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29 May 2013

Marcel Dalio

French actor Marcel Dalio (1900-1983) or simply Dalio was a citizen of the world. During the 1930s, he became a much sought-after character actor in France. His lovely animated face with its great expressive eyes became familiar across Europe, when he appeared in Jean Renoir's masterpieces La règle du jeu/Rules of the Game (1939) and La Grande Illusion/Grand Illusion (1937). During the war, he worked in Hollywood and appeared in such classics as Casablanca (1942) and To Have and Have Not (1944).

Marcel Dalio
French postcard by Ed. Chantal, Paris, no. 509. Photo: Gladiator Films.

The Typical Jew
Marcel Dalio was born Israel Moshe Blauschild in Paris, France in 1900. His parents were Romanian-Jewish immigrants. After a stint at the National Drama Conservatoire (CNSAD), he performed in cabarets, revues and stage plays during the 1920s. From 1931 on, he acted in popular French films like Pépé le Moko (Julien Duvivier, 1937) starring Jean Gabin as an infamous gangster, who tries to escape the police by hiding in the casbah of the city of Algiers. Dalio also appeared in Jean Renoir's masterpieces La Grande Illusion/Grand Illusion (1937) and La règle du jeu/The Rules of the Game (1939) about upper-class French society just before the start of World War II. These films made his expressive face famous. “Short of stature but giant in talent”, writes Hal Erickson at AllMovie about him. After divorcing actress Jany Holt, he married the seventeen-year-old and breathtakingly beautiful actress Madeleine Lebeau in 1939. Michael Ryerson at IMDb: “Marcel Dalio 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.” However, when their ship, the S.S. Quanza, stopped in Mexico, they were stranded (along with around 200 other passengers) when the Chilean visas they had purchased turned out to be forgeries. Eventually they were able to get temporary Canadian passports. In the meanwhile in occupied France, the Germans used publicity stills of Dalio for a series of posters labelled 'the typical Jew'. Dalio's parents would die in Nazi concentration camps during the war. The Nazis also ordered the film Entrée des artistes/Stage Door (Marc Allégret, 1938) to be re-edited. All Dalio's scenes were deleted and re-shot with the Aryan actor Fred Pasquali. James Travers at Films de France: “Marcel Dalio almost steals the final act as an investigating magistrate - it is incredible to think that his scenes were re-shot with another actor.” Fortunately, the scenes with Dalio were reinstated after the war.

Jean Gabin
Jean Gabin. French postcard by Edit. Chantal, Rueil, no. 49B.

Jany Holt
Jany Holt. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 29. Photo: Studio Piaz.

Your Winnings, Sir
Friends in the film industry arranged for Marcel Dalio and Madeleine Lebeau to arrive in Hollywood. Nearly broke, Dalio played in a string of largely forgettable films. Interesting was the film noir The Shanghai Gesture (Josef von Sternberg, 1941) starring Gene Tierney. In early 1942, Jack L. Warner was driving production of a film based on a one act play, Everybody Comes to Rick's but he had no screenplay. Shooting started with a mishmash of treatments loosely based on the play and two previous movies. Dalio and Madeleine Lebeau were cast as, respectively, a croupier and a romantic entanglement for the male lead. The film starred Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid; features Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, and Peter Lorre, and the title is of course Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942). Michael Ryerson at IMDb: “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.” However, Dalio was unbilled for this memorable part. In 1943, he received some larger roles, like a French policeman in The Song of Bernadette (Henry King, 1943). In Hollywood, Dalio was never able to rescale the heights of prominence that he had enjoyed in France and was too often cast as the stereotypical Frenchman. One of his best-known roles was in the film adaptation of the romantic war adventure To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks, 1944), again opposite Humphrey Bogart. Dalio appeared in 19 Hollywood movies during the Second World War.

Acque del sud
Italian Film poster Acque del sud (To Have and Have Not, 1944), designed by Luigi Martinati.

Claudia Cardinale
Claudia Cardinale. French postcard by Edition P.I., Paris, no. 1102. Photo: Kasparian.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
When the Second World War ended in May 1945, Marcel Dalio returned to France to continue his film career. His first appearance that year was in Son dernier role/Her Last Part (Jean Gourguet, 1946) with Gaby Morlay. He appeared in ten more films in France through the late 1940s. In Englan, he played Captain Nikarescu in Black Jack (Julien Duvivier, José Antonio Nieves Conde, 1950). In Hollywood, Dalio appeared in the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953) starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe and the romantic comedy Sabrina (Billy Wilder, 1954) starring Bogart and Audrey Hepburn. In Sabrina, the bearded Dalio played one of Hepburn's fellow cooking students in Paris. He also reunited with Jean Gabin in the French gangster film Razzia sur la chnouf/Raid on the Drug Ring (Henri Decoin, 1955) based on a novel by Auguste Le Breton. That year, he went back to America to appear in the poorly-received television series Casablanca, where he portrayed the Claude Rains character, Captain Renault. Dalio went on to appear in several Hollywood productions, including the hit comedy Pillow Talk (Michael Gordon, 1959) starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day. He also made films in France, such as the adventure Cartouche (Philippe de Broca, 1962) starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Claudia Cardinale. Dalio played a small role in the Hollywood mystery The List of Adrian Messenger (John Huston, 1963). This was followed with the part of Father Cluzeot in Donovan's Reef (John Ford, 1963) starring John Wayne. In 1964, Dalio returned to France, but continued to appear in Hollywood productions like How to Steal a Million (William Wyler, 1966) starring Audrey Hepburn. Michael Ryerson at IMDb: “Late in his career, when Mike Nichols was looking for a vaguely familiar face to deliver a long and worldly, near-monologue in Catch-22 (1970), he turned to Dalio. Faced with a hopelessly idealistic young American pilot, Dalio in tight close-up, delivers a discourse on practical people faced with impractical circumstances, of the virtues of expedience in the face of amorality. ”After this, he worked almost entirely in France. The best known of these films is the hilarious comedy Les aventures de Rabbi Jacob/The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob (Gérard Oury, 1973) with Louis de Funès. His last appearance was in a TV movie portraying Lord Exeter in Les Longuelune (Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe, 1982). After appearing in almost 150 films, Marcel Dalio died in 1983 in his home in Paris. He was married four times: to Jany Holt (1936-1939), to Madeleine Lebeau (1939-1942) and to Michèle Béryl with whom he had a child. And in 1981 he married Madeleine Prime in Los Angeles.


Trailer La règle du jeu/The Rules of the Game (1939). Source: iamnotatv (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), James Travers (Films de France), Michael Ryerson (IMDb), Wikipedia (English and French), and IMDb.

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