ROME (AP) — French actress Madeleine LeBeau, best known for her small but impactful 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 May 1 in Spain, after suffering a thigh-bone fracture, Carlo Alberto Pinelli said. LeBeau was the second wife of Pinelli’s father, the late Italian screenwriter Tullio Pinelli. LeBeau had been living with a daughter, Maria Duhour, who informed the younger 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 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 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!”
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 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.”
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.