Algiers


1h 35m 1938
Algiers

Brief Synopsis

A thief on the run from the law risks his life for love.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Crime
Release Date
Aug 5, 1938
Premiere Information
World premiere: 13 Jul 1938 in Los Angeles
Production Company
Walter Wanger Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Pépé le Moko by Detective Ashelbe (Paris, 1937) and the French film of the same name by Julien Duvivier and Detective Ashelbe (Paris-Films-Production, 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,609ft (10 reels)

Synopsis

Pepe le Moko, the most notorious thief in Algiers, has eluded prison for many years because the police cannot capture him in his habitat, the labyrinthine Casbah sector of the city. Janvier, a policeman who reports to the French government in Paris, is determined to capture Pepe and appease his superiors, using whatever means possible. Inspector Slimane, who regularly sees Pepe in the Casbah, scoffs at Janvier's efforts, knowing that Pepe's arrest can only be accomplished by intelligence and finesse. Janvier attempts a raid on the Casbah, based on information supplied by Regis, a thief who is jealous of Pepe. Regis then goes to Ines, a woman in love with Pepe, to "warn" him that the police are coming. Pepe suspects that Regis has been informing the police, but does nothing. When the police arrive at Pepe's friend Grandpere's house, shooting starts and Pepe is slightly wounded, but escapes.

During the melee, Gaby, a beautiful French tourist, is helped by Slimane, who takes her to a house, where they meet Pepe. Though Slimane likes and admires Pepe, he wants to capture him and tells Gaby that the exact date of Pepe's capture is written on his office wall. The next day, as Gaby and her friend Aicha prepare to meet Gaby's rich fiancé Giraux and Aicha's rich husband Bertier, an unhappy Gaby thinks of Pepe. At the same time, Pepe encounters Slimane in the Casbah and Slimane teases Pepe that he is as interested in Gaby's eyes and mouth as her expensive jewels. Meanwhile, Regis tells the policeman Louvain that he has a plan to capture Pepe, by using Pepe's loyal young friend Pierrot as bait. Regis sends a letter to Pierrot, supposedly from the young man's mother, which tells him that she is lying ill in Algiers. Distraught when Regis says that the handwriting proves definitely that the letter is genuine, Pierrot determines to go to his mother, and is accompanied on his journey outside the Casbah by Regis. Some hours later, after Pepe is told by Tania, a girl who loves Pierrot, about Regis and Pierrot's conversation, Pepe has Regis brought to him.

While the nervous Regis worries about his fate, Pepe again meets Gaby and she agrees to see him the next day, realizing that they love each other. When a wounded Pierrot comes back to the Casbah and tells Pepe exactly what has happened, Pepe takes him to Regis. Pierrot collapses as he is about to shoot Regis, who is then killed by Carlos, Pepe's underling. The next day, Pepe is almost mad with grief. When Slimane tells him about Pierrot's funeral, which Pepe could not attend because it was held outside the Casbah, Pepe rushes toward the main part of the city. He is stopped by Ines, however, who lies that Gaby is waiting for him at his house. Once at home, Pepe discovers the lie, but is grateful to Ines for saving him from capture. When Gaby does show up, Pepe becomes even more frustrated that he cannot leave the Casbah. She wants him to meet her outside the Casbah, but agrees to come back the next day. Meanwhile, Slimane talks to Giraux and advises him to take Gaby away before she becomes too involved with Pepe.

As Slimane's plan unfolds, Gaby is told by Giraux that Pepe has been killed; at the same time, Pepe learns what has happened by the traitor L'Arbi, who lets him know that Gaby and Giraux are leaving by steamship that afternoon, even though Pepe is supposed to think that she will still be at the hotel. Now obsessed, Pepe refuses to listen to Ines' pleas and leaves the Casbah. As Pepe buys a steamship ticket, Ines informs Slimane that Pepe will be going directly to the dock. On the boat, just as Pepe sees Gaby in the salon, Slimane and his men take him under arrest. On the dock, when Pepe runs toward the ship trying to call Gaby, who has not seen him, one of Slimane's men shoots him. As Slimane holds the dying Pepe, he apologizes because his man thought Pepe was trying to escape, to which Pepe replies, "And so I have, my friend."

