Algiers

Algiers, from 1938, stars Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr, and features Sigrid Gurie, Alan Hale and Gene Lockhart.

The film, based on the French film Pepe Le Moko was produced by Walter Wanger (of the Joan Bennett shooting scandal and was nominated for 4 Academy Awards.

The film was a sensation in the US because it was the first Hollywood film starring Hedy Lamarr.

Algiers is credited as one of the sources of inspiration for another film set in an exotic locale, Casablanca, which was written with Hedy Lamarr specifically in mind as the female lead.

But Louis B. Mayer wouldn’t release her from her contract, and the famous role of Ilsa Lund went to Ingrid Bergman.

The director, John Cromwell, also directed Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Prisoner of Zenda and Of Human Bondage. Of Human Bondage received a lot of attention in 1934 because, even after the censors required script changes, it was condemned by the Catholic League of Decency.

Local priests picketed outside the theater before it opened, which only got the movie more publicity, and over 500 people were turned away opening night.

Cromwell was later blacklisted in Hollywood and returned to Broadway, where he worked for 7 years before returning to LA. Cromwell was the father of prolific present day actor James Cromwell.

The screenwriter was John Howard Lawson, was one of the founders and first presidents of the Writers Guild of America. And, unlike a lot of others who were accused during the Red Scare, Lawson really was a Communist.

He was one of the famous Hollywood 10, ten writers & directors who were cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the HUAC. For his refusal, he was cited with contempt of Congress, sentenced to a year in jail and officially blacklisted.

Hedy Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Kiesler in Austria and began her career in Czech and German films. In 1932, she appeared in a German film called Ekstase and had made the gutsy move to be nude in the film.

The movie’s nudity created a sensation all over the world and the nude scenes, very tame by today's standards, caused the film to be banned by the US government.

For her appearance in Ekstase, Lamarr is credited with being the first nude woman on film, as well as portraying the first sex scene in film history. Soon after the film came out, Hedy married Fritz Mandl, a munitions manufacturer, who would not let her act in film or on stage.

And he attempted to buy up all the prints of Ekstase he could lay his hands on.
Even Italy's dictator, Benito Mussolini, had a copy but he refused to sell it to Mandl.

But he didn’t get them all and there are still prints floating around the world today.
While married to Mandl, she learned about munitions and modern technology, which would came in handy...More on that in a minute.

The notoriety of Ekstase brought Hollywood to her door and to the attention of MGM’s Louis B. Mayer. A notorious prude when it came to MGM's films, Mayer signed her to a contract against his better judgment, but he knew her notoriety would bring in enough money to override his "moral" concerns.

He did insist that she change her name and make good, wholesome films.
Mayer gave her a new name, Lamarr, in memory of Barbara La Marr, a silent screen star who, in 1926, at age 29, has the dubious distinction of being the first Hollywood star to die of a drug overdose.

Hedy Lamarr made her American film debut as Gaby in this film in 1938, followed a year later by Lady of the Tropics. In 1942 she landed the plum role of Tondelayo in the classic White Cargo.Unfortunately for Hedy, she had to turn down the leads in both Gaslight (1940) and Casablanca (1942) because of her contract with MGM.

In 1949 she appeared as Delilah opposite Victor Mature's Samson in Cecil B. DeMille's epic Samson and Delilah. But after World War II, her career began to decline and MGM did not renew her contract. She only made six more films between 1949 and 1957.

Lamarr sued Mel Brooks over the use of the name “Hedley Lamarr” in his film Blazing Saddles. They settled out of court and Brooks said he was flattered by the attention. But Lamarr was not only an actress, she was an inventor.

Using knowledge gained during her marriage to Fritz Mandl, Lamarr, along with composer George Antheil, a friend and former neighbor, patented one of the earliest known forms of the telecommunication method known as "frequency hopping".

Using a piano roll from a player piano to change between frequencies originally meant for automated control of musical instruments, they adapted it to make radio-guided torpedoes harder for enemies to detect or to jam.

They received a U.S. patent in 1942, under the name "Secret Communications System". The idea was ahead of its time, and wasn’t feasible due to the state of mechanical technology in 1942.

But their frequency-hopping idea serves as a basis for the modern communication technology used in Wi-Fi networks and CDMA used in cordless and wireless telephones.

Lamarr retired to Florida in 1960, where she had a history of questionable shopping habits - in 1966, she was arrested for shoplifting but was found not guilty. In 1991, at age 77, she was arrested again for shoplifting and this time received a year’s probation. She died in Altamonte Springs, FL, in 2000.

Sigrid Gurie, playing Ines, was born in Brooklyn but moved with her family to Norway when she was 1 year old. Samuel Goldwyn brought her to Hollywood in 1936 as a newly discovered “siren of the fjords”.

Although he promoted her as a Norwegian goddess, the first role he cast her in was as an Oriental princess in The Adventures of Marco Polo, opposite Gary Cooper. And here she plays an Algerian. I guess that’s Hollywood.

She had a twin brother, Knut, who was the leader of the Norwegian resistance during WWII. His exploits were featured in the 1965 movie The Heroes of Telemark, starring Richard Harris as Knut. Sigrid had a short Hollywood career and retired to Mexico where she worked as a jewelry designer and artist.

Gene Lockhart, playing Regis, was nominated for an Oscar for his role in this flm. Lockhart appeared in almost 150 films and TV shows and was the father of actress June Lockhart, of Lassie and Lost In Space fame.

Alan Hale, portraying Grandpere, was a character actor with almost 250 movies to his credit and he was the father of Alan Hale, Jr., better known as the Skipper on the TV show Gilligan’s Island.

Inspector Slimane is played by Joseph Calleia, who was born in Malta and played a villain or ethnic character in dozens of Hollywood movies. One of his best roles was in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, an odd film that was memorable for casting Charleston Heston as a Mexican.

Calleia retired to his home island of Malta in 1963 and a few years later he received a telegram from Francis Ford Coppola, offering him the part of Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather. But Calleia had to turn it down due to health reasons.

After his death, Malta issued 2 commemorative stamps in his honor.

The cinematographer was 2-time Oscar winner James Wong Howe, who was cinematographer on hundreds of films, including The Thin Man, The Prisoner Of Zenda, Fantasia, Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Rose Tattoo (filmed in Key West), A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man & The Sea, and many more.

And Gino Corrado, the only actor to appear in both Casablanca and Citizen Kane, appears tonight as a detective instead of his usual role as a waiter.

There’s not a lot of action but the clever dialogue, the lighting and the cinematography all set the mood to make it seem like you’re almost there…..in Algiers.