Daliah Lavi, the Israeli actress and sex symbol who starred in a number of hit movies including the spy parody, “Casino Royale,” has passed away at the age of 74.
Her family announced that Lavi died peacefully at her North Carolina home on May 3. The cause of death was not specified.
Lavi was born in 1942 in Shavei Tzion in the British Mandate of Palestine, which later became Israel. As a teenager, she studied ballet in Sweden, during which time she made her on-screen debut in the 1955 film “Hemsoborna,” a Swedish adaptation of August Strindberg’s novel, “The People of Hemso.”
She spoke several languages, allowing her to appear in English, German, French, Spanish and Italian movies, according to Variety.
Lavi’s first American film was 1962’s “Two Weeks in Another Town.” It starred Kirk Douglas, who had discovered Lavi as a child in Israel and put her on the track to fame, The New York Times reports. Lavi was awarded a Golden Globe for most promising female newcomer for her performance in the film.
Her original ambition was to become a serious dramatic actress, and 1965’s “Lord Jim” — an adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel in which she starred alongside Peter O’Toole — was supposed to be her breakthrough role. When the movie fell flat, Lavi shifted gears and began appearing in a series of “James Bond” spoofs.
In 1966, she starred in “The Silencers,” the first of four Matt Helm films, as well as British comedy “The Spy With a Cold Nose,” in which a bulldog is fitted with a wire and sent to the Russian government.
Lavi is best known for her appearance in 1967’s “Casino Royale,” another spy spoof loosely based on the novel by Ian Fleming. The film starred Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, Deborah Kerr and Woody Allen, and had multiple directors including John Huston and Ken Hughes.
Lavi plays a femme fatale who dupes Allen’s character into swallowing an atomic pill.
Her last American film was 1971’s “Catlow,” after which she began a successful career as a German pop singer. Her hits included “Oh, wann kommst du?” (“When Are You Coming?”) and “Willst du mit mihr geh’n?” (“Do You Want to Go With Me?”)
Lavi was married four times. She is survived by her husband, daughter, three sons, and five grandchildren, as well as her sister. Her funeral took place in her native Israel.
Sources: The New York Times, Variety / Photo credit: Jac de Nijs / Anefo via Wikimedia Commons