Madeleine LeBeau: Vive La France!

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I’ve mentioned many times before CASABLANCA is my all-time favorite movie. News came across the Atlantic today that Madeleine LeBeau, the last surviving cast member, passed away May 1, 2016 at age 92. Mademoiselle LeBeau’s early life reads like the CASABLANCA script, as she and her then-husband Marcel Dalio (who played the croupier in the film) fled Paris during the Nazi occupation to Portugal, receiving letters of transit in Lisbon. The letters turned out to be forgeries, and the couple were stranded in Mexico before emigrating to America, landing in Hollywood to resume their acting careers.

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Madeleine’s stateside credits are brief, and can be divided into pre- (HOLD BACK THE DAWN, GENTLEMAN JIM) and post- (PARIS AFTER DARK, MUSIC FOR MILLIONS) CASABLANCA films. After divorcing Dalio, she returned to Europe in 1947. She made movies in her native France (the all-star NAPOLEON and LA PARISIENNE with French cinema icons Charles Boyer and Brigitte Bardot), England (CITY OF GOLD with Jean Simmons), and Italy (Fellini’s 8 1/2, the early Spaghetti Western GUNMEN OF RIO GRANDE).

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But it’s as Rick’s jilted lover Yvonne that she will forever be remembered. Her scenes with Humphrey Bogart are brief, but Madeleine shines as she drunkenly gets thrown out of Rick’s Café American, only to return later on the arm of a Nazi soldier to make him jealous. The scene where Paul Henreid leads the café guests in singing “La Marseillaise”, shouting down the Nazi revelers, is one of Hollywood’s most iconic, and it’s Madeleine who puts the icing on the cake by shouting, “Vive La France!”. I’ve posted this scene before, but it’s definitely worth a repeat viewing:

Still gets me teary-eyed, every time. Rest in peace, Madeleine LeBeau. Your place in Hollywood history is secure until the end of time.

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12 Replies to “Madeleine LeBeau: Vive La France!”

  1. I never used to think I could choose a scene from Casablanca as my favourite, but this one has become so. Knowing that the war was still going on and what it meant to many of the actors from Europe, made all the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree, knowing that the war in Europe was still going on, makes the scene all the more powerful. I never knew anything about her escape from Europe during the war, seems like they just embellished her story for the plot of Casablanca.
    Who would have thought that Casablanca was based on actual events………
    Madeleine LeBeau, will always be remembered, Viva La France !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Casablanca is among my TOP-5 all time favourite movies; along with classics like Gone with the Wind & Rebecca!!
    It’s surprising to hear, Madeleine LeBeau’s life was so similar to that of the story line of Casablanca. But at least LeBeau made her way to American continent, instead if being stuck in Africa, like Bergman & Henreid’s characters (Ilsa Lund & Victor Laszlo). Watched this movie, a zillion times (I actually have the DVD in my private collection), but I had no idea about LeBeau’s life. Thanks for letting us know. Nice Tribute!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Casablanca is a classic that I love rewatching. I had just watched it again about a week after LeBeau’s passing without realizing that she had died. Love her character and the movie. In the words of Yvonne (and Robert’s comments): Viva la France!

    Like

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