Fortunately for John Cromwell, a fine director, he got a tremendously appealing performance by Charles Boyer, a suave actor who embodied the famous jewel thief of that notorious district of Algiers. This film was also made better thanks to the magic camera work by James Wong Howe, one of the best men in the business, as proved by his long and distinguished career behind the scenes. Henri LaBarthe's novel was adapted for this American version by John Howard Lawson, with James Cain's helping with additional dialog.
"Algiers" is not without its own merits. Thanks to the talented cast that came together for the making of this film, it has gained the status of a classic. Charles Boyer was perfect as Pepe, a man whose life centers around the mysterious citadel where all kinds of unsavory characters live. Hedy Lamarr, one of the most beautiful faces in the movies, makes a good appearance as Gaby, the woman who steals Pepe's heart. Gaby and Pepe have a common ground as they reminisce of Paris, a city both love.
The other triumph of "Algiers" was the way the supporting players made this story much better, as it seems impossible to visualize other people cast for the key minor parts. Sigrid Gurie, is a mysterious Ines, the woman in love with Pepe. In her love, she doesn't stop to take into consideration what her actions will do to her lover. Gene Lockhart, a magnificent character actor, is phenomenal in his take of Regis, the schemer of the Casbah. Joseph Calleia, is perfectly sly as Inspector Slimane, a man with the patience of a saint, who must humor Pepe and his gang and who is powerless inside the Casbah. Stanley Fields makes a loyal Carlos, Pepe's trusted companion. Johnny Downs is seen as Pierrot and Leonid Kinskey, another character actor who worked extensively in that period of the American cinema, is excellent as L'arbi.
For those who haven't seen the original Duvivier film, try getting the wonderful DVD to see the great Jean Gabin in one of his best roles. The copy shown by TCM recently, seemed somewhat faded. We don't know if it has been remastered yet, but obviously, James Wong Howe's work ought to be seen in all its magnificence.