It gets better as time goes by

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 October, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 October, 1993, 12:00am

WHAT is there left to say about a film that's as adored as Casablanca - except that it deserves every ounce of adulation. The familiar war-time tale of harrowing intrigue and turbulent romance between cynical nightclub owner Rick, and Ilsa, the lost love (who of all the gin-joints in all the world walked into his), makes the heart grow fonder with every viewing.

It gave Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman the roles of their lives; boasted a fine support cast including Claude Rains, Paul Henreid and Sydney Greenstreet; and lines from the dialogue have become history - including some that weren't in the film like ''Play it again, Sam'', the biggest misquote since ''Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well''.

Less well-known is the fact that the film's signature song As Time Goes By came close to being left on the cutting room floor. The legendary Max Steiner (Gone With the Wind ) was brought in towards the end of filming to write the film score. He decided As Time Goes By should be replaced because he hadn't written it.

It was agreed that the relevant scenes involving the two main stars should be re-shot, but then director Michael Curtiz discovered that Ingrid Bergman had already had her hair cut short for her next role in For Whom The Bell Tolls. So, if it hadn't been for a hair cut, who knows what Dooley Wilson would have been miming to on those piano keys.

Many other ''what ifs'' surround Casablanca (World 9.30pm, Original Running Time 102 mins). What if Ronald Reagan and Ann ''the Oomph girl'' Sheridan, the original choices to play Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and Ilsa (Bergman) had got the parts? What if, that famous denouement had been different? Julius and Philip Epstein wrote the screenplay, based on the book Everybody Comes to Rick's, but Howard Koch altered it daily and not even the cast knew what Ilsa would do in the end.

As time's gone by the film's remained as enchanting (as long as you turn down the colour to the original black and white). No matter how often you watch, it still delivers chills to hear Bogart deadpanning gems like: ''I remember every detail. The Germans wore grey, you wore blue.'' PEARL'S alternative, One from the Heart (9.30pm, ORT 101 mins) is a startling romance/comedy/musical from Francis Ford Coppola, saved from its own pretensions by a light-hearted touch.

Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein ) and Frederic Forrest, an ordinary couple who love, hate and deceive each other (with Raul Julia and Nastassia Kinski, respectively) live to fight another day. Their ups and downs are played against a backdrop of stylised sets which melt and fuse at will. Idiosyncratic, but likable.

THE concert may have been washed out, but Bon Jovi certainly packed in lots of interviews during their recent visit. Jon and the lads have already appeared on T.C.T.V. (World, last Thursday) and now they pop up on Eye on Hong Kong (Pearl, 7.20pm).

Also on the show, there's an interview with magician and illusionist Fay Presto; a preview of Musicarama '93, Hong Kong's own contemporary music fest; and a report on the latest trends in underwear for which Gloria Wu speaks to (who else?) Marks & Spencer.

FINALLY, a note for those who love to hate Thirtysomething (World, 11.50pm) that everyday tale of yuppie folk. Tonight's episode is a classic. Entitled The Other Shoe, this is the episode where Nancy (Patricia Wettig, who in real life is married to Ken Olin) joins a cancer support group - and everyone inexplicably turns a strange shade of green.

Weird, and it totally eclipses the message the writers were trying to get across.