July 17, 2006


Biography for Marcel Dalio (Michael Ryerson, IMDB)

Born Israel Moshe Blauschild, in Paris, in 1900, he became a much sought-after character actor. His lovely animated face with its great expressive eyes became familiar across Europe. He appeared in Jean Renoir's idiosyncratic Rules of the Game, and Grand Illusion, arguably the greatest of all films. True to his Frenchman's heart, he married the very young, breathtaking beauty Madeleine LeBeau. He worked with von Stroheim and Pierre Chenal. He had it all.

But then the Germans crushed Poland, swept across Belgium and pressed on toward Paris. He waited until the last possible moment and finally, with the sound of artillery clearly audible, with Madeleine, fled in a borrowed car to Orleans and then, in a freight train, to Bordeaux and finally to Portugal. In Lisbon, they bribed a crooked immigration official and were surreptitiously given two visas for Chile. But on arriving in Mexico City, it was discovered the visas were rank forgeries. Facing deportation, Marcel and Madeleine found themselves making application for political asylum with virtually every country in the western hemisphere. Weeks passed until Canada finally issued them temporary visas and they left for Montreal.

Meanwhile, France had fallen and, in the process of subjugating the country, the Germans had found some publicity stills of Dalio. A series of posters were produced and were then displayed throughout the city with the caption 'a typical Jew' so that citizens could more easily report anyone suspected of unrepentant Jewishness....

After a short time, friends in the film industry arranged for them to arrive in Hollywood....

Shooting started without a screenplay and little plot. Principal players were cast and a director hired but casting calls for supporting roles and bit players continued and sometime in the early spring Marcel Dalio and Madeleine LeBeau were cast as, respectively, a croupier and a romantic entanglement for the male lead. Veteran screen-writers were hired to produce a running screenplay, sometimes delivering pages of dialogue one day, for scenes to be shot the following day. No one knew exactly where the plot would go or how the story would turn out. No one was sure of the ending. And, of course, they produced a classic, perhaps the finest American movie.

They produced a screenplay of multiple genres, rich with characterizations, perfectly in tune with the unfolding events in Europe and loaded with talent from top to bottom. Oh, and they changed the title to 'Casablanca'....

Madeleine LeBeau plays Yvonne, the jilted lover of Humphrey Bogart, who is seen drowning her sorrows at the bar early in the film and who later, to get back at Rick and looking for solace takes up with a German officer finding only self-hatred. She is luminous.

And when Claude Rains delivers the signature line, 'I'm shocked! Shocked! To find that there's gambling going on in here!' the croupier, Emil, played by Marcel Dalio, approaches from the roulette table and says simply, 'Your winnings, sir.' It is a delicious moment ripe with scripted irony, one among many in this film, but one made all the more so, knowing where Dalio came from and what he and his wife had endured to arrive at that line.

Today would have been M. Dalio's 106th birthday.

Posted by David Cohen at July 17, 2006 9:32 AM

One of the best moments in the film is Yvonne, tears streaming down her face, shouting "vive la France!"after the band at Rick's has played La Marseillaise per Victor Lazlo's instruction and Rick's acquiescence.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at July 17, 2006 10:37 AM

I can't imagine today's Hollywierd making a movie like Casablanca that clearly identifies the enemy - unless, of course, they portray the enemy as America, led by George Bush.

Posted by: obc at July 17, 2006 11:12 AM

"I can't imagine today's Hollywierd making a movie like Casablanca that clearly identifies the enemy - " One needs talent to make Casablanca, do you find any talent in Hollywierd?

Posted by: ic at July 17, 2006 11:57 AM

Aw come on, can't you just picture George Clooney turning to Susan Sarandon and delivering those heartfelt words, "We'll always have Baghdad"? (Or maybe Ho Chi Minh City - take your pick.)

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at July 17, 2006 12:22 PM
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