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Theo Epstein's grandfather co-wrote 'Casablanca'

Updated: October 13, 2011 9:50AM

Potential Cubs GM Theo Epstein’s grandfather Philip G. Epstein co-wrote the screenplay for the 1942 film classic Casablanca with Theo’s great-uncle Julius.

Julius, Philip’s twin brother, nce compared the life of a contract studio writer at Warner Bros. of that era to being a baseball player. Contract workers were hired hands who labored for a single studio and were assigned a string of projects.

“The contract system gave you a sense of security. Because doing so many pictures, if you batted .500, or even .300, you were in pretty good shape — like a ball player,” Julius said in the book Casablanca: Behind the Scenes.

The success of Casablanca — it won the Oscar for Best Screenplay — elevated the Epstein brothers at Warner.

“The first few years, we cranked it out, as evidenced by the five movies in one year. After that, we could say, ‘No, we don’t want to do this, we want to do that,’ “ Julius said.

The studio system ended and writers were set free. Julius and Philip often clashed with studio boss Jack Warner. When they were asked on a questionaire by the House Un-American Activities Committee if they were ever members of a “subversive organization,” they responded “Yes, Warner Brothers.” But Philip lamented the demise of contract studio system in many ways.

“Each studio was a family — there were a lot of people who spent their whole career at one studio. We had a studio softball league, a studio basketball league,” said Julius, who was an accomplished boxer in his younger years.

Julius thought the ability to write good dialogue was genetic: ‘’You’re born with it like a good football player is born.’’

Philip died in 1952; Julius died in 2000. In his first year as general manager of the Boston Red Sox, Theo Epstein said the Academy Award is kept in the den of his parents’ home.

The award, Theo said, “represents our grandfather and our great uncle. So nothing would ever trump that.”

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