Dooley Wilson
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Dooley Wilson
Dooley Wilson
Dooley-Wilson Casablanca.jpg
Wilson in Casablanca (1942)
Born Arthur Wilson
(1886-04-03)April 3, 1886
Tyler, Texas, U.S.
Died May 30, 1953(1953-05-30) (aged 67)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor, singer, musician
Years active 1898-1951
Estelle Wilson (?-1953; his death)[1][2]

Arthur "Dooley" Wilson (April 3, 1886 - May 30, 1953) was an American actor, singer,[3] and musician who is best remembered as Sam in the 1942 film, Casablanca. In the film, he also performed the song "As Time Goes By".

Wilson was a drummer and singer who led his own band in the 1920s, touring nightclubs in London and Paris. In the 1930s he took up acting, playing supporting roles onstage on Broadway and in a series of modest films. His role in Casablanca was by far his most prominent, but his other films included My Favorite Blonde (1942) with Bob Hope, Stormy Weather (1943) with Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers, and the western Passage West (1951).[4][5]

Early life and career[6]

Dooley Wilson starring in the Federal Theatre Project production Conjur' Man Dies (1936)
Dooley Wilson as Fat Joe in the Federal Theatre Project revival of Eugene O'Neill's The Long Voyage Home, comprised in the production One-Act Plays of the Sea (1937)
Dooley Wilson as Androcles in the Federal Theatre Project production of Androcles and the Lion (1938)

Arthur Wilson was born in Tyler, Texas,[7] and broke into show business at the age of 12, playing in a vaudeville minstrel show.[7] He sang and played the drums in black clubs in the Tyler area before he moved to Chicago.[7] He received the nickname "Dooley" while working in the Pekin Theatre in Chicago, circa 1908, because of his then-signature Irish song "Mr. Dooley",[7] which he performed in whiteface. He worked in black theatre in Chicago and New York City for most of the period from 1908 to the 1930s, although in the 1920s he toured Europe as a drummer and singer in his own band, the Red Devils.[7]

From the 1930s to the 1950s Wilson worked in motion pictures and Broadway, including with Orson Welles and John Houseman at the Federal Theatre.[7] His breakthrough Broadway appearance came in the role of Little Joe in the musical Cabin in the Sky (1940-1941).[7] This led to his signing with the Paramount studio in Hollywood.


Sam, Dooley Wilson's role, is a singer and pianist employed by nightclub owner Rick (Humphrey Bogart). The Herman Hupfeld song "As Time Goes By" appears as a continuing musical and emotional motif throughout the film. Rick and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) regard it as "their song" and associate it with the days of their love affair in Paris. According to Aljean Harmetz, Variety singled him out for the effectiveness of the song, and The Hollywood Reporter said he created "something joyous". The phrase "Play it again, Sam", commonly believed to be a quote from the film (due to the eponymous title of the Woody Allen film), is never used. In the film, Wilson as Sam performs several other songs for the cafe audience: "It Had To Be You", "Shine (1910 song)", "Knock On Wood (1942 song)", "Avalon" and "Parlez-moi d'amour (song)".[8]

Wilson was a singer and drummer, but not a pianist. The piano music for the film was played offscreen and dubbed.[9] For his role as Sam in Casablanca, Wilson was paid $350 a week for seven weeks,[10] although other reports say that he was paid $500 a week.[7]

Wilson reunited with Bogart, portraying another piano player in Knock on Any Door (1949).[11]

Later life and career[6]

By the time Paramount lent him to Warner Bros. for his role as Sam in Casablanca, he had already appeared in over 20 films.[7] He was later in the cast for the film version of Stormy Weather (1943), an all-black musical, as Gabe, the best friend of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's character.[7]

Back in New York, Wilson played Pompey, an escaped slave, in the musical Bloomer Girl (1946-1948). His performance of the song "The Eagle and Me" in this show was selected by Dwight Blocker Bowers for inclusion in a Smithsonian recordings compilation, American Musical Theatre.[7] Later, he played the role of Bill Jackson on the television situation comedy Beulah during its final 1952-1953 season.[7]

Wilson, who was on the board of the Negro Actors Guild of America,[7] died on May 30, 1953, shortly after he retired from show business.[7] He is buried at the Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.


See also


  1. ^
  2. ^,4215943
  3. ^ Obituary Variety (June 10, 1953), p. 83.
  4. ^ Otfinoski, Steven (2010). African Americans in the Performing Arts. Checkmark Books. pp. 244-245. ISBN 9780816078387. 
  5. ^ "Biography for Dooley Wilson". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved . 
  6. ^ a b "Dooley Wilson". IMDb. Retrieved . 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Crowe, Melissa. "'Casablanca' Piano Man Was Tyler Native". Tyler Morning Telegraph (September 19, 2011).
  8. ^ "Casablanca (1942) Soundtrack and Complete List of Songs". What-song. Retrieved . 
  9. ^ "Who Played It Again, Sam? The Three Pianists of 'Casablanca'". AFM. Retrieved 2017. 
  10. ^ Harmetz, Aljean. The Making of Casablanca: Bogart, Bergman, and World War II, Hyperion, p. 144 (2002). ISBN 0-7868-8814-8.
  11. ^ Knock on Any Door (1949), retrieved  
  12. ^ "Dooley Wilson". IMDb. Retrieved . 
  • Dooley Wilson Filmography on IMDb
  • Bowers, Dwight Blocker (ed.) American Musical Theatre: Shows, Songs, and Stars; Smithsonian Collection of Recordings, Washington, D.C., 1989.
  • Harmetz, Aljean Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca - Bogart, Bergman, and World War II Hyperion, New York, 1992.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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