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Crime
Release Date
Aug 5, 1938
Premiere Information
World premiere: 13 Jul 1938 in Los Angeles
Production Company
Walter Wanger Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Pépé le Moko by Detective Ashelbe (Paris, 1937) and the French film of the same name by Julien Duvivier and Detective Ashelbe (Paris-Films-Production, 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,609ft (10 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Actor

1938
Charles Boyer

Best Art Direction

1938

Best Cinematography

1938

Best Supporting Actor

1938
Gene Lockhart

Articles

Algiers


When comedians do Charles Boyer imitations, it is invariably with a bad French accent and a line from Algiers (1938): "Come wiz me to ze Casbah". But here's the catch: like Humphrey Bogart's oft-quote "Play it Again, Sam" - Boyer never said, "Come with me to the Casbah." He also hated it. As Larry Swindell wrote in his biography of Boyer, "He believed that the parody demeaned his integrity as an actor, even creating the supposition that he was not a serious actor. He believed the whole thing had been carried altogether too far when one of the best-known Boyer imitators proved to be that American original, Mr. Bugs Bunny. To the bogus impersonation he also attributed the myth, as he called it, of the great lover - or "lovair". 'Mostly I've played other parts, but even when I've played other parts people see me differently. In America, when you have an accent, in the mind of the people they associate you with kissing hands and being gallant. I think this has harmed me, just as it has harmed me to be followed and plagued by a line I never said.'"

He also did not enjoy filming Algiers. The film was a remake of Julien Duvivier's acclaimed French film Pepe le Moko, starring France's biggest star, Jean Gabin. Boyer justifiably complained, "An actor never likes to copy another's style, and here I was copying Jean Gabin, one of the best." Director John Cromwell used sequences of the Casbah from the original picture and much of the French musical score. This, too, bothered Boyer, "[Cromwell] would run a scene from the original and insist we do it exactly that way - Terrible, a perfectly terrible way to work." Cromwell felt differently, "Boyer was the unhappiest man in Southern California. He felt doomed to imitate a Jean Gabin performance, and never appreciated how different his own Pepe was from Gabin's. Boyer showed something like genius to make it different. It was a triumph of nuance. The shots are the same, the dialogue has the same meaning, but Boyer's Pepe and Gabin's Pepe are two different fellows but in the same predicament."

For Boyer's love interest, Ingrid Bergman, Dolores Del Rio, and Sylvia Sidney had been considered before the role went to the woman who would be proclaimed as the most beautiful ever to appear before a camera - Hedy Lamarr. As Hedwig Kiesler, she had appeared fully nude in the 1933 Czech film Extase, then married a millionaire who unsuccessfully tried to buy up and destroy every print of the film. She was questioned about this by MGM publicity head Howard Dietz "Did you appear in the nude?" "Yes." "Did you look good?" "Of course!" "Then it's all right, no damage has been done."

