Marcel Dalio was born Israel Moshe Blauschild in Paris to Romanian-Jewish immigrant parents. He performed in cabarets, revues and stage plays in the 1920s and acted in French films in the 1930s. After divorcing his first wife, Jany Holt, he married the young actress Madeleine Lebeau in 1939. In June 1940, Lebeau and Dalio left Paris ahead of the invading German army and reached Lisbon. They are presumed to have received transit visas from Aristides de Sousa Mendes, allowing them to enter Spain and journey on to Portugal. It took them two months to get visas to 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 and entered the United States. Dalio’s parents would later die in Nazi concentration camps. In Hollywood, although Dalio was never quite able to rescale the heights of prominence that he had enjoyed in France, he appeared in 19 American movies during the Second World War, in stereotypical roles as a Frenchman. Meanwhile, in German-occupied France, the Nazis used his picture chillingly on posters as a representative of “a typical Jew”.
Marcel Dalio’s first movie in the United States was the 1941 Fred MacMurray comedy One Night in Lisbon where he portrayed a hotel concierge. Later that year, he appeared in the Edward G. Robinson movie Unholy Nights and the Gene Tierney movie The Shanghai Gesture. He remained busy in 1942, appearing in Flight Lieutenant starring Pat O’Brien and Glenn Ford. Dalio next portrayed a Frenchman, Focquet, in the movie The Pied Piper. In this movie, Monty Woolley portrayed an Englishman trying to get out of France with an ever-increasing number of children ahead of the German invasion. Dalio then appeared among the star-studded cast in Tales of Manhattan. In 1942, he appeared in several classic scenes as Emil the croupier in Casablanca (for which he was paid $667). In one of the movie’s memorable scenes, when Captain Renault closes down Rick’s Cafe American using the pretext, “I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”, Emil approaches him and hands him his usual bribe money saying, “Your winnings sir.”, while Rick darts Emile a flabbergasted look. His wife Madeleine LeBeau was also in the film, playing Yvonne, Rick’s on-again, off-again girlfriend. On June 22, while Lebeau was filming her scenes with Hans Twardowski, Dalio filed for divorce in Los Angeles on the grounds of desertion. In 1943, he received some larger roles, for example in the war dramas Tonight We Raid Calais and Paris After Dark, in which he appeared with his ex-wife LeBeau. Later that year, Dalio played a French policeman in The Song of Bernadette. One of his best-known roles in American films was in the 1944 film adaptation of To Have and Have Not, opposite Humphrey Bogart.
Marcel Dalio also appeared in numerous television shows both in the United States (between 1954 and 1963) and in France (1968 to 1981). These include guest appearances in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Peter Gunn, 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond and Ben Casey. In the 1955 US TV series of Casablanca he took on the role of Captain Louis Renault, played by Claude Rains in the original film. Dalio married Madeleine Prime in Los Angeles, in 1981. Marcel Dalio, who appeared in almost 150 movies, died in Paris on 18 November 1983 at the age of 83. He is buried in Cimetière parisien de Bagneux in Hauts de Seine, France.
- November, 23, 1899
- Paris, France
- November, 18, 1983
- Paris, France
- Cimètiere de Bagneux
- Bagneux, France