In 1967, Daliah Lavi did what a number of women have likely dreamed of doing since: She poisoned Woody Allen.
Well, not quite. Starring opposite him in the 1967 James Bond spoof “Casino Royale,” she tricked him into swallowing an atomic pill that turned him into a human nuclear bomb — the science on this is not so clear — foiling his myriad evil plots.
Lavi, who passed away on May 3 at age 74, became famous playing such roles: Femme fatales in over-the-top spy spoofs. Born Daliah Lewinbuk in the village Shavi Zion in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine, Lavi’s career as a performer got started when Kirk Douglas made “The Jugglers,” filming close to her hometown. Then 10 years old, she met the actor and director, who arranged for her to go to Stockholm to pursue her dream of becoming a dancer.
She never let go of that dream; a New York Times obituary reported that in 1964, after filming “Lord Jim” with Hollywood legend Peter O’Toole, she told The Boston Globe “I don’t really care about an acting career. I’d rather be a dancer.” Low blood pressure got in the way, so she turned to acting and modeling. Her career was wildly varied, from “Lord Jim,” to the aforementioned farcical James Bond spin-offs of the 70s; in 1960, she starred both in “Candide,” an adaptation of the famous satire by Voltaire, and “Blazing Sand,” an Israeli-made film that The Guardian, in an obituary, colorfully described as a “matzo western.”
Once her film career petered out in the wake of “Catlow,” an uninspiring Western that co-starred Yul Brynner and Leonard Nimoy. Lavi turned to music, becoming a popular singer in Germany, where she also acted in television shows.
At the end of her life, after a career that had spanned continents, mediums, and genres, Lavi was living in North Carolina with her fourth husband, Charles Gans, who confirmed her death to the Times but did not share its cause. She is survived by him, as well as three sons and one daughter, a sister, and six grandchildren.