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Film / Pepe Le Moko

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Jean Gabin could really rock a Nice Hat

Pepé le Moko is a 1937 film from France directed by Julien Duvivier.

Pepe le Moko (Jean Gabin) is a jewel thief taking refuge in the port of Algiers. ("Le Moko" is slang for a person from Toulon.) Algiers is a French possession and in theory the local authorities could arrest him, but Pepe is living in the Casbah, the native quarter. The Casbah is a law unto itself, filled with closely packed buildings that are connected via rooftops, narrow streets and buildings, and a populace that is intensely hostile to French law enforcement.note  It is a law unto itself and Pepe is effectively untouchable there.

However, while the Casbah is a refuge, it is also a prison: Pepe will be arrested by the French police if he steps out of the district. Pepe chafes at being stuck in the Casbah and longs to go back to Paris. Inspector Slimane of the Algiers police knows this, and hopes to use it to coax Pepe into leaving his bolt hole and exposing himself to arrest.


The key to Inspector Slimane's hopes shows up in the person of Gaby, a gorgeous young woman who is the soon-to-be Trophy Wife of an obnoxious businessman. On a visit to the Casbah she meets Pepe. They fall in love. While Pepe and Gaby dream of a future together, the crafty Inspector Slimane schemes to lure Pepe out of the Casbah.

Just one year after this movie was made it received a Shot-for-Shot Remake in America as Algiers, with Charles Boyer playing Pepe.



  • Chiaroscuro: Several scenes are shot with artful shadowy lighting. The scene where Pepe is grilling Regis, whom he correctly suspects of betraying Pierrot, is initially shot with only a single light.
  • Driven to Suicide: Pepe fatally stabs himself with a hidden knife rather than let the cops take him to jail. This is the only major difference with Algiers, as American censors demanded that Pepe be shot by the cops.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Pepe, who seemed to regard Pierrot as almost a surrogate son, is drinking heavily after Pierrot dies from a wound suffered in a fight with police.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: How Pepe is framed as he figures out that Regis the weasel betrayed Pierrot to the police. After that the formerly affable jewel thief gets murderous.
  • Finish Dialogue in Unison: Pepe and Gaby are reminiscing about the Paris neighborhoods that they both miss. They both cite different examples, until they both cite "La Place Blanche" at the same time.
  • Foreshadowing: Someone says early in the movie that "Women will be your undoing, Pepe." That's what happens.
  • Gentleman Thief: Charming, affable Pepe couldn't be a more dashing jewel thief.
  • Glory Days: The rather heavyset lady who is Carlos's moll starts reminiscing about how in her younger days she was a gorgeous singer who sold out Paris theaters. Then she puts on one of her own records and sings a duet with herself.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Inspector Slimane and Pepe are good friends, and chat pleasantly with each other and share drinks in the Casbah, while all the time Slimane promises that he will arrest Pepe one day.
  • Hero Antagonist: Inspector Slimane, who is after all trying to arrest a jewel thief.
  • Hot Gypsy Woman: Ines, Pepe's sexy girlfriend. She's very jealous when Pepe falls for Gaby.
  • The Informant: Regis squeals to the police and gets Pierrot killed. This gets Regis killed when Pepe figures out who did it.
  • Lonely Funeral: Discussed Trope. Inspector Slimane says "I was alone at his funeral," and says that it's a darn shame that Pepe couldn't make it because he can't leave the Casbah. This is part of Inspector Slimane goading Pepe to do just that.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Jarvis, the loud mouthed cop from Paris who demands to know why the local authorities haven't arrested Pepe when they know where he is. That triggers a long Info Dump speech in which the local cops patiently explain how they basically have no authority over the Casbah.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Very slowly off into the distance, but the last shot is the passenger liner leaving the port with Gaby aboard.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Technically not pre-mortem, since Regis doesn't get killed until the next scene. But Regis has been captured by the gang and is being held in an upstairs room. When someone else asks what's going on, one of the gang says "We're giving Mr. Regis some last aid."
  • Roof Hopping: Ines does this to alert Pepe that the cops are coming for him. It's easier than usual thanks to how closely packed the buildings of the Casbah are.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Right before the gang shoots Regis to death, a panicked Regis tries to run away, and bumps into the player piano, which starts up. So a jangly cheerful happy tune plays as they murder him.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Fate conspires to keep the Trophy Wife and the Gentleman Thief apart.
  • Streetwalker: Lots of hookers on the narrow streets of Algiers.
  • Trophy Wife: Gaby is supposed to become one. Later she says that explicitly when her fiancée starts getting possessive, saying "Look at you! Look at me!" when she's leaving him for Pepe.
  • Unfortunate Name: The long explanation about what a madhouse the Casbah is takes a moment to mention that the streets have weird names. One is called "Inadequacy Street".
  • Zip Me Up: Gaby shows Pepe her diamond bracelet. When he gives it back to her to put on, she flirts with him by insisting that he put it on her arm.

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