Yesterday we noted with sadness the death of the last living stalwart from the classic film Casablanca, Madeleine LeBeau.

The film is notable for many things, not least of which is that it featured many character actors, who, like LeBeau, had fled Europe to find refuge in Hollywood.

Director Michael Curtiz, who had been in the States from the mid 1920s had worked in his native Hungary and in Vienna. He knew of the work of many of these actors and cast them in Casablanca. 

Of course some of the films leading (and credited) luminaries, such as Paul Henried, Peter Lorre, S. K. Sakall, Curt Bois, and Conrad Veidt, were well known to film audiences by 1943. But the film is peppered with lesser known actors, who once were BIG stars in Europe, who were happy to have uncredited bits in the film.

They include: Lotte Palfi, Ludwig Stossel and Ilka Grunig (as the Austrian couple who are going to America; see above).  Wolfgang Zilzer, (Palfi’s husband) was the man without a valid passport shot running away from the police. Trudie Berliner was the woman at the baccarat table asking if Rick would have a drink with her.

Marcel Dalio, who had been a huge star in France, and was at the time married to the teenage LeBeau, was, of course, Emil, the croupier. Helmut Dantine was the young Bulgarian at the tables trying to win enough for an exit visa.

Some film historians contend that a great deal of the emotional impact of the film is attributed to the European exiles. Many of them were Jewish, and if they got work in films at all were often cast as Nazis. As was Hans Twardowski in this film.

Casablanca was immeasurably enriched by their presence.


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