The allure of Hedy Lamarr, as well as the exotic location of the Casbah, was said to be two of the chief inspirations for Casablanca (1942). However, MGM refused to release Lamarr from her contract for the Warner Brothers film.
When Julius Epstein, one of several screenwriters for Casablanca (1942), was trying to "pitch" it to David O. Selznick, from whom they wanted to borrow their preferred female star, Ingrid Bergman. Epstein started in on a long, drawn-out summary but finally wrapped up with, "Oh, what the hell! It's going to be a lot of shit like 'Algiers'!"
Charles Boyer's often repeated, and parodied, line "Come with me to the Casbah" was in the trailers but was never actually said in the film. According to an article in "Smithsonian Magazine" (July 2007), the line came from an impersonation of Boyer by the cartoon character Pepé Le Pew in The Cats Bah (1954), Warmer Bros. cartoon. However, this is impossible, since "Algiers" was made in 1938 and "The Cats Bah" in 1954.
The cast and credits are based on the 98-minute print shown on Turner Classic Movies, but the AFI Catalogue lists slightly different changes which suggest that their print may have been a re-release. In the AFI Catalogue listing, Sigrid Gurie's name is above the title with the rest of the cast list the same. The crew credits are identical, except that James Wong Howe is credited for "photography" instead of "director of photography." The latter terminology was rare in 1938, but not unheard of.
The film entered the public domain in the USA in 1966, due to the claimants failing to renew its copyright registration 28 years after publication, so that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film.
Producer Walter Wagner wanted either Dolores del Rio or Sylvia Sidney for the role of Gaby. Sindey was also considered for the role of Ines, but she felt that she had played that type of character many times before and turned it down.
Although a large ad in Motion Picture Daily announced that the "World premiere" would be held in the Radio City Music Hall in New York on July 14, 1938, a news item in Motion Picture Daily noted that the 4-Star Theatre in Los Angeles would also have a "World premiere," on July 13, 1938.
According to press materials in the copyright file on the film, and a 1938 article in American Cinematographer written by photographer James Wong Howe, Lloyd 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 Pépé le Moko (1937), but contemporary information indicates that Knechtel shot exteriors and backgrounds especially for Algiers.
A Hollywood Reporter news item on April 16, 1938 notes that Walter Wanger had recently hired Rosita Royce, a "strip dancer" who had replaced 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.
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 Walter Wanger, dated February 18, 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 Hedy Lamarr appearing in the film because of her appearance in Ecstasy (1933). Because of potential problems anticipated by Wanger and MGM (to whom Lamarr went under contract), no publicity generated by either company made reference to her appearance in Ecstasy.