'Casablanca' piano set for auction

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman listen as Dooley Wilson plays the small piano in the classic "Casablanca."

Story highlights

  • One of the two pianos in "Casablanca" will be auctioned at Sotheby's Friday
  • The prop was a central part in the flashback sequence at La Belle Aurore
  • The estimated price for the piano is $800,000 to $1.2 million
If you love "Casablanca," here's your chance to play it again, and again, and again.
One of the two pianos featured in the 1942 classic film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman will be auctioned tomorrow in New York by Sotheby's.
While Rick (Bogart) and Ilsa (Bergman) will always have Paris, you could walk away with Sam's iconic upright, especially if money is no object.
"The estimated price for the piano is $800,000 to $1.2 million," said David Redden, Vice Chairman at Sotheby's. "But I don't want to speculate and scare people from bidding."
Redden is no stranger to this famous Hollywood prop. He first auctioned it off back in 1988. "It was sold to a Japanese man and now it's come back to us," Redden told CNN. "He paid $154,000 for it."
Any fan of the romantic film knows the piano played a central part in the flashback sequence at La Belle Aurore, where Rick and Ilsa listen to Sam sing "As Time Goes By."
Dooley Wilson, the actor who portrayed Sam, was a trumpeter, not a pianist, according to Redden. "He is sort of miming the fingering. But someone else is playing nearby and he was following the real player," Redden said.
The piano, which only has 58 keys, also stands out for its diminutive size and distinct hue. "Seeing the piano in real life you end up with a couple of things," said Redden. "It's quite colorful, green and distressed yellow. And you don't realize how small it is, so small in fact Bogart and Bergman sort of tower over it."
"It's called a studio piano and would have been wheeled around from person to person as the pianist played a favorite song. It can travel around quite easily."
The piano had no significant value in the golden age of moviemaking, Redden added. "It would be re-used again and again," he said.
The market for Hollywood memorabilia has exploded in recent years. The white "subway" dress Marilyn Monroe wore in 1955's "The Seven Year Itch" sold for a record $5.6 million in 2011. The blue gingham dress Judy Garland wore as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" was auctioned last month for $480,000.
Could the Casablanca piano fetch more than Dorothy's dress? Redden believes it will.
"The piano is a star of the film," he said, "the music is so emotive, so moving and the piano really becomes a symbol of the love story between Bogart and Bergman."