Algiers (1938)

Passed   |    |  Drama, Mystery, Romance

Algiers (1938) Poster

Beautiful Gaby meets a romantic jewel thief in the mysterious Casbah.


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27 April 2009 | lewis-51
| Wonderful performances by Lamarr and Boyer
This is a great movie well worth watching. The interaction between the leads, Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr, is nothing short of beautiful.

Other people have described the plot, the setting, and the great photography, so I will skip that. Some have written here that Algiers compares well to "Casablanca." I can't agree with that. This movie doesn't have the heroism, the larger than life situation, the love triangle. For that reason, I can't rate it more than 8 (while I rate Casablanca a 10+).

As has also been noted here, Algiers is a remake of the French movie "Pepe Le Moko". I have not seen that movie. I'm sure I will someday. Some people have written that the French movie is better, and that the lead actor there, Gabin, is more believable as a gangster. That may well be true; I will not argue it. It doesn't matter. Boyer is excellent here. His personna is completely believable to me, and, frankly, I don't much care how closely he matches authentic French gangsters. No wonder so may female movie fans fell in love with him!

The movie is made even more appealing by the secondary characters. Gene Lockart's informer is well acted. Joseph Calleia does a great job as the "native" detective who has easy access to the Casbah. Sigrid Gurie is great as the jealous courtesan. Alan Hale Sr. is great as the witty erudite criminal. The rough fellow who always says "OK" was fun. I also enjoyed the slim bodyguard dressed in white who never said anything; not sure which actor this is.

If there is a flaw, it is maybe an overall dearth of intensity. Maybe this is a question of evolving movie-making style, a difference of eras. I think we expect criminals these days to show a lot of anger, to hear a lot of nasty snarling dialogue. You aren't going to hear that in this movie.

And frankly I don't care because this is not a crime drama, it's a tragic love story. Which brings us to the main reason to see this movie. Hedy Lamarr.

What can I say? "Wow" is hardly sufficient. "Holy @#!&%" doesn't help much. Of all the beautiful actresses there have been, of all the kinds of beauty -- cute, girl-next-door, classic, sultry, innocent, exotic, hot, mysterious, haughty, bombshell, va-va-voom, ethereal -- Hedy Lamarr had the best. No she didn't have the sexiest body; she was actually a little thin. She wasn't the oh-so-appealing cute type like Meg Ryan, or the sexy bombshell like Marilyn Monroe, or the exotic Greta Garbo. This is pure human female beauty. And it's not just some portrait or statue. She speaks, she smiles, she moves. There are at least three scenes of conversations with Charles Boyer that I just can't watch often enough. By direction or not, she slightly underacts. It's been said that she really wasn't that good at acting. Could be; again, who cares? She communicates plenty to me.

So applaud it for the plot, the photography, the great secondary characters, the wonderful Charles Boyer. And drink a toast to Hedy Lamarr.

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