In her controversial autobiography, Ecstasy and Me, Lamarr remembered meeting Boyer for the first time. "It was a rainy evening and I was painting greys and blacks - yes, I paint as well as collect - feeling very good. Reggie [actor Reginald Gardiner, who she was dating at the time] dropped in to ask me to go to a party with him. It was the last thing I wanted to do. Furthermore a change from paint clothes to a formal gown was no casual zip-up....So reluctantly I went. I wasn't at the party more than ten minutes when a deep voice said from in back of me, 'I have not seen your face but from the back your hair and your figure assure me you are a beautiful woman.' I detected a warm French accent in the words. I turned to find the gentleman was Charles Boyer. I thanked him for the compliment. 'Ah,' he said smiling, 'I was right. It is so heartening to have snap guesses confirmed. You are truly beautiful. Now, 'he went on, 'give me a list of your credits, I will give you my list of credits and we will get that out of the way.' I told him, 'It will not take me long. Though I am under contract to MGM I have not made a picture here yet. I made a few minor films in Vienna.' 'Ah,' he said, 'Hedy Lamarr.' He rolled the name beautifully in his throat. 'They told me you'd be here.' He took me by the arm, and looked into my eyes, 'Would you consider making a film with me?' When I nodded, he led me across the room to a distinguished looking gentleman whom he introduced as Walter Wanger. 'Well, what do you think?' asked Boyer. I, of course, had not the slightest suspicion of what they were talking about. Wanger stared at me. 'Say a few sentences.' 'I was happy painting at home in the rain,' I improvised, 'and now I am wondering whether it was wise to leave. I am very bad at small talk and my English is still difficult to handle.' Wanger nodded. 'Yes, it could be. Could be.' Boyer clarified it all. 'Walter just purchased the American screen rights to Pepe le Moko from MGM. I have promised him I would star in his version.'"

MGM was still looking for an appropriate vehicle for Lamarr's first film and Algiers seemed to be it. Production began on April 1, 1938. The date was significant: things did not go smoothly, according to Cromwell. "[Hedy] was a nice girl, or she was then. Hedy didn't make trouble, didn't have an ego problem. The problem was, she couldn't act, and we knew it before we started shooting or even rehearsing. After you've been in the business for a time, you can tell easily enough right when you meet them. I could sense her inadequacy, Wanger could sense it, and I could see Boyer getting worried even before we started talking behind Hedy's back...Sometimes the word personality is interchangeable with presence although they aren't the same thing. But the principle applies, and Hedy also had no personality. How could they think she could become a second Garbo?...Hedy Lamarr had a more discernible presence from picture to picture, call it a persona if you will, and she also learned to act. Sort of...Hedy always got star billing, but she wasn't a star. She was a beauty. Well, we got the picture going, and we did all right. The critics saw she couldn't act, but she got by, and they sold the picture by gushing how beautiful she was. I'll take some credit for making her acting passable but can only share credit with Boyer fifty-fifty. I rate my accomplishment with Lamarr in Algiers above what I did with [Bette] Davis in Of Human Bondage [1934] because Bette could have done it on her own without me. Hell, all I did was cast her and say roll 'em. So I'll say Boyer's was a finer accomplishment than mine. I didn't have to act with her; he did. He proved himself a gentleman of grace and courage and excellent poise. If you were in a group of people and saw an atomic bomb falling down on you, Charles Boyer would be the one not to panic. He pulled Hedy through so delicately. He sensed a lack of confidence but was more concerned about the little confidence she did have, which was sometimes revealed in the slightest arrogance. He didn't want to destroy that, but he never lied to her. He didn't tell her she was bad, and he didn't say she was good. He acted with sincerity and with integrity and she responded to it. Any actor, good or bad, responds to another actor's level...In Algiers Hedy plays off Boyer and he's incredible. The love scenes are so strong that you don't see it's all him."

While Boyer himself may have disliked being thought of only as a "great lovair", Algiers certainly cemented his reputation. And it would serve as the inspiration for another romantic star: animator Chuck Jones based the character of the love-sick French skunk Pepe Le Pew on Boyer's character. Charles Boyer must have been thrilled.

