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Algiers – 1938 Cromwell
- There is an argument to be made that in a world where Pépé le Moko (1937) from Julien Duvivier and Jean Gabin exists, there’s no need for Algiers. And certainly, if you haven’t seen the Duvivier film, that needs to be seen first. Algiers is not on that level—everything from Cromwell’s film is copied, or inferior, or both- with the exception of Hedy Lamarr in the Gaby role. And I think there is enough there with Lamarr’s work and some of the chemistry with Charles Boyer, to archive the film.
- Lemarr is breathtaking here at 24 years old—she’s often mentioned as one of the most beautiful of Hollywood actresses and she had the acting chops to back it up- at least here. For the story to work you have to believe that Boyer’s Pepe would give it all up for her—and undoubtedly, you have no problem believing that here with Hedy. She and Charles Boyer (who unlike Jean Gabin- spoke English) have chemistry on screen. The film received four nominations (Boyer, an exceptional Gene Lockhart in support, art direction, and cinematography- James Wong Howe) but Lemarr’s achievement trumps them all.
- The best parts of Algiers (outside of the performances) are lifted from Pépé le Moko. So, it is just hard to be in awe of the nice little documentary footage tour of the Casbah, the tapping on the doors scene to notify Pepe that the police are coming, the cutaway to the boy with the art on the wall at the 56-minute mark, or the face in the fence finale.
- Alan Hale is solid in support as he always is- so affable—and again, Lockhart is such a good little sniveling cheat
- A nice little montage of close-ups as Lemarr and Boyer fall for each other.
- Boyer is smooth, charming—but the scene of Pepe walking the market is nothing like Gabin’s scene. Gabin is just a bigger presence—way more credible as the sort of Don Corleone of the Casbah. And Boyer’s rage doesn’t touch where Gabin could go.
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1938