Nationality: French. Born: Israel Moshe Blauschild in Paris, 17 July 1900. Education: Attended the Paris Conservatoire, 1916–18. Family: Married twice, second marriage to Madeleine Lebeau. Military Service: Served in armed forces during World War I. Career: 1920s—appeared in cabarets, revues, and some plays; stage name taken from character Prince Danilo in The Merry Widow; 1933—feature film debut in Mon Chapeau; 1930s—acted in both films and the theater; 1937—author, with Pierre Brasseur, of play Grisou, seen in Paris, and basis of film by Maurice de Canonge; 1939—at outbreak of World War II, forced to flee France; escaped to Canada and then to Hollywood; 1941—began appearing in Hollywood films; after the war returned to France; 1950s—appeared mostly in Hollywood films; 1955–56—in TV series Casablanca; 1960s-1970s—acted in both American and French films, eventually returning to Paris to live. Died: In Paris, 20 November 1983.
Films as Actor:
Les Quatres Jambes (Marc Allégret—short)
Mon Chapeau (Guissart)
Turandot, princesse de Chine (Lamprecht); Une Nuit à l'hôtel (Mittler); Les Affaires publiques (Bresson)
Quand minuit sonnera (Joannon); L'Or (de Poligny); Un Grand Amour de Beethoven (Beethoven, le voleur de femmes; The Life and Loves of Beethoven) (Gance) (as Steiner)
Cargaison blanche (Le Chemin de Rio; French White Cargo; Traffic in Souls; Woman Racket) (Siodmak); Naples au baiser de feu (The Kiss of Fire) (Genina) (as the photographer); Les Perles de la couronne (The Pearls of the Crown) (Guitry and Christian-Jaque); L'Homme à abattre (Mathot); Marthe Richard (Bernard); Sarati le terrible (Hugon); Miarka la fille à l'ours (Choux); Gribouille (Heart of Paris) (Marc Allégret); Troîka sur la piste blanche (Dréville); La Grande Illusion (Grand Illusion) (Renoir) (as Rosenthal); Pépé-le-Moko (Duvivier) (as L'Arbi); L'Affaire Lafarge (Chenal)
Chéri-Bibi (Mathot); Mollenard (Capitaine Mollenard; Capitaine Corsaire; Hatred) (Siodmak); L'Alibi (Chenal); La Maison du Maltais (Sirocco) (Chenal); Les Pirates du rail (Christian-Jaque); Entrée des artistes (The Curtain Rises) (Marc Allégret); Conflit (The Affair Lafont; Conflict) (Moguy); Les Courtes Jambes (short)
La Règle du jeu (Rules of the Game) (Renoir) (as Marquis Robert de la Chesnave); Le Bois sacré (Mathot); L'Esclave blanche (The Pasha's Wives) (Sorkin); La Tradition de minuit (Richebé); Le Corsaire (Marc Allégret—not completed)
Tempête sur Paris (Deschamps)
The Shanghai Gesture (Shanghai) (von Sternberg) (as croupier); Unholy Partners (LeRoy) (as Molyneaux); One Night in Lisbon (Edward H. Griffith) (as concierge)
Casablanca (Curtiz) (as Emil, the croupier); The Pied Piper (Pichel) (as Foquet); Flight Lieutenant (Le Pilote de la morte) (Salkow) (as Faulet); Joan of Paris (Stevenson)
Tonight We Raid Calais (Brahm) (as Jacques Grandet); The Desert Song (Le Chant du départ) (Florey) (as Tarbouch); The Song of Bernadette (Henry King) (as Callet); Paris after Dark (The Night Is Ending) (Moguy) (as Michel); Flesh and Fantasy (Duvivier) (as clown); The Constant Nymph (Edmund Goulding) (as Georges)
Pin-Up Girl (Humberstone) (as headwaiter); The Conspirators (Negulesco) (as croupier); Action in Arabia (Moguy) (as Chakka); To Have and Have Not (Hawks) (as Gerard); Passage to Marseilles (Curtiz); Wilson (Henry King) (as Georges Clemenceau)
A Bell for Adano (Henry King) (as Zito)
Petrus (Marc Allégret); Son Dernier Rôle (Gourguet); Le Bataillon du ciel (Billon)
Temptation Harbour (Le Port de la tentation) (Comfort) (as Inspector Dupre); Les Maudits (The Damned) (Clément) (as Larga); Erreur judiciaire (de Canonge); Snowbound (McDonald) (as Stefan Valdini)
