New York: The painted upright piano that adorned Rick`s Cafe in the classic movie ‘Casablanca’ sold at auction for $3.4 million Monday after a frenzied sale in New York.
The piano -- on which Sam (Dooley Wilson) famously plays ‘As Time Goes By’ at the request of his one-time love Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) -- was among 200 items from Hollywood`s golden age that went under the hammer at Bonham`s in New York.
The piano featured prominently in the Oscar-winning 1942 romantic drama, with leading man Humphrey Bogart using it as a hiding place for the letters of transit that ultimately secure his former lover`s safe passage to the United States.
Dresses worn by Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Rita Hayworth were also auctioned, as well as a jacket worn by Clark Gable in "Gone With the Wind."
The Lion costume worn by Bert Lahr in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was also put up for sale.
Auctioneers had declined to estimate the Casablanca piano`s likely price, saying only that they expected it to fetch "the low to mid-seven figures."
Bidding opened at $1.6 million and escalated rapidly before closing three minutes later at $3.4 million including taxes.
The piano was specially adapted to allow Bogart`s character to perform his sleight of hand with the transit papers, hiding them in plain sight of the clientele at Rick`s.
Most likely made in 1927, the piano also has only 58 keys, 30 fewer than a classic piano.
The piano was offered for sale with a signed photograph of actor Dooley Wilson and a copy of "Casablanca," and even came with a wad of petrified chewing gum found stuck beneath the keyboard. A faint outline of a fingerprint could be seen on the gum, but its owner was unknown.
A winner of three Academy Awards, ‘Casablanca’ is ranked as the second greatest movie of all time by the American Film Institute, behind "Citizen Kane" and just ahead of ‘The Godfather’.
Items related to the film generated snappy business at Bonham`s, with a draft screenplay entitled ‘Everybody Come to Rick`s’ fetching $106,250, well above its $40,000-$60,000 estimate.
The doors featured in the entrance of Rick`s Cafe sold for $115,000, having been estimated at $75,000-$100,000.
The famous letters of transit at the heart of the film, estimated at between $100,000 and $150,000, sold for $118,750. One of the chairs from Rick`s Cafe fetched $5,000.