The film Casablanca opens with the words, “With the coming of the Second World War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the Americas.” Leslie Epstein’s Hill of Beans is the story of how one nation, one industry, and in particular one man responded to that desperate hope. That man is Jack Warner. His impossible goal is to make world events—most importantly, the invasion of North Africa by British and American forces in 1942—coincide with the release of his new film about a group of refugees marooned in Morocco. Arrayed against him are Stalin and Hitler, as well as Josef Goebbels, Franklin Roosevelt, a powerful gossip columnist, and above all a beautiful young woman with a terrible secret. His only weapons are his hutzpah and his heroism as he struggles to bring cinema and city, conflict and conference together in an epic command performance.
Hill of Beans is the novel that Leslie Epstein—the son and nephew of Philip and Julius Epstein, the screenwriters of Casablanca—was born to write.