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Simone Simon: Living Casablanca

In old Hollywood's greatest movie, Casablanca, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) had a short but passionate romance with Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) in Paris in 1940, just before the German invasion. Against all odds, the two would meet again in Morocco in December 1941, the flame would rekindle, and Rick would send his married lover off to Lisbon in a bittersweet farewell.

Little did the actors know as they filmed that summer of '42, the scene was being played out on a much bigger stage. While Bogart was pretending to fight the Nazis—and pretending to romance Ingrid Bergman—on Warner Bros.'s Morocco lot, MI6 agent Dusko Popov (Ian Fleming's inspiration for James Bond) was doing it in real life. That very summer Popov, who was on loan to the FBI to fight the Nazis, was romancing Hollywood leading lady Simone Simon in Manhattan's El Morocco.

And like Casablanca, the Popov/Simon story had a preamble: the couple had met and fallen in love just before the war.

In Paris.

Little did Simone Simon know, the FBI was shadowing her, suspecting that she might be a German spy. They bugged her two rooms—323 and 324—in the Beverly Hills Hotel, recording the pillow talk she shared with Popov, who called often from New York. They investigated her associations, and followed some of them. They intercepted love letters Dusko was sending her. She was clean, of course, and never the wiser about her secret admirers.

So how did the story end? Did Dusko, like Rick Blaine, lose his Lund? To find out, friends, you'll have to read the full story in INTO THE LION'S MOUTH: The True Story of Dusko Popov—World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond.

Happy Birthday, Simone Simon!

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© 2012 by LARRY LOFTIS