The Gangster Lapel - Pépé le Moko
Pointed Lapels for Pépé
It's been something of a pointed lapel week at The Tweed Pig. I was watching the French gangster film Pépé le Moko [Amazon] and the American remake Algiers [Amazon] back-to-back this week, as is my wont, and it struck me that the lead characters both wore single-breasted jackets with pointed lapels. This was not the case with the supporting characters. Social historians may be able to glean something from this. Was this style saying something about the character? Was it the gangster lapel of the time?
I'd recommend both films. Jean Gabin is a slightly grubbier and more authentic Pépé that Charles Boyer — who was terrific in Gaslight — but Algiers has the delightful Heddy Lamarr.
What are the Films About?
The original French film is an adaptation of the 1931 novel Pépé le Moko by Henri La Barthe. He also contributed to the screenplay. The American version tries to replicate the vision of the original film as far as possible.
Pépé is a thief who has fled France and created a gangster fiefdom for himself in the Casbah of Algiers. A beautiful Parisienne called Gaby arrives in town and, by chance, they meet. He falls in love with her and what she represents — the promise of a French life beyond the Casbah. His exiled heart still belongs to France. The authorities have vowed to arrest Pépé the moment he leaves the Casbah. Is he willing to take the risk?
I think it's due a remake, actually.