Hollywood is in morning this week after Daliah Lavi, known for her glamorous roles in 1960s films like the James Bond spoof Casino Royale, passed away on Wednesday in North Carolina. She was 74 years-old.
The New York Times reported that Lavi was born as Daliah Lavinbuck on Oct. 12, 1942, in Haifa, in what was then British Palestine. She was discovered at the age of 10 by Hollywood star Kirk Douglas, who she met when he was in her country filming the movie The Juggler. After Lavi told him she wanted to be a dancer, Douglas convinced her parents to Sweden for training. It was there that she began acting, with her first film role coming in the 1955 Swedish adaptation of August Strindberg’s novel “The People of Hemso.”
Lavi quickly earned international acclaim for playing Cunégonde to Jean-Pierre Cassel’s Candide in a 1960 French film adaptation of Voltaire’s novel.
“A new actress by the name of Dahlia (sic) Lavi is impressive along the lines of Brigitte Bardot or Claudia Cardinale as the lustrous Cunégonde,” Bosley Crowther wrote in a review in The New York Times.
Lavi’s most famous role was arguably in 1967’s star-studded spoof Casino Royale, which also starred Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, Ursula Andress, Deborah Kerr and Woody Allen. She played a British agent who trick’s Allen’s character into ingesting a poison pill. Though the movie was a success with audiences, it was widely panned by critics and marked the beginning of the end of Lavi’s career in Hollywood.
Lavi’s final Hollywood roles came in the early 1970s, and after that she moved to Germany, where she had a successful career as a singer and actress. Though her success came in the acting world, Lavi’s attitude towards the profession can best be summed up by an interview she gave in 1964.
“I like acting and it pays well, and they say one day I will become a big star,” she said. “But I don’t really care about an acting career. I’d rather be a dancer.”
Rest in peace, Daliah Lavi!