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- American actor (1899-1957)
The piano that prompted Ingrid Bergman’s famous Casablanca line, “Play it, Sam,” sold at auction on Monday in Manhattan for $2.9 million. The iconic instrument played a major role in the classic 1942 film, in which it stood in the center of Rick’s Café and was the hiding place for Humphrey Bogart’s “letters of transit.” According to the auction listing, the lid of the piano was actually altered so that Bogart could easily stash the papers inside. Painted with a Moroccan designs, the piano is a beautiful piece of film history — although we never actually hear it in the film. Actor Dooley Wilson, who played Sam, couldn’t play the the instrument, so he mimicked the hand motions over the keyboard as a real pianist performed offscreen.
The Rick’s Café piano is one of two that feature prominently in Casablanca. The other is seen in the film’s flashback to Paris, where Rick and Ilsa (Bergman) fell in love to the tune of “As Time Goes By.” That second piano sold at auction in 2012 for $602,500, and for a brief time, they were owned by the same collector. “I felt selfish,” he told the LA Times on his decision to put the first piano up for auction. “Nobody should have both pianos from Casablanca.”
The piano, however, did not fetch the highest price at the ‘TCM Presents: There’s No Place Like Hollywood’ Auction at Bonhams. That honor goes to the original Cowardly Lion costume worn by Bert Lahr in The Wizard of Oz, made from actual lion skins, which sold for over $3 million. Other notable pieces of film memorabilia sold on Monday include a Rita Hayworth costume from Gilda ($161,000); the booby-trapped fertility idol from Raiders of the Lost Ark ($16,250); Clark Gable’s gold wedding ring from his marriage to Carole Lombard ($50,000); Saruman’s wizard staff from the Lord of the Rings trilogy ($125,000); and a Springtime for Hitler prop poster from Mel Brooks’ The Producers ($8,750).
The Cowardly Lion suit from The Wizard of Oz also sold at the auction
Take a look at the Rick’s Café piano in these two memorable scenes from Casablanca.
Play It, Sam:
The The Marseillaise:
Photo: AP Photo/Richard Drew, AP Photo
This post has been updated with additional information.