S. Z. Sakall

Tea For Two

Birth Name: Gerő Jenő

Date of Birth: February 2, 1883

Date of Death: February 12, 1955

Number of Films S. Z. Sakall Made with Humphrey Bogart: 4

The Lowdown

Born in Hungary, Sakall began using the pseudonym Szőke Szakáll during the beginning of his career in Budapest. Over his lifetime, he went from being credited asS. K. Sakall to S. Z. Sakall before occasionally being billed as S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall in some of his final films. (Jack Warner reportedly dubbed Sakall “Cuddles” for his rotund cuteness, although the actor apparently never cared for the nickname.) Making over 40 films in Europe and appearing in countless theatrical productions before heading to America to become a renowned character actor, it is probably his role as “Carl the waiter” in Casablanca that Sakall is most famous for.

To be clear, Sakall really only shared three films with Bogart face-to-face. In one of those three, they don’t even make eye contact, let alone speak. In the fourth film, Bogart was merely a voice cameo during a scene that Sakall was not even in. The fact that Sakall was such a proficient contract player makes it a little more surprising that they didn’t work together more often. But their filmographies share four films, and that’s more than enough to induct Sakall into The Ususal Suspects! He talent deserves every accolade offered!

The Filmography

Casablanca – 1942


Sakall, in what many consider his most famous role, plays Carl, the host/waiter in Rick’s café. Sakall is so wonderfully charming here that there probably aren’t enough adjectives to cover it – lovable, solid, hilarious, and incredibly talented are just a few that I’d start with. The scene where he watches Rick help the young couple win at roulette is enough to make you want to hug him. I honestly can’t imagine another actor filling the role here as well. This part destined for Sakall. Add to the fact that he was one of the many, many foreign actors within a film that makes a strong stand against the German occupation of, well . . . everywhere that’s not Germany, and you have an added oomph to the film that’s hard to qualify.

You can read my original post on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943


Sakall plays Dr. Schlenna, a high strung Hollywood producer that’s helping to put on a star studded variety show to support the war effort. Again, Sakall is cast perfectly – and in one of the funniest scene in the film, Sakall’s frustrated producer has to put a cameo-making Humphrey Bogart in his place. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Bogart knew how to cameo. Just look at the pic above. Five o’clock shadow, fedora, and pinstriped suit – because he was a gangster in real life too, right? But in a rare moment of role reversal, the joke here is that Sakall gets to take a moment to put a demanding and coddled Bogart in his place because he just doesn’t have time for prima donna actors!

Plus, Sakall gets to mug with an elephant. That’s worth it alone, right?

You can read my original post on the film here.

Two Guys from Milwaukee – 1946


Sakall plays right hand man Count Oswald to Dennis Morgan’s love struck Balkan prince. As always, Sakall’s presence is another testament to how well Classic Hollywood’s studio system worked when it came to producing strong supporting character actors. Sakall’s scene with little Peggy as she demands the true dirt behind fairy tale princesses is especially fun. Unfortunately, Bogart’s role here is a jokey cameo after the Balkan prince gets to meet his lifelong crush, Lauren Bacall, on a train. But, hey! There’s Sakall right behind Bogart as he sits down!

You can read my original post on the film here.

Never Say Goodbye – 1946


Sakall plays restaurant owner Luigi alongside of the philandering artist played by Errol Flynn. Sakall, as usual, does a wonderful job with his ‘flustered foreigner’ role here, and his interrogation scene with the police is one of the funniest scenes from the film. This is the one film Bogart and Sakall share with no scenes whatsoever as Bogart merely makes a voice-over cameo when Flynn dresses up as a gangster and does a tough guy accent, with Bogart’s real voice dubbed in for one line over top.

You can read my original post on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing series of posts about some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators.  You can check out other entries in the series here.*

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