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Humphrey Bogart can thank Cary Grant for Sahara.
Warner Brothers had their heart set on Grant for their adaption of Arsenic and Old Lace (read about that here), but there was a problem. Cary was under contract to Columbia Pictures.
Harry Cohn, the studio head, agreed to loan out their star to Warner in exchange for Bogie, who was still riding the high of 1942’s Casablanca, for which he received his first Academy Award nomination.
Originally, Glenn Ford, Melvyn Douglas, and Brian Donlevy were connected to the film, and Gary Cooper turned down the lead.
Based on the Russian work, The Thirteen, the working title was Somewhere in Sahara – though the project actually filmed in the Mojave Desert close to the border of Mexico. Scenes were also shot in the studio which required them to make a fake desert using two thousand tons of sand and wind machines.
While Bogie complained about his dialogue – which some suspected was his way to stall in order to learn his lines – Kurt Krueger said he “couldn’t have been more outgoing.”
Dan Duryea was proud of the film, and it was actually the first movie of his that he let his sons see. He said, “Sahara is a picture which practically nobody remembers my being in; one of the few pictures I didn’t play a heel and maybe for that reason.”
In three weeks, the film earned more than two million dollars. It would become Columbia’s highest grossing film of 1943.