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When Tony Martin was discharged from the Navy he was looking for a
vehicle that would reestablish him as a top musical lead in Hollywood
and decided that a musical adaption of Algiers was just the ticket. He
gathered a good supporting cast and the results, while entertaining
were a mixed bag.
The best thing that Casbah had going for it was the great musical score that Harold Arlen and Leo Robin wrote for this picture. Four numbers were sung by Martin and co-star Yvonne DeCarlo. Every one of them became a big hit and were a staple of Tony Martin's nightclub act for years. Hooray for Love, What's Good About Goodbye, For Every Man There's A Woman, and It Was Written in the Stars are the songs that Martin does. The last one was identified by Ella Fitzgerald as her favorite Harold Arlen tune and one she insisted on including in her Harold Arlen songbook album.
The score greatly benefited Tony Martin's singing career, but he never did reach the heights on screen as a musical leading man. Acting wise Peter Lorre steals the show as the wily, serpentine Inspector Slimane. Lorre's Slimane is charming, cunning, and treacherous as he uses all of his "little gray cells" to bring down arch criminal Pepe Le Moko, played by Martin who is unassailable in the Casbah section of Algiers.
Yvonne DeCarlo is the tobacco shop owner who's crushing out on Martin and I'm sure that given the location of the story, one could probably get more than tobacco to smoke from her place. The other lead is the jet setting Marta Toren who Martin is panting after and forces him to make a life or death decision. Toren was extraordinarily beautiful woman in the Hedy Lamarr tradition who after a short stay in Hollywood went back to Europe and died there way too young of leukemia in 1957.
If you are a fan of Tony Martin's singing as I am, this is an absolute must. Martin had not yet met and married Cyd Charisse who became wife number two. I think the film might really have been a classic had she done it with Tony. As it is she never did anything together while she was at MGM with her husband and we're the worst for it.
I've watched this movie many, many times and I truly love it. Tony
Martin, as Pepe LeMoko, plays a suave, fascinating and very sexy jewel
thief who is wanted by the police but is protected by everyone in the
Casbah to the point that they will not let the police arrest Pepe and
remove him from its confines. Marta Toren, in the role of Gaby, is a
very beautiful, classy and mysterious lady visiting the Casbah who
meets Pepe. Pepe finds her so extremely different from anyone he has
ever met in the Casbah and she also finds him fascinating (what women
wouldn't?). It's easy to see how they become attracted to each other
and the sparks start flying. Yvonne DeCarlo plays Inez, Pepe's
long-time girlfriend who tries to break up Pepe and his new interest.
The supporting cast, including Peter Lorre and Thomas Gomez, are
well-cast and believable in their roles.
The music is wonderful and Tony Martin's voice is too. It's truly one of my favorite movies of that era.
If you don't recall seeing this featured in any of the "That's Entertainment" anthologies, it's because this black-and-white postwar romance with songs is considerably darker and more sophisticated than the usual Hollywood musical. A considerable improvement over the 1938 Americanization of "Pepe Le Moko," the logy Charles Boyer vehicle "Algiers," this not only integrates a few well-chosen musical numbers featuring Martin, Yvonne de Carlo and the Katherine Dunham Dancers into the old story, but adds a refreshing note of humor and playfulness. Martin isn't bad at all as the surly, sexy gangster Pepe, who was always one-dimensional anyway. Peter Lorre is the dream Slimane that he should have played ten years earlier in the Boyer film (though Lorre's often credited as being in "Algiers," it was actually Joseph Calleia who played Slimane in that film), and Marta Toren's bittersweet siren is seductively reminiscent of Valli in "The Third Man."
Pepe Le Moko is a great film role. Jean Gabin introduced the character
to screen in the same named French Flick in 1937.
Charles Boyer brought the moody mobster to Hollywood's ALGIERS in 1938.
But in 1948, Tony Martin and director John Berry collaborated to create the most dramatic and entertaining version of the downfall of the exiled jewel thief in CASBAH.
Casbah is a film very alive with energy, style, suspense and romance. Brilliant casting; Tony Martin plays the suave thief with easy conviction and delivers the Harold Arlen songs skill, charm and gusto.
Marta Toren was arguably the most beautiful woman in films, prior to the arrival of Audrey Hepburn.
Peter Lorre...I can't believe how powerful his complex performance is as the dedicated policeman, committed to the capture of the thief who became also his friend.
Yvonne De Carlo, Douglas Dick, Katherine Dunham, acting, singing, dancing, love, passion, treachery...where is this great film on DVD? John Berry and Jules Dassin were contemporary artists and spirits. Their films even show a similarity of style and influence, possibly each upon the other.
They were also fingered as American Pinko Fellow Travelers right about this time and both moved to England. Dassin prevailed and prospered, probably with some initial support from Darryl F. Zanuck. Berry also prevailed, but without achieving anything like Dassin's level of success or recognition. Still, CASBAH, for my money is, value for value, the most under-acknowledged film out of Hollywood.
I was 15 when I first saw this film. Tony Martin played Pepe le Moko. I
wanted to be like him. Because when you're 15 you think of how lucky you
must be to play opposite beautiful girls such as Yvonne De Carlo and Marta
Toren. These three actor/actresses had much more talent than they were
credit for. Tony seems cast perfectly as the gangster, yet no director
him another chance in that type of roll.
Unfortunately the gorgeous Marta Toren died several years later. But
Yvonne carried on, appearing in other good films and the Munsters TV
I hear she is now living in California.
Good luck to her.
