Madeleine LeBeau, last surviving Casablanca actor, dies at 92

  • AFP, AP, Paris
  • Updated: May 16, 2016 08:34 IST
Madeleine LeBeau passionately sings La Marseillaise at a pivotal moment in Casablanca. (YouTube grab)

The last surviving member of the cast of Casablanca (1942), French actress Madeleine LeBeau has died at the age of 92, her family said.

LeBeau, who died on May 1, played the role of Yvonne, the spurned girlfriend of Humphrey Bogart’s character Rick Blaine in the classic movie that also starred Ingrid Bergman. She passionately sings “La Marseillaise” at a pivotal moment in the film.

LeBeau’s death was announced by her son-in-law Carlos Alberto Pinelli in a report in the Spanish daily newspaper El Pais. He said that she died at her home in Malaga, southern Spain, after suffering a thigh-bone fracture. She was the second wife of Pinelli’s father, the late Italian screenwriter Tullio Pinelli and had been living with a daughter, Maria Duhour, who informed the younger Pinelli of the woman’s death.

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Born in June 1923 in Antony near Paris, LeBeau first appeared on screen in the1939 French film Young Girls in Trouble. The next year, she and actor Marcel Dalio 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.

Watch Madeleine LeBeau in Casablanca

In Casablanca ,LeBeau, at only 19, got her big moment during the scene where the patrons of Rick’s Café Américain 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!”

After Casablanca LeBeau appeared in a number of other Hollywood films before returning to Europe where she was cast in Federico Fellini’s 1963 comedy-drama 8 1/2 and numerous other films by France’s New Wave filmmakers.

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 ½” as a French actress. In 1988, she married 8 ½ co-writer Tullio Pinelli, who died in 2009. LeBeau’s last on-screen credit was in the French television series Allô Police.

France’s Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay said in a statement LeBeau would be remembered as a “free woman, transcending codes, sublimating each of the roles exceptional directors entrusted to her”.

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.

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