Madeleine Lebeau, ‘Casablanca’ Actress, Dies at 92


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Humphrey Bogart and Madeleine Lebeau, who played a spurned girlfriend in “Casablanca.”

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Warner Bros., via Photofest

Madeleine Lebeau, a French actress who attained movie immortality with one scene, when the camera zoomed in on her tear-stained face as she sang La Marseillaise” in “Casablanca,” died on May 1 in Estepona, Spain. She was 92.

The Associated Press reported that the cause was complications of a broken leg, citing Carlo Alberto Pinelli, the son of her second husband, the Italian screenwriter Tullio Pinelli.

Ms. Lebeau was 19 when she was cast in “Casablanca” as Yvonne, the spurned girlfriend of Rick Blaine, the owner of Rick’s Café Américain, played by Humphrey Bogart.

In one of the film’s pivotal scenes, Nazi officers in the cafe begin singing the patriotic song “Watch on the Rhine,” whereupon the Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo, played by Paul Henreid, orders the house band to strike up the French national anthem.

One by one, the bar’s patrons rise and join in, drowning out the Germans. As the song nears its stirring finale, the camera closes in on Yvonne, her face lit with patriotic fervor, tears streaming from her eyes as she sings. At the song’s conclusion, the camera swings toward her again as she shouts a defiant “Vive la France! Vive la démocratie!”

“She was a free woman who lived by her own rules, totally inhabiting the roles entrusted to her by leading directors,” the French culture minister Audrey Azoulay said of Ms. Lebeau in a statement on Monday. “She will forever be the face of French resistance.”

Marie Madeleine Berthe Lebeau was born on June 10, 1923, in Antony, a suburb of Paris. She had an uncredited role as a student in the G. W. Pabst film “Young Girls in Trouble” (1939) before fleeing France ahead of the German advance with her husband, Marcel Dalio. Mr. Dalio, who was Jewish, was known throughout France for his performances in “The Rules of the Game,” “Grand Illusion” and “Pépé le Moko.”

After Ms. Lebeau appeared in a minor role in “Hold Back the Dawn” (1941), with Olivia de Havilland and Charles Boyer, she signed a contract with Warner Bros., which spelled her last name LeBeau in credits.

She played Anna Held, the wife of Florenz Ziegfeld, in “Gentleman Jim,” with Errol Flynn as the boxer James J. Corbett, before filming “Casablanca,” in which her husband played Emil, the croupier. The couple divorced shortly after the film was made.

She made two more films in the United States, the Resistance drama “Paris After Dark” (1943) and the musical comedy “Music for Millions” (1944). She also appeared on Broadway in the comedy “The French Touch,” directed by René Clair, before returning to France, where she worked steadily through the 1950s.

She appeared as a nightclub singer in the Ealing Studios film “Cage of Gold” (1950) and a scheming prostitute in the comedy-drama “Sins of Paris” (1951). She was the pharmacist Adrienne Terreau in “The Country I Come From” (1956), directed by Marcel Carné, and the mistress of the man being pursued by Brigitte Bardot in “La Parisienne” (1957). In Federico Fellini’s “8½” (1963), she played a French actress named Madeleine, one of the former loves of Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni).

Her last turn before the cameras came in the French television series “Hello, Police” in 1969 and 1970.

In the mid-1960s Ms. Lebeau left Paris for Rome, where she married Mr. Pinelli. He died in 2009. She is survived by a daughter, Maria Duhour Gil. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

For a long time, she regarded her luminous performance in “Casablanca” with mixed feelings. It was too small.

“It wasn’t that I was cut out, it was because they kept changing the script, and each time they changed it, I had less of a part,” she told Charlotte Chandler, the author of “Ingrid, a biography about the “Casablanca” co-star Ingrid Bergman, in the 1990s. “It was not personal, but I was so disappointed.” She added, “Now I’m thrilled to have been part of ‘Casablanca.’”

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