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.
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).
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.