Here’s a little-known fact about one classic TV show: “Maverick” borrowed liberally from the Humphrey Bogart movie “Casablanca” for an episode of the show.
In the episode, “Escape to Tampico,” Bret has to go to Mexico and drag back a man who’s wanted for murder in New Orleans. Bret does it for the money. He’s essentially bankrupt after a sudden losing streak at poker. Steve Corbett (Gerald Mohr) is an American ex-pat hiding out in Tampico, Mexico. While there, Corbett has launched a gambling hall called La Cantina Americana.
Sound a little like Rick’s Café Americain? Well, the similarities don’t stop there. Like Humphrey Bogart’s “Casablanca” character Rick Blaine, Corbett favors white suits. He can’t return to America. And he never drinks with patrons of his business.
If that weren’t enough, “Maverick” also used parts of the Café Americain set to construct La Cantina Americana, the Tampico, Mexico joint that Corbett owns, according to MeTV.
‘Casablanca’ Won Multiple Oscars and Dramatized Real Events
A legendary film, “Casablanca” tells the story of a love triangle set amid World War II. At Rick’s Café in Morocco, presided over by Vichy France, American Rick Blaine runs his drinking and gambling establishment coldly and dispassionately. That is, until the arrival of a notorious man and his wife. The man is a refugee from Hitler’s concentration camps. His wife is the only woman Rick has ever loved.
Moreover, all this plays out against a backdrop mirroring the geopolitics of the moment in which the film was made. Nazis and Allied soldiers fight over music and over women on the grounds of Rick’s establishment. Rick’s employees sneak out to meetings of the Resistance. Meanwhile, Rick has something that his famous new customer needs to make it from Morocco to America. But when Rick sees the man’s wife in his café, it throws a wild card into the mix.
The movie won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. And as Aljean Harmetz details in “Round Up the Usual Suspects,” his book on the making of “Casablanca,” many of the extras and some of the cast playing refugees in Morocco were also refugees from a Europe under siege by Hitler’s forces.
‘Maverick’ Episode Was More Homage Than Rip-Off
So with a piece of film history at their fingertips, who can blame the makers of “Maverick” for working in multiple hat-tips to “Casablanca”?
In the end, the “Maverick” episode can be seen mostly as an homage to a great film. And also, perhaps, as an incentive for “Maverick” fans who haven’t seen “Casablanca” to watch it and understand the references.