Pépé le Moko

Pépé le Moko [pe.pe lə mo.ko] is a 1937 French film directed by Julien Duvivier and starring Jean Gabin.

Pépé le Moko
Directed byJulien Duvivier
Produced byRaymond Hakim
Robert Hakim
Screenplay byJulien Duvivier
Henri La Barthe
Jacques Constant (adaptation)
Henri Jeanson (dialogue)
Based onPépé le Moko by Henri La Barthe
StarringJean Gabin
Music byVincent Scotto
Mohamed Ygerbuchen
CinematographyMarc Fossard
Jules Kruger
Edited byMarguerite Beaugé
Distributed byArthur Mayer & Joseph Burstyn (USA, 1941)
The Criterion Collection (Region 1 DVD, 2004)
Release date
  • 28 January 1937 (1937-01-28) (France)
  • 3 March 1941 (1941-03-03) (US)
Running time
94 minutes

The film depicts a gangster nicknamed Pépé le Moko. Moko is slang for a man from Toulon, derived from the Occitan amb aquò ("with that"), a term which punctuates sentences in Provence and which, in Toulon, is pronounced em'oquò.

The film is based on Henri La Barthe's novel of the same name, and La Barthe contributed to the screenplay under the pseudonym "Détective Ashelbé". Pépé le Moko is an example of the 1930s French movement known as poetic realism, which combines realism with occasional flashes of unusual cinematic tricks. The film's sets were designed by the art director Jacques Krauss. The film is often considered an early predecessor of film noir. This film inspired the Algiers (film).


Pépé le Moko (Jean Gabin), a criminal on the run from the police in metropolitan France, lives in the Casbah quarter of Algiers, where he is out of reach of the local police. Inspector Slimane (Lucas Gridoux) seeks a way to lure Pépé out of his refuge. He sees his chance when he learns that Pépé is in love with Gaby (Mireille Balin), the mistress of a rich businessman. Slimane leads Gaby to believe that Pépé has been killed. Gaby, who was on the point of joining him in his hiding place, now agrees to stay with her rich lover. When Pépé is informed that Gaby is about to leave Algiers for good, then he leaves the Casbah to find her and is arrested.


Critical reception

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 100% based on 31 reviews, with an average rating of 8.65/10.[1] Metacritic reports a Metascore of 98 based on 12 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[2]

English author Graham Greene in a review of the film for The Spectator magazine asserted: "One of the most exciting and moving films I can remember seeing". It succeeds in "raising the thriller to a poetic level".[3] According to a BBC documentary, it served as inspiration for Greene's screenplay for The Third Man. It also has many similarities with the American film Casablanca, which was released a few years later.


The film was remade in America in 1938 as Algiers, starring Hedy Lamarr and Charles Boyer, and again in 1948 as Casbah, a musical starring Tony Martin, Märta Torén, Yvonne de Carlo, and Peter Lorre.


  1. "Pépé le Moko (1937)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  2. "Pépé le Moko (re-release)". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  3. Greene, Graham (22 April 1937). "Stage and Screen: The Cinema". The Spectator. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
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