Play It Again, Sam (film)

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Play It Again, Sam
original movie poster
Directed by Herbert Ross
Produced by Arthur P. Jacobs
Screenplay by Woody Allen
Based on Play It Again, Sam
by Woody Allen
Music by Billy Goldenberg
Cinematography Owen Roizman
Edited by Marion Rothman
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • May 4, 1972 (1972-05-04)
Running time
85 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Play It Again, Sam is a 1972 film written by and starring Woody Allen, based on his 1969 Broadway play. The film was directed by Herbert Ross, which is unusual for Allen, who usually directs his own written work.

The film is about a recently divorced writer of film commentary, Allan Felix, being urged to begin dating again by his best friend and his best friend's wife. Allan identifies with the movie Casablanca and the character Rick Blaine as played by Humphrey Bogart. The film is liberally sprinkled with clips from the movie and ghost-like appearances of Bogart (Jerry Lacy) giving advice on how to treat women.


Set in San Francisco, the film begins with the closing scenes of Casablanca, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. We then see that the main character, Allan Felix (Woody Allen), is watching the film in a cinema, mouth agape. He leaves the cinema regretting that he will never be like Rick.

Apart from apparitions of Bogart he also has frequent flashbacks of conversations with his ex-wife, who constantly mocked his sexual inadequacy.

Allan Felix has just been through a messy divorce. His best friend, Dick Christie (Tony Roberts), and Dick's wife, Linda (Diane Keaton), try to convince him to go out with women again, setting him up on a series of blind dates, all of which turn out badly. Throughout the film, he is seen receiving dating advice from the ghost of Humphrey Bogart (played by Jerry Lacy), who is visible and audible only to Allan. Allan's ex-wife Nancy (Susan Anspach) also makes fantasy appearances, as he imagines conversations with her about the breakdown of their marriage. On one occasion, the fantasy seems to run out of control, with both Bogart and Nancy appearing.

We see that, when it comes to women, Allan puts on a mask. He attempts to become sexy and sophisticated, in particular he tries to be like his idol, Bogart, only to end up ruining his chances by being too clumsy. Eventually, he develops feelings for Linda, around whom he feels relatively at ease and does not feel the need to put on the mask.

At the point where he finally makes his move on Linda (aided by comments from Bogart) a vision of his ex-wife appears and shoots Bogart, leaving him without advice. He then makes an awkward move. Linda runs off but returns, realizing that Allan loves her. The song "As Time Goes By" plays as they kiss, with flashes from Casablanca.

However, their relationship is doomed, just as it was for Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca.

Dick comes home early from Cleveland and confides to Allan that he thinks Linda is having an affair, not realizing that her affair is with Allan. Dick expresses to Allan his love for Linda.

The ending is an allusion to Casablanca's famous ending. Dick is catching a flight to Cleveland, Linda is after him, and Allan is chasing Linda. The fog, the aircraft engine start-ups, the trenchcoats, and the dialogue are all reminiscent of the film, as Allan nobly explains to Linda why she has to go with her husband, rather than stay behind with him.

Allan quotes a closing line from Casablanca, saying, "If that plane leaves the ground and you're not on it, you'll regret it; maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life." "That is beautiful", Linda says, causing Allan to admit, "It's from Casablanca. ... I've waited my whole life to say it!" His journey is complete. The music from the scene in Casablanca resumes the theme "As Time Goes By", and the film ends.


  • Allan— 29 years old (although Woody Allen himself was 36 at the time he portrayed the character in the film). Allan writes for a film magazine, Film Weekly. He is neurotic, and as interested in antidepressants as in Bogart, a trait shared by Linda. (As Dick quips, "The two of you should get married and move into a hospital".) His favorite artist is Vincent van Gogh.
  • Dick— A workaholic businessman, dealing in real estate. Each time he appears on screen, he calls into his office to give the telephone number of where he can be reached and for how long, and then the next contact number.
  • Linda— A gentle soul with much in common with Allan, who accepts her husband's lack of attention. She has the same sense of humor as Allan and feels sorry for him. She tells him just to "be himself" as that is who she likes. She wears a hat in most scenes including the disco. When Allan gives her a gift of a plastic skunk on the beach one day, she clearly appreciates his thoughtfulness.
  • Nancy— Allan's ex-wife, is a free spirit, constantly criticizing Allan. She was married to Allan for two years. When he meets her later in an antique shop she is not the ogre he remembers.



Play It Again, Sam received a very positive critical response and currently holds a 97% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[1]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the film, giving it three out of four stars and saying, "as comedies go, this is a very funny one." He elaborated, concluding, "Maybe the movie has too much coherence, and the plot is too predictable; that's a weakness of films based on well-made Broadway plays. Still, that's hardly a serious complaint about something as funny as Play It Again, Sam."[2]


Quentin Tarantino said on his commentary track for True Romance (1993) that the character of Elvis Presley as portrayed by Val Kilmer, who appears to Christian Slater's character and gives advice and assurance, was based on the Humphrey Bogart character in this film.

The song "Beautiful and Light" by Tunng contains samples from the film.

See also


  1. "Play It Again, Sam". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 15, 2014. 
  2. Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1972). "Play It Again, Sam". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 15, 2014. 

External links