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Madeleine Lebeau, the luminous French actress who played Yvonne, the jilted lover of Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine who wells up during the patriotic singing of “La Marseillaise” in the immortal film Casablanca, has died. She was 92.
Lebeau, who later portrayed an actress named Madeleine in another classic, Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963), died May 1 in Estepona, Spain, after breaking her thigh bone, her stepson, documentary filmmaker and environmentalist Carlo Alberto Pinelli, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Lebeau is widely believed to be the last surviving castmember from Casablanca. Not too long before making the film, she herself had escaped Nazi-occupied France with her then-husband, actor Marcel Dalio.
In the 1942 Warner Bros. drama, Yvonne and Rick had a one-night stand, and when she makes another pass at him while drowning her sorrows at his nightclub, he spurns her and has the bartender take her back to her apartment. Later, she returns to the nightclub arm in arm with a German soldier.
When a group of German soldiers begin belting out “Die Wacht am Rhein,” Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) leads Rick’s house band in response with a stirring rendition of “La Marseillaise.” All the patriots in the club, including Yvonne, join in to sing the French national anthem, and they drown out the Germans in a memorable “duel.”
Lebeau is teary-eyed in two full-screen close-ups and yells “Vive la France!” in her final, passionate line. Like her, many of the actors in the memorable scene were refugees from Europe, and they drew on real emotions.
Her husband Dalio played the croupier Emil in Casablanca after appearing in such films as Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion and The Rules of the Game.
After Lebeau and Dalio eventually made their way to Hollywood, she scored a role in Paramount’s Hold Back the Dawn (1941), starring Frenchman Charles Boyer and Olivia de Havilland, then appeared with Errol Flynn in the 1942 boxing biopic Gentleman Jim.
Following Casablanca and her divorce from Dalio, Lebeau had a prominent role in another film about the French resistance, Paris After Dark (1943), then appeared in Music for Millions (1944).
She returned to Europe after the war and worked in such films as The Royalists (1947), Cage of Gold (1950), Sins of Madeleine (1951) and La Parisienne (1957), opposite Boyer and Brigitte Bardot.
Lebeau also was married to Tullio Pinelli, a screenwriter who earned Oscar nominations for 8 1/2 and three others Fellini films: I vitelloni (1953), La Strada (1954) and La Dolce Vita (1960). They were married from 1988 until his death in March 2009 at age 100.
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