AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Director: John Cromwell (Dir)
Release Date:   5 Aug 1938
Premiere Information:   World premiere: 13 Jul 1938 in Los Angeles
Production Date:   1 Apr--early May 1938
Duration (in mins):   95-96
Duration (in feet):   8,609
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Sigrid Gurie (Ines)  
    Charles Boyer (Pepe Le Moko)  
    Hedy Lamarr (Gaby)  
    Joseph Calleia (Slimane)  
    Alan Hale (Grandpere)  
    Gene Lockhart (Regis)  
    Walter Kingsford (Louvain)  
    Paul Harvey (Janvier)  
    Stanley Fields (Carlos)  
    Johnny Downs (Pierrot)  
    Charles D. Brown (Max)  
    Robert Greig (Giraux)  
    Leonid Kinsky (L'Arbi)  
    Joan Woodbury (Aicha)  
    Nina Koshetz (Tania)  
    Claudia Dell (Marie)  
    Bert Roach (Bertier)  
    Ben Hall (Gil)  
    Armand Kaliz (Sergeant of French police)  
    Luana Walters (Native waitress)  

Summary: 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." 

Production Company: Walter Wanger Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: John Cromwell (Dir)
  Horace Hough (Asst dir)
Producer: Walter Wanger (Pres)
Writer: John Howard Lawson (Scr)
  James M. Cain (Addl dial)
Photography: James Wong Howe (Photog)
  Lloyd Knechtel (Atmospheric scenes and background transparencies)
Art Direction: Alexander Toluboff (Art dir)
  Wade Rubottom (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Otho Lovering (Film ed)
  William Reynolds (Film ed)
Costumes: Omar Kiam (Miss Gurie's ward)
  Irene (Miss Lamarr's ward)
Sound: Paul Neal (Sd)
Make Up: Nina Roberts (Hair dresser)
Production Misc: Jamiel Hasson (Tech adv)
  Daniel Keefe (Prod mgr)
  Robert Coburn (Still photog)
Country: United States

Songs: "C'est la vie," music by Vincent Scotto and Mohammed Igorbouchen, lyrics by Ann Ronell.
Composer: Mohammed Igorbouchen
  Ann Ronell
  Vincent Scotto
Source Text: 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).
Authors: Detective Ashelbe
  Julien Duvivier

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Walter Wanger Productions, Inc. 8/8/1938 dd/mm/yyyy LP8193

PCA NO: 4331
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Romance
Subjects (Major): Algiers (Algeria)
Subjects (Minor): Docks
  Forgers and forgery
  Gold diggers
  Gunshot wounds

Note: Although a large ad in MPD announced that the "World premiere" of Algiers would be held in the Radio City Music Hall in New York on 14 Jul 1938, a news item in MPD noted that the 4-Star Theatre in Los Angeles would also have a "World premiere," on 13 Jul 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 AmCin 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 HR news item on 16 Apr 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 7 Jul 1941 on a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast, and Boyer repeated the performance on 14 Dec 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 Var 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 18 Feb 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

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   1 Aug 38   p. 312.
Box Office   2-Jul-38   
Daily Variety   24 Jun 38   p. 3
Film Daily   28 Jun 38   p. 6
Hollywood Reporter   1 Apr 38   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Apr 38   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jun 19938   p. 3
Hollywood Reporter   12 Aug 38   p. 41.
Motion Picture Daily   29 Jun 38   p. 4
Motion Picture Daily   6 Jul 38   pp. 6-7
Motion Picture Daily   7 Jul 38   p. 7.
Motion Picture Herald   30 Apr 38   p. 25
Motion Picture Herald   2 Jul 38   p. 40
New York Times   15 Jul 38   p. 13
Variety   29 Jun 38   p. 12

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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