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The twin screenwriters Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein, who with Howard Koch co-authored the screenplay for the 1942 classic film Casablanca,for which they won an Academy Award, were born in New York on this date in 1909. After attending Penn State together, Philip became an actor and Julius a boxer (they both boxed at Penn State) before they headed to Hollywood and became contract writers for Warner Brothers -- Julius first, in 1933, and then as a team starting in 1939. The twins wrote eighteen films together before Philip died at 42, with film credits that included The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), Arsenic and Old Lace (’44), and The Last Time I Saw Paris (’54). Julius lived to be 91 and received three more Oscar nominations while working on a total of fifty screenplays. Julius was called before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee during McCarthyism. Asked if he had ever worked for a subversive organization, he reportedly replied, “Yes, Warner Brothers.”
“Frankly, I can’t understand [Casablanca’s] staying power. If it were made today, line for line, each performance as good, it’d be laughed off the screen. It’s such a phony picture. Not a word of truth in it. It’s camp, kitsch. it’s just...slick shit!” --Julius J. Epstein
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.