Producer: Walter Wanger
Director: John Cromwell
Screenplay: Henri La Barthe, John Howard Lawson, James M. Cain
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Film Editing: Otho Lovering, William Reynolds
Art Direction: Alexander Toluboff
Music: Vincent Scotto, Mohammed Igarbouchen
Cast: Charles Boyer (Pepe le Moko), Sigrid Gurie (Ines), Hedy Lamarr (Gaby), Joseph Calleia (Inspector Slimane), Alan Hale (Grandpere), Gene Lockhart (Regis).
BW-95m.

by Lorraine LoBianco

Sources:

Ecstasy and Me by Hedy Lamarr

The Reluctant Lover, Charles Boyer by Larry Swindell

Walter Wanger: Hollywood Independent by Matthew Bernstein
Algiers

Algiers

When comedians do Charles Boyer imitations, it is invariably with a bad French accent and a line from Algiers (1938): "Come wiz me to ze Casbah". But here's the catch: like Humphrey Bogart's oft-quote "Play it Again, Sam" - Boyer never said, "Come with me to the Casbah." He also hated it. As Larry Swindell wrote in his biography of Boyer, "He believed that the parody demeaned his integrity as an actor, even creating the supposition that he was not a serious actor. He believed the whole thing had been carried altogether too far when one of the best-known Boyer imitators proved to be that American original, Mr. Bugs Bunny. To the bogus impersonation he also attributed the myth, as he called it, of the great lover - or "lovair". 'Mostly I've played other parts, but even when I've played other parts people see me differently. In America, when you have an accent, in the mind of the people they associate you with kissing hands and being gallant. I think this has harmed me, just as it has harmed me to be followed and plagued by a line I never said.'" He also did not enjoy filming Algiers. The film was a remake of Julien Duvivier's acclaimed French film Pepe le Moko, starring France's biggest star, Jean Gabin. Boyer justifiably complained, "An actor never likes to copy another's style, and here I was copying Jean Gabin, one of the best." Director John Cromwell used sequences of the Casbah from the original picture and much of the French musical score. This, too, bothered Boyer, "[Cromwell] would run a scene from the original and insist we do it exactly that way - Terrible, a perfectly terrible way to work." Cromwell felt differently, "Boyer was the unhappiest man in Southern California. He felt doomed to imitate a Jean Gabin performance, and never appreciated how different his own Pepe was from Gabin's. Boyer showed something like genius to make it different. It was a triumph of nuance. The shots are the same, the dialogue has the same meaning, but Boyer's Pepe and Gabin's Pepe are two different fellows but in the same predicament." For Boyer's love interest, Ingrid Bergman, Dolores Del Rio, and Sylvia Sidney had been considered before the role went to the woman who would be proclaimed as the most beautiful ever to appear before a camera - Hedy Lamarr. As Hedwig Kiesler, she had appeared fully nude in the 1933 Czech film Extase, then married a millionaire who unsuccessfully tried to buy up and destroy every print of the film. She was questioned about this by MGM publicity head Howard Dietz "Did you appear in the nude?" "Yes." "Did you look good?" "Of course!" "Then it's all right, no damage has been done." In her controversial autobiography, Ecstasy and Me, Lamarr remembered meeting Boyer for the first time. "It was a rainy evening and I was painting greys and blacks - yes, I paint as well as collect - feeling very good. Reggie [actor Reginald Gardiner, who she was dating at the time] dropped in to ask me to go to a party with him. It was the last thing I wanted to do. Furthermore a change from paint clothes to a formal gown was no casual zip-up....So reluctantly I went. I wasn't at the party more than ten minutes when a deep voice said from in back of me, 'I have not seen your face but from the back your hair and your figure assure me you are a beautiful woman.' I detected a warm French accent in the words. I turned to find the gentleman was Charles Boyer. I thanked him for the compliment. 'Ah,' he said smiling, 'I was right. It is so heartening to have snap guesses confirmed. You are truly beautiful. Now, 'he went on, 'give me a list of your credits, I will give you my list of credits and we will get that out of the way.' I told him, 'It will not take me long. Though I am under contract to MGM I have not made a picture here yet. I made a few minor films in Vienna.' 