The last living performer from Casablanca is gone, as French actress Madeleine Lebeau, who played Yvonne in the 1942 Academy Award winning classic, and in real life lived through experiences as harrowing as those of the film’s lead character, died following a hip injury on May 1. She was 92.
Born in 1923 in Antony, Hauts-de-Seine, France, Lebeau began her career in film immediately before the start of World War II with the 1939 French drama Jeunes filles en détresse (Girls in Distress). The following year, in a scene right out of the film for which she would become best known, Lebeau, who was Jewish, was forced to flee Paris with her then-husband Marcel Dalio ahead of the advancing German invasion. The couple ended up in Lisbon, Portugal and from there attempted to travel to the Americas on a Chilean visa. Their transit across the Atlantic was stopped in Mexico when it was discovered their visas were forgeries, but were eventually able to secure temporary Canadian passports which they used to make their way to the United States.
In the U.S. Lebeau resumed her film career making her American debut with a small part in the 1941 drama Hold Back the Dawn. The first of her movies with certain parallels to her own life, the film stars Charles Boyer as a Romanian gigolo who finds himself stuck in Mexico and marries an American woman in order obtain entry to the United States. She followed that up the next year with a turn as Polish-French entertainer Anna Held in Gentleman Jim, the biopic of Boxer “Gentleman” Jim Corbett starring Errol Flynn in the title role.