Actress played newlywed refugee in ‘Casablanca’
Joy Page, the stepdaughter of Warner Bros. studio chief Jack L. Warner who earned her place in film history playing the dark-haired young Bulgarian newlywed in “Casablanca,” has died. She was 83.
Page died of complications from a stroke and pneumonia Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said her son, Gregory Orr.
The actress was a 17-year-old Beverly Hills High School senior when she landed the role of Annina Brandel in “Casablanca,” the classic 1942 film starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid.
As the newlywed refugee in need of exit visas so she and her husband can get out of Casablanca and go to America, the character is faced with the moral dilemma of giving herself to Capt. Renault (Claude Rains) in exchange for the documents. But Bogart, as the worldly proprietor of Rick’s Cafe Americain, intervenes by letting her husband win at roulette so he can buy the visas.
It was Page’s first film role.
Although her movie mogul stepfather wasn’t thrilled with a family member becoming an actor, Page had been attending acting classes at the studio taught by acting coach Sophie Rosenstein, who suggested that she read for the role.
Page had read an early draft of the “Casablanca” script that Warner had brought home and was not impressed.
“She told me she thought it was corny and old-fashioned,” Orr said.
But after learning that Bergman had been cast in the movie, he said, she had a change of heart.
“She felt that would change the feeling of it, and it would become worthy and truthful because of what Bergman would bring to the picture,” said Orr, adding that his mother “was very fond of the experience” of making “Casablanca.”
“She said Bogart had been very nice to her; he was very patient and came in and rehearsed with her. And she admired Ingrid Bergman very much,” he said.
Although Warner was pleased with Page’s work in the film, he would not sign her to a studio contract or cast her in other Warner Bros. movies.
She went on to play Ronald Colman’s daughter in director William Dieterle’s “Kismet,” a lavish 1944 MGM adventure-fantasy co-starring Marlene Dietrich.
Among Page’s other films were “Man-Eater of Kumaon” with Indian actor Sabu (1948), “Bullfighter and the Lady” with Robert Stack (1951) and “The Shrike” (1955) with Jose Ferrer and June Allyson.
Page also worked in television, including on “Schlitz Playhouse of Stars,” “Studio 57,” “Cheyenne,” “Wagon Train” and “The Swamp Fox” before retiring from acting in 1962.
Born on Nov. 9, 1924, in Los Angeles, she was the daughter of silent screen actor Don Alvarado (who was also known as Don Page) and the former Ann Boyar, who married Warner after she and Alvarado divorced.
In 1945, Page married actor William T. Orr, who later became a Warner Bros. vice president and film producer. They divorced in 1970.
In addition to her son, she is survived by her daughter, Diane Orr; and her half sister, Barbara Warner Howard.
A private service was held Wednesday.