat with long point-collared lapels, 6×3 button double-breasted front, slanted hip pockets, buttoned epaulettes, front and back storm flap, belted waist (with three rear D-rings), and buckle-strapped cuffs
- White dress shirt with long-pointed spread collar and double/French cuffs
- Dark maroon ground silk necktie with small dotted square motif
- Dark gray felt wide-brimmed fedora with high pinched crown and wide black grosgrain ribbon
- Dark brown leather plain-toe slip-on shoes
- Taupe cotton dress socks
- Tan leather belt
- Longines Evidenza gilt-cased wristwatch on dark brown leather strap
- Gold ring with two rubies and diamond
All colors are obviously a guess, but these are what I always imagined for the outfit.
Although he carries a 1911 on all of the film’s artwork, the 5’9″ Bogart knew that he would look more menacing with a smaller sized gun. Thus, Casablanca‘s armorers handed him a Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless, a nearly ubiquitous compact pistol of the era.
The Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless was another of John Browning’s popular designs. It was introduced in 1903 – hence its nomenclature – and originally chambered for the .32 ACP (7.62×17 mm) round; a .380 ACP version was produced simultaneously from 1908 onward. Nearly 600,000 examples of the Model 1903 were produced through World War II when production wrapped in 1945 in the wake of the demand for more modern double-action pistols. The Colt 1903 uses a single-action trigger with a blowback action.
Despite its name, the Colt Pocket Hammerless actually does have a hammer, but it is totally concealed by the slide in order to ease draw from inside a pocket. Pocket carry became more and more common in the early 20th century after the industrial revolution when urban carry evoked images of an undercover detective or pinstripe-suited gangster rather than Wyatt Earp or Jesse James. The Colt 1903 was a fine solution to anyone looking to conceal a reliable handgun, offering a then-generous capacity of nine rounds (one in the magazine, one in the chamber) in one load.
The Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless is small but substantial, weighing just around 1.5 pounds with a barrel shy of 4 inches long. To compare, the full-size 1911 is about a pound heavier with an inch longer barrel. The Walther PPK, which emerged in the ’30s as a spiritual competitor to the 1903, was the same size and weighed only 3 ounces less. The modern equivalent of the Colt 1903 Hammerless would be the Kel-Tec P-32, which can take a 7 or 10 round magazine of .32 ACP in a pistol that weighs 9.4 ounces when fully loaded, firing through a 3-inch long barrel; the P-32’s polymer construction makes it weigh less than half the mass of an unloaded Model 1903!
Still, the innovations of a polymer frame and a reliable subcompact mechanism were decades away when Rick Blaine decided he needed an intimidating but easily concealed sidearm. The Colt Model 1903 was a perfect choice for the former American gun runner who likes to have a couple aces up his sleeve.
I had always wanted a Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless of my own. Although I mention much more practical weapons, I’d always been attracted to their historical relevance and pleasing aesthetics. I finally managed to get one, imported from Texas, in December 2011. I haven’t tried Bogie’s firing from the hip, but my .32 Model 1903 is truly a point-and-shoot masterpiece; with little-to-no recoil, the round hits its desired target with every shot.
For anyone curious, my particular Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless is a blued Type III model, manufactured in 1917, with integrated barrel bushing and black checked hard rubber grips. I stripped and cleaned it after I first received it, and – with regular oiling – it fires like a dream.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.