'Ah,' he said, 'Hedy Lamarr.' He rolled the name beautifully in his throat. 'They told me you'd be here.' He took me by the arm, and looked into my eyes, 'Would you consider making a film with me?' When I nodded, he led me across the room to a distinguished looking gentleman whom he introduced as Walter Wanger. 'Well, what do you think?' asked Boyer. I, of course, had not the slightest suspicion of what they were talking about. Wanger stared at me. 'Say a few sentences.' 'I was happy painting at home in the rain,' I improvised, 'and now I am wondering whether it was wise to leave. I am very bad at small talk and my English is still difficult to handle.' Wanger nodded. 'Yes, it could be. Could be.' Boyer clarified it all. 'Walter just purchased the American screen rights to Pepe le Moko from MGM. I have promised him I would star in his version.'" MGM was still looking for an appropriate vehicle for Lamarr's first film and Algiers seemed to be it. Production began on April 1, 1938. The date was significant: things did not go smoothly, according to Cromwell. "[Hedy] was a nice girl, or she was then. Hedy didn't make trouble, didn't have an ego problem. The problem was, she couldn't act, and we knew it before we started shooting or even rehearsing. After you've been in the business for a time, you can tell easily enough right when you meet them. I could sense her inadequacy, Wanger could sense it, and I could see Boyer getting worried even before we started talking behind Hedy's back...Sometimes the word personality is interchangeable with presence although they aren't the same thing. But the principle applies, and Hedy also had no personality. How could they think she could become a second Garbo?...Hedy Lamarr had a more discernible presence from picture to picture, call it a persona if you will, and she also learned to act. Sort of...Hedy always got star billing, but she wasn't a star. She was a beauty. Well, we got the picture going, and we did all right. The critics saw she couldn't act, but she got by, and they sold the picture by gushing how beautiful she was. I'll take some credit for making her acting passable but can only share credit with Boyer fifty-fifty. I rate my accomplishment with Lamarr in Algiers above what I did with [Bette] Davis in Of Human Bondage [1934] because Bette could have done it on her own without me. Hell, all I did was cast her and say roll 'em. So I'll say Boyer's was a finer accomplishment than mine. I didn't have to act with her; he did. He proved himself a gentleman of grace and courage and excellent poise. If you were in a group of people and saw an atomic bomb falling down on you, Charles Boyer would be the one not to panic. He pulled Hedy through so delicately. He sensed a lack of confidence but was more concerned about the little confidence she did have, which was sometimes revealed in the slightest arrogance. He didn't want to destroy that, but he never lied to her. He didn't tell her she was bad, and he didn't say she was good. He acted with sincerity and with integrity and she responded to it. Any actor, good or bad, responds to another actor's level...In Algiers Hedy plays off Boyer and he's incredible. The love scenes are so strong that you don't see it's all him." While Boyer himself may have disliked being thought of only as a "great lovair", Algiers certainly cemented his reputation. And it would serve as the inspiration for another romantic star: animator Chuck Jones based the character of the love-sick French skunk Pepe Le Pew on Boyer's character. Charles Boyer must have been thrilled. Producer: Walter Wanger Director: John Cromwell Screenplay: Henri La Barthe, John Howard Lawson, James M. Cain Cinematography: James Wong Howe Film Editing: Otho Lovering, William Reynolds Art Direction: Alexander Toluboff Music: Vincent Scotto, Mohammed Igarbouchen Cast: Charles Boyer (Pepe le Moko), Sigrid Gurie (Ines), Hedy Lamarr (Gaby), Joseph Calleia (Inspector Slimane), Alan Hale (Grandpere), Gene Lockhart (Regis). BW-95m. by Lorraine LoBianco Sources: Ecstasy and Me by Hedy Lamarr The Reluctant Lover, Charles Boyer by Larry Swindell Walter Wanger: Hollywood Independent by Matthew Bernstein

Quotes

When one can't use guns, one must work with brains.
- Inspector Slimane
I prefer guns!
- Commissioner Janvier
In your case, honest sir, such a preference is unavoidable.
- Inspector Slimane

Trivia

Animator 'Chuck Jones' based the Warner Brothers cartoon character "Pepe le Pew" on 'Charles Boyer' 's "Pepe le Moko" from this movie.

