Monday, 4 June 2012

Daliah Lavi : Queen of the 60s Euro Cutie Spies

Daliah Lavi was seemingly everywhere in 60s spy cinema.

Need a Euro cutie who was slinky, sexy, sassy and handy with a gun? Then Daliah was your lady, appearing in Casino Royale, The Spy With A Cold Nose, The Silencers, OK Connery and Some Girls Do. It was an overcrowded and competitive market (Santa Berger, Elke Sommer, Ursula Andress to name but a few) but she certainly stood out.

The raven haired ravishing dollybird was born in Israel in 1942 to a German father and Russian mother. She initially studied ballet in Stockholm, Sweden, being a teenage performer at the Swedish Royal Opera House (a scholarship funded by Kirk Douglas, who befriended her family whilst filming in her hometown in 1952) but from 1960 she began to appear in film. Her fluency in several languages meant that she could turn her hand to many European productions (such as German, Spanish, French and Italian) as well as American and British and the spy boom following the success of James Bond soon kept her in business - helped by the persistent though untrue rumour that she had actually served in the Israeli Army. 

A still and a German Lobby Card for the spoof The Spy With A Cold Nose (1966) starring Lionel Jeffries and Laurence Harvey. 
Daliah played Princess Natasha Romanova

The Silencers (1966) 
The first of the Matt Helm film series starring Dean Martin.
Daliah played Tina

Some Girls Do (1969) 
Daliah played Baroness Helga Hagen
in this second Bulldog Drummond film, taking centre stage on the poster.
The second photo is taken at the launch of the film in May 1968 at The Carlton Tower Hotel. 
Alongside Daliah are co-stars Sydney Rome and Jutta Stengsgaard.

Most famously, Daliah played The Detainer in Casino Royale (1967)
Here she is attracting the wanted attention of Terence Cooper in the top photo, and gaining the unwanted attention of Woody Allen in the bottom photo!

And if you ask me, it's a shame no one cast her as Modesty Blaise at the time  - just look at that photo with her and Deano in The Silencers with the high chignon hair, or the film poster for Some Girls Do, she was perfect, far more in keeping than fellow Euro cutie Monica Vitti who would go on to play her in the 60s.

Daliah was also a singer of some repute in Germany throughout the 70s. This second career came about after Topol persuaded her to make records. She quickly became a success in the schlager genre (what has often been described outside of Germany, perhaps unkindly, as Eurovision style music) and soon preferred to focus on that than the movies, 1971's Catlow with Yul Brynner being her swansong. Despite this film 'retirement' she became something of a familiar face on UK TV screens making guest appearances as herself in such comedy and variety shows as Sez Les, The Golden Shot, Whodunnit, The Harry Secombe Show and The David Nixon Show. She returned to acting once more in Germany in the 90s, following a successful series of concert tours for her music after an 18 year gap, but she is now retired (or at least semi-retired), living in North Carolina with her fourth husband, a businessman.


  1. Remember being 10 years old and seeing Daliah in "Casino Royale" for the first time. In a film full of amazingly beautiful women, she was the standout. She had that deep, tranny voice,exotic dark looks and a kind of no nonsense sexuality that was a nice change from all the passive, pouty blondes around at the time. Thanks for the backstory. I never knew any of that about her!

    1. You're welcome, and I think your first experience of her is probably the same as mine! Back then BBC1 would often show Casino Royale on a Sunday afternoon, and being a young fan of Sellers and Niven (and quite a few others in that amazing cast list) I would always tune in. They also would show The Spy With A Cold Nose fairly regularly in the 80s when I was little too, often of a midweek afternoon; so it was either of those that was my first sight of her.
      Thanks Ken.

  2. As an actress she was so, so.....But as a singer she was the best we ever had in Germany. Just an example published on youtube: