TexasEscapes.com HOME Welcome to Texas Escapes
A magazine written by Texas
Custom Search
NEW
TEXAS TOWNS
GHOST TOWNS
COUNTIES
TOPICS
TRIPS
ARCHITECTURE
COLUMNS
ARCHIVE
SITE MAP
SEARCH SITE
HOTELS


 

 




Texas | Columns

Casablanca’s East Texan
Dooley Wilson

The piano player who sang
"As Time Goes By" in Casablanca

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

When you talk to East Texas movie buffs about their favorite all-time films, the one everyone places near the top is Casablanca, a seventy-year-old love story made in 1942 starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

But few know that an East Texan, Dooley Wilson, played a significant role in the film--not necessarily as a part of the plot, but as the piano player who sang “As Time Goes By,” the classic theme which ranks among filmdom’s top movie songs.

An African-American, Wilson was born as Arthur Wilson on April 3, 1886, in Tyler.

He reportedly played in black clubs around Tyler before moving to Chicago, where he earned his nickname in 1908, the result of his signature Irish song, “Mr. Dooley” while playing at the Pekin Theater. He performed the role in whiteface.

Because of his role in Casablanca, history has forever associated Wilson with the piano. But Dooley never played one. He only sang and sometimes used the drums. Dooley performed on Broadway in the early forties and his breakthrough appearance came in the role of Little Joe, a stereotypic lazy rascal in the musical, “Cabin in the Sky.” He also played an escaped slave in “Bloomer Girl” and his performance of the song, “The Eagle and Me,” was included in a Smithsonian compilation of American theater songs.

While Casablanca established Dooley’s reputation on the silver screen, it wasn’t his first film. He had already played in more than twenty motion pictures when the Casablanca film came along. For his role, he was paid $350 a week. By comparison, Sydney Greenstreet was paid $3,750 a week.

If you remember the film, Sam was a singer and pianist employed by Rick (Humphrey Bogart). “As Time Goes By,” written by Herman Hupfield, appears as a continuing musical and emotional motif throughout the film.

Dooley’s rendition of the song is remembered for itself, as well as for its cinematic associations. About a year ago, a television show ranked the movies’ top songs--and “As Time Goes By” was among the top three, along with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Singing in the Rain.”

Since Dooley couldn’t play the piano, his playing in the film was actually done by Elliott Carpenter, who was placed on the set where Wilson could see him and imitate his hand movements. The only black people on the Casablanca set, Wilson and Carpenter remained lifelong friends.

Dooley almost didn’t get the Casablanca role. Ella Fitzgerald, a popular singer in the forties, was considered for the part and Dooley’s Sam might have been Ella’s Molly.

Ironically, Humphrey Bogart’s role as saloon owner Rick was originally supposed to be a young Ronald Reagan. George Raft, another popular actor in the forties, was a second choice.

Dooley died on May 30, 1953, in Los Angeles. He was buried in Rosedale Cemetery, a favorite resting place for politicians, notably former mayors of Los Angeles.


© Bob Bowman
July 24, 2005 Column, updated May 6, 2012
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)

More Bob Bowman's East Texas >
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers


Related Topics: Music | Texas Towns | Column | Texas



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



All Texas Towns :
Gulf Gulf Coast East East Texas North Central North Central Woutn Central South Panhandle Panhandle
South South Texas Hill Hill Country West West Texas Ghost Ghost Towns State Parks State Parks

TEXAS ESCAPES CONTENTS
HOME | TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE | SEARCH SITE
TEXAS TOWNS A-Z | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS A-Z | TEXAS COUNTIES

Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | FORTS | MAPS

Texas Attractions
TEXAS TOPICS
People | Ghosts | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Texas Centennial | Black History | Art | Music | Animals | Books | Food
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Rooms with a Past | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Stores | Banks | Drive-by Architecture | Signs | Ghost Signs | Old Neon | Murals | Then & Now
Vintage Photos

USA | MEXICO | HOTELS

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
Website Content Copyright Texas Escapes LLC. All Rights Reserved