Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr
ALGIERS (1938). Director: John Cromwell.

Hiding out in the Casbah, jewel thief Pepe le Moko (Charles Boyer) falls for Gaby (Hedy Lamarr), the fiancee of a wealthy tourist. But will the woman who adores him, Ines (Sigrid Gurie), be indirectly responsible for his destruction? Algiers is the first American remake of the French film Pepe le Moko, which had only come out one year earlier. Algiers is virtually a scene for scene remake of Pepe -- sometimes even a shot for shot remake -- but it still has the edge on the French original. For one thing, we have Charles Boyer [Gaslight] in the title role, and he is not only much more "romantic"-looking than the rather potato-faced Jean Gabin, but offers a much more nuanced and emotional performance. Although most of her dialogue is virtually the same as in Pepe, Hedy Lamarr  [Crossroads] gives a much warmer and more human delivery, making her character much more likable. Gurie is fine as Ines, although this version is less compassionate toward her than the original, which cuts her out of the ending and has Slimane, the inspector, telling her off for betraying Pepe. Slimane is portrayed by Joseph Calleia [Five Came Back], and it is one of the actor's most memorable performances. Others in the cast include Johnny Downs as Pierrot, Joan Woodbury as his girlfriend, and Leonid Kinskey as L'Arbi. Boyer sings a song (C'est la vie) as Gabin did in the original, but the sequence where Tania sings has been omitted. Another plus for this version is an effective musical score by Mohamed Ygerbuchen and Vincent Scotto. James Wong Howe was cinematographer. Of course in neither version of the story does the romanticized criminal Moko seem that much like a real person. Incidentally, Boyer never says the line "Come with me to the Casbah; we will make beautiful music together"--  more's the pity! Samuel Goldwyn discovery Sigrid Guris, a "Norwegian" actress born in Flatbush, only made a few movies. Remade as Casbah with Tony Martin.

Verdict: More fun in the Casbah! ***.


angelman66 said...

This is the one that I have seen several times and remember so well. Boyer and Lamarr - you don't get much more of a romantic, continental and good-looking movie pairing than this!

William said...

They were at the very top, with lots more to come, especially from Boyer. Am I in the minority when I say that Lamarr gave more good performances than bad ones? No, she wasn't a genius, but she wasn't untalented, either, although that was the impression that always surrounded her.