Notes

Although a large ad in Motion Picture Daily announced that the "World premiere" of Algiers would be held in the Radio City Music Hall in New York on July 14, 1938, a news item in Motion Picture Daily noted that the 4-Star Theatre in Los Angeles would also have a "World premiere," on July 13, 1938. According to reviews, when producer Walter Wanger decided to remake French director Julien Duvivier's 1937 Pépé le Moko, Wanger bought the rights and all prints to that film to prevent it from being shown in the United States in competition with his own version. Much of the music for the original French film was incorporated into Wanger's production.
       According to press materials in the copyright file on the film, and a 1938 article in American Cinematographer written by photographer James Wong Howe, Knechtel was a London-based cameraman who was sent to Algiers specifically to do backgrounds and exteriors for the picture, which Howe later incorporated into his own, studio-shot footage. Some modern sources state that Knechtel's work was actually done for Pepe le Moko, but contemporary information indicates that Knechtel shot exteriors and backgrounds especially for Algiers. A Hollywood Reporter news item on April 16, 1938 notes that Wanger had recently hired Rosita Royce, a "strip dancer" who had replaced Gypsy Rose Lee in New York, to perform a bubble dance and take on a dramatic role in the film. No bubble dance appears in the viewed print, and Royce's participation as a dancer or actress in the film is unconfirmed.
       Although the film earned no Academy Awards, it was nominated in three categories: Best Actor for Charles Boyer; Best Supporting Actor for Gene Lockhart; and Best Cinematography for James Wong Howe. Boyer and Hedy Lamarr recreated their roles on July 7, 1941 on a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast, and Boyer repeated the performance on December 14, 1941, co-starring Loretta Young. Algiers marked the American motion picture debut of Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr, already known to United States audiences for her appearance in the Gustav Machaty-directed, Czech film Ecstasy, which encountered highly-publicized censorship problems in the United States in 1937 and 1938. The Variety review of Algiers referred to Lamarr (who was previously known as Hedy Kessler) as the "natatorial star" of Ecstasy because she appeared nude in that film.
       According to information in the file on Algiers contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the first script submitted to the Hays Office was deemed "not acceptable," in part, because of the suggestion that the "two leading female characters are both kept women." Several other minor points in the script were suggested for alteration or deletion. A memo from PCA Director Joseph I. Breen to Wanger, dated February 18, 1938, requested changes pertaining to references to prostitution, "Sex appeal," Pepe's promiscuity, and Pepe's suicide at the end to escape punishment. Other memos in the file indicate that Wanger and screenwriter John Howard Lawson were instructed to change the ending so that "Slimane's" men would shoot Pepe, rather than having him actually commit suicide. Additional information in the file indicates that a number of "women's clubs" and other groups had objected to Lamarr appearing in the film because of her appearance in Ecstasy. Because of potential problems anticipated by Wanger and M-G-M (to whom Lamarr went under contract), no publicity generated by either company made reference to her appearance in Ecstasy.
       Since the release of Algiers, many comic impressionists have imitated Boyer by using a line purportedly in the picture, "Come wees me to the Casbah." No such line was ever spoken by Boyer in the film. In addition to the 1937 and 1938 films based on Detective Ashelbe's novel, another version was made in 1948 by Universal Pictures. Entitled Casbah, that film was a musical, directed by John Berry, and starring Tony Martin and Yvonne De Carlo. In 1949, Italian comedian Totò appeared in a satirical version of the story, directed by D. Barraglia, entitled Totò Le Moko.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1938

Released in United States March 1977

Released in United States 1938

Released in United States March 1977 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Double Vision-Two different classics made from the same story) March 9-27, 1977.)