Hans le Marin (Hans the Sailor; Wicked City) (Villiers) (as Aime); Sombre dimanche (Loubignac); Dédée d'Anvers (Dédée; Woman of Antwerp) (Yves Allégret) (as Marco); Les Amants de Vérone (The Lovers of Verona) (Cayatte) (as Amadeo Maglia)
Maya (Bernard); Captain Blackjack (Black Jack) (Duvivier) (as Capt. Nikarescu); Portrait d'un assassin (Rolland); Menace de mort (Leboursier); Aventure à Pigalle (Leboursier)
Porte d'Orient (Deray)
On the Riviera (Walter Lang) (as Philippe Lebrix); Rich, Young, and Pretty (Taurog) (as Claude Duval); Nous irons à Monte Carlo (Boyer) (as Poulos)
The Happy Time (Fleischer) (as Grandpere Bonnard); The Snows of Kilimanjaro (Henry King) (as Emile); The Merry Widow (Bernhardt) (as police sergeant); Lovely to Look At (LeRoy) (as Pierre)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Hawks) (as Judge); Flight to Tangier (Warren) (as Gogo); M. Scrupule, gangster (Deray)
Sabrina (Sabrina Fair) (Wilder) (as Baron); La Patrouille des sables (Chanas); Lucky Me (Mademoiselle Porte-bonheur) (Donohue) (as Anton)
Jump into Hell (L'Enfer de Dien Bien Phu) (David Butler) (as Sgt. Taite); Les Amants du Tage (Lover's Net; Port of Shame; Lovers of Lisbon) (Verneuil) (as Porfirio); Razzia sur la chnouff (Razzia) (Decoin)
Miracle in the Rain (L'Immortel Amour) (Maté) (as waiter)
The Sun Also Rises (Henry King) (as Zizi); Ten Thousand Bedrooms (Thorpe) (as Vittorio Cisini); Lafayette Escadrille (Hell Bent for Glory) (Wellman) (as drillmaster); Tip on a Dead Jockey (Time for Action) (Thorpe) (as Toto del Aro); China Gate (Fuller) (as Father Paul)
Classe tous risques (The Big Risk) (Sautet) (as Gibelin); The Perfect Furlough (Strictly for Pleasure) (Edwards) (as Henri)
Pillow Talk (Michael Gordon) (as Pierot); The Man Who Understood Women (Johnson) (as Le Marne)
Le Diable et les dix commandements (The Devil and the Ten Commandments) (Duvivier); Can-Can (Walter Lang) (as headwaiter); Song without End (Charles Vidor and Cukor, uncredited) (as Chelard)
Le Petit Garcon de l'ascenseur (Granier-Deferre); The Devil at Four O'Clock (LeRoy) (as Gaston); La Loi des hommes (Gérard)
Jessica (La Sage-femme, le curé et le bon dieu) (Negulesco) (as Luigi Tuffi); A couteaux tirés (Gérard); Cartouche (Swords of Blood) (de Broca) (as Malichot)
L'Abominable Homme des douanes (Marc Allégret); Donovan's Reef (Ford) (as Father Cluzeot); The List of Adrian Messenger (Huston) (as Anton Karoudjian)
Wild and Wonderful (Monsieur Cognac) (Anderson) (as Dr. Reynard); Le Monocle rit Jaune (Lautner); Un Monsieur de compagnie (Male Companion) (de Broca) (as Krieg von Spiel)
Made in Paris (Sagal) (as Georges); Lady L (Ustinov) (as Sapper)
Tendre voyou (Tender Scoundrel) (Jean Becker) (as Veronique's father); Le 17e ciel (Bernard); How to Steal a Million (Wyler) (as Señor Paravideo)
La 25e Heure (The 25th Hour; La Vingt-cinquième Heure) (Verneuil) (as Strul); "Aujourd'hui" ("Paris Today") ep. of Le Plus Vieux Métier du monde (The Oldest Profession) (Autant-Lara) (as Older Man)
L'Amour c'est gai, l'amour c'est triste (Pollet); How Sweet It Is! (Paris) (as Louis)
Le Blé en liasses (Brunet); Justine (Cukor) (as French Consul General)
Aussi loin que l'amour (Rossif); Papa les petits bateaux (Kaplan); Les Yeux fermés (Santoni)
Dédé la tendresse (van Belle)
La Punition (Jolivet); Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob (The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob; The Adventures of Rabbi Jacob) (Oury) (title role); Ursule et Grelu (Korber)
