French actress Madeleine LeBeau, best known for her small but significant role in Casablanca as Rick’s pushed aside girlfriend Yvonne who passionately sings La Marseillaise at a pivotal moment in the film, has died. She was 92.
The actress died on May 1 in Spain, after suffering a thigh-bone fracture, Carlo Alberto Pinelli said. LeBeau was the second wife of Mr Pinelli’s father, the late Italian screenwriter Tullio Pinelli. LeBeau had been living with a daughter, Maria Duhour, who informed the younger Mr Pinelli of the woman’s death.
Born in the southern suburbs of Paris in 1923, LeBeau first appeared on screen in the1939 French film Young Girls In Trouble. The next year, she and then-husband, actor Marcel Dalio (born Israel Moshe Blauschild) fled France ahead of the Nazi invasion, eventually making their way to the United States.
There LeBeau got a contract with Warner Bros and appeared in minor roles in the 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 Casablanca LeBeau, at only 19, got her big moment during the scene where the patrons of Rick’s Cafe Americain stand up and sing La Marseillaise in an attempt to drown out a song being sung by a group of German soldiers. The camera zooms in on LeBeau’s face, and her glassy, tearful eyes. As the song nears its close, LeBeau shouts “Vive la France!”
Dalio, who was 23 years LeBeau’s senior, appeared in Casablanca as Emil the croupier and filed for divorce from LeBeau during production 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.
LeBeau completed Hollywood features Paris After Dark, also with Dalio, and Music For Millions before returning to France after the war where she appeared in films like 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.
LeBeau’s last on-screen credit was in the French television series Allo Police.
Carlo Alberto Pinelli said LeBeau was cremated, and her ashes will be brought to Italy sometime in the coming months to be placed in the family tomb.