French actress Madeleine LeBeau, best known for her small but high-impact role in Casablanca as Rick’s pushed-aside girlfriend Yvonne who passionately sings La Marseillaise at a pivotal moment in the film, has died at the age of 92.
She was believed to be the last surviving cast member of the Second World War film classic, which starred Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
Ms. LeBeau died on May 1 in Spain, after suffering a thigh-bone fracture, Carlo Alberto Pinelli said. She was the second wife of Mr. Pinelli’s father, the late Italian screenwriter Tullio Pinelli. Ms. LeBeau had been living with a daughter, Maria Duhour, who informed the younger Mr. Pinelli of the actress’s death.
Born Marie Madeleine Berthe Lebeau in the southern suburbs of Paris in 1923, she first appeared on screen in a 1939 French film, Young Girls in Trouble.
The next year, she and her then-husband, actor Marcel Dalio, fled France ahead of the Nazi invasion. They made their way to Portugal and then headed to Chile by way of Mexico, where they discovered that their visas were forgeries; they eventually entered the United States thanks to temporary Canadian passports, according to the Internet Movie Database.
Ms. LeBeau, still a teenager, quickly landed a contract with Warner Bros. She appeared in minor roles in an Olivia de Havilland film, Hold Back the Dawn, and the Errol Flynn boxing drama Gentleman Jim before scoring the role of Yvonne in Casablanca in 1942.
In the film, Ms. LeBeau, at only 19, got her big moment during the scene where the patrons of Rick’s Café Americain stand up and sing La Marseillaise in an attempt to drown out the song being sung by a group of German soldiers. The camera zooms in on Ms. LeBeau’s face, and her glassy, tearful eyes. As the song nears its close, she shouts “Vive la France!” (Many actors in that scene were, like her, refugees from Europe.)
Mr. Dalio, who was 23 years older than Ms. LeBeau, appeared in Casablanca as Emil the croupier and filed for divorce from her during production of the movie on the grounds of desertion. They were divorced that year, and, according to reports, her Warner Bros. contract was terminated before the release of the film.
Ms. LeBeau completed two Hollywood features, Paris After Dark (also with Mr. Dalio), and Music for Millions, before returning to France after the war where she appeared in films such as Cage of Gold and Une Parisienne. Though she never gained significant international renown, she worked steadily in France throughout the 1950s until she stopped acting on screen in the late 1960s.
She also had a small role in Federico Fellini’s avant-garde classic 8 1/2 as a French actress. In 1988, she married 8 1/2 co-writer Tullio Pinelli, who died in 2009. Her last acting credit was in the French television series Allo Police.
Courtesy : theglobeandmail.com