La Bête (The Beast) (Borowczyk) (as Duc du Balo); Hommage irrespectueux comme tous les hommages (Rochefort—short); La Chatte sur un doigt brûlant (Chardon)
Trop c'est trop (Kaminka); Le Faux cul (Hanin); Que la fête commence (Let Joy Reign Supreme) (Tavernier)
La Communion solennelle (Féret); L'Aile ou la cuisse (Zidi); L'Ombre des châteaux (Duval); Madame Claude (Jaeckin)
Une Page d'amour (Rabinowicz); Le Paradis des riches (Barge)
Chausette surprise (Davy); L'Honorable Société (Weinberger)
Brigade mondaine, vaudou aux Caraîbes (Monier)
By DALIO: book—
Mes années folles, Paris, 1976.
By DALIO: article—
Interview with E. Decaux, in Cinématographe (Paris), April 1979.
On DALIO: articles—
Gauteur, Claude, "Flash back sur Dalio," in Image et Son (Paris), December 1975.
Ecran (Paris), April 1978, additions in November 1978, and January, April, and 15 December 1979.
Cinéma Français (Paris), November 1980.
Villien, Bruno, obituary in Cinématographe (Paris), December 1983.
Gauteur, Claude, "Dalio Marcel: métèques en tous genres," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), January 1984.
Obituary in Cinéma (Paris), January 1984.
Stars (Mariembourg), no. 18, Winter 1993.
* * *
The art in playing waiters on screen lies, as in life, in giving the impression that you are doing the customer a favor. During a long Hollywood career impersonating waiters, Marcel Dalio, previously one of the most refined character performers of the prewar French cinema (a distinction confirmed by the simple use of his surname alone in the credits), conveyed with unfailing good taste the hauteur of a man who served others from a position of power.
Dalio had earned his air of casual superiority. For Renoir, first in La Grande Illusion as the wealthy and likable Jewish prisoner-of-war on whose largesse his companions depend for the comforts of good food and wine, then as the equally rich and cultivated host of the house party in La Règle du jeu, the diminutive Dalio embodied noblesse oblige. In the Renoir films and also in Duvivier's Pépé-le-Moko, he trod with wit, taste, and delicacy the narrow line between character and caricature. His nobleman in La Règle du jeu is his masterpiece. A childlike delight in his collection of music machines does not make his pain at the infidelity of his wife or the party's dislocation by her tormented lover any less poignant.
Despite this success in a leading role, Dalio was destined to remain mainly a character actor. World War II broke out shortly after the completion of La Règle du jeu, and Dalio's face was used by Nazi propagandists on posters displayed in Paris captioned "the typical Jew." Forced to flee the country, Dalio eventually arrived in Hollywood, which at first could find nothing for him to do. Dorothy Parker is said to have connived at his salvation by pointing him out at a party as "the great French actor Dalio." Unfortunately, the parts that came his way were those of waiters and domestics, leavened with the occasional curé or military officer, the sort of roles handed out to most accented émigrés.
With better material he was commensurately more memorable. As the croupier in Casablanca, handing his winnings to a Claude Rains who has just closed down Rick's Cafe Américain because gambling is taking place there, he made a good enough impression to play the Rains role in a later television series. His one scene in Sabrina, as the baron returning to cooking school to take a refresher course in soufflés, is a delight. In general, however, his Hollywood career is a monument to the unimaginativeness of casting directors.