Thanks for the memories (especially Casbah)
This strange little item is a remake of the 1938 film "Algiers" which starred Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr, which itself was a remake of a French film of the previous year, called "Pepe LeMoko." The 1938 version made stars of Boyer and Lamarr; Tony Martin (who was married to dancer Cyd Charisse) and Marta Toren were not so lucky. Both were physically attractive enough but lacked the panache and charisma to capture the movie going public's loyalty. DeCarlo held her own in the film in a secondary role in a period when Universal was trying to figure out what to do with her -- the camp era was over -- no more "Salome" or "Sheherazade" for her. She did some fine work in film noir during this time -- "Brute Force" and "Criss Cross" in particular. (If you look real close at the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe -- you might spot a young dancer named Eartha Kitt who made quite a name for herself a bit later, as a singer.)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This semi-musical remake of "Pepe Le Moko" and the American remake
"Algiers" focuses heavily on the obsession for Marta Toren by Casbah
thief Pepe (played here by Tony Martin in one of his few real "acting"
assignments) and makes the den of thieves and cut throats truly a
claustrophobic prison for its hero. He's more than content (at first)
to remain in this ghetto, that is until the exotic Toren shows up much
to the chagrin of the sultry Yvonne DeCarlo, his long-time mistress who
is instantly filled with fury. Algiers inspector Peter Lorre, a pal of
LeMoko's in the Casbah, warns him never to leave, but love for Toren
will open a Pandora's Box that leads to betrayal and eventually
The songs barely last a minute each (if that) but two stand out-the Oscar Nominated "For Every Man There's a Woman" and the ensemble "Horray For Love!" which in the 1980's some ABC advertising executive approved for use as its daytime soap promotional music theme. There's also a rare film appearance of the legendary Katherine Dunham (as a café proprietor) and her dance troop which depicts an accurate view of the black population in Northern Africa and the Arab world.
Compared to the first two excellent versions, a musical version seems unnecessary, but what has been produced is actually quite enjoyable. Then, there's the lovely DeCarlo, free from Salome's dance and Scherezade's song, getting to sing an embittered verse of "For Every Man There's a Woman" simply to harass the love-lorn Martin. This was long before she got to sing "I'm Still Here!" on Broadway in the original "Follies", and anybody who has heard the cast recording of "Follies" will agree that here she has not been dubbed like other future stars on Broadway (most notably Angela Lansbury) were in movies at this time. DeCarlo is excellent in her cynicism, trying to hide her love for Martin but showing definite heartbreak in her eyes. Lorre is excellent as the law enforcement officer who is actually on LeMoko's side but knows ultimately he'll have no choice but to place Martin under arrest. Toren is lovely but bland, but Martin shows more depth in his character than you'd expect from him.
Wrong headed semi musical remake of Algiers which is missing all the ingredients that made the first film stand out. Whoever thought that Tony Martin(?!) could be an acceptable substitute for Charles Boyer was seriously misguided or just plain crazy. While he has a fine singing voice he has zero screen presence so starting out the film has a black hole at it's center. Then there's Marta Toren in the Hedy Lamaar role, while she is certainly lovely she does not possess that elusive star quality which Hedy, although a spotty actress, had in spades. Yvonne de Carlo, an effective actress when properly cast, seems a natural for the Hedy Lamaar role but is wasted in a secondary part although top billed. Peter Lorre is the best thing here but he is similarly underused. All in all a throughly forgettable enterprise.
Pepe le Moko (Tony Martin) is wanted by the French and local police in
Algeria where he has his hideout in the Casbah. However in order to get
him, the police have to infiltrate the Casbah to bring him in. Casbah
is the Algerian word for fortress and that is the problem that the
police have. They have 2 approaches - Louvain (Thomas Gomez) takes a
direct route by storming in and arresting him - this fails as it has on
every occasion before - because everyone in the Casbah is on Pepe's
side and he always escapes. Slimane (Peter Lorre) from the local police
is more streetwise and befriends Pepe while maintaining that he will
one day arrest him. The 2 opposite thinking inspectors need to collude
to bring him out of the Casbah in order to make the arrest. They do
this by sending an old prison-friend Carlo (Douglas Dick) to betray him
and lure him out with a love interest Gaby (Marta Toren).
Yvonne de Carlo who plays Inez, Pepe's girlfriend, is my favourite of the cast with Peter Lorre and Thomas Gomaz also standing out. Yvonne de Carlo also manages to pull off singing her song and turns it into one of the memorable scenes as she mocks Pepe's behaviour in it. The other moments of singing are not necessary with Tony Martin bursting randomly into song and providing moments of hilarity as he does so - "Oh no - he's singing again. What for?"
This film has a great setting and it's a shame that the two lead women did not have a scene together where they could confront each other. There is some crazy chicken-killing voodoo ritual dancing that is also thrown into the mix and despite the ending being utterly unconvincing, this is an enjoyable film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There were no less than three remakes of the French classic "Pépé Le
Moko" by Julien Duvivier: John Cromwell's "Algiers" could not hold a
candle to it,but it was not bad and some of the lines of the original
screenplay were preserved.It had nonetheless Charles Boyer sing a
maudlin song ,which was not a really good idea."Casbah" did the same
and had Tony Martin croon two bland songs (even De Carlo pulls a little
"Casbah" is a disaster ;the fact that it begins with a bunch of tourists visiting the Casbah with a guide did not bode well .But John Berry completely butchered "PEPE" .The hero is a handsome crooner,it takes lots of imagination to believe he is a thug .And Yvonne De Carlo is not even given the best female part!She has to be content with the part of INES -which was fleshed out whereas it was a secondary character in the original- the mistress the buck is not in love anymore with.She and Peter Lorre are the only positive elements of an appalling film noir. And if it were not enough ,the final ship is replaced by a plane,which is much less romantic .
For the record,the third remake is an Italian spoof called "Toto Le Moko".
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