Candlelight in Algeria (1944) A Forgotten British War Time Classic

Candlelight In Algeria is one of the forgotten classics from the Golden Age of British Cinema. Just like Tomorrow We Live or First of the Few.

Candlelight in Algeria is a short, fun movie, mixing facts and fiction. James Mason plays a British spy who is chased by the Germans and helped by a very feisty American girl. They form a very funny duo and flavour this spy story with elements of the screwball comedy. She is an endearing heroine, really, and in stark contrast to the British spy. She never reacts the way he would expect a woman to react. She is courageous and foolhardy at the same time and pretty much living every moment to the fullest. I don’t think she cares too much about politics. She gets involved with Mason’s character because she loves adventures.

The location, Algeria, makes for some interesting decor, the black and white works well but don’t expect a Casablanca like movie. It is totally different. You won’t find heartache, sorrow, betrayal or an alcoholic brooding silently.

The protagonists meet in Algiers, when the agent Alan Thurston (James Mason) hides in the house of friends of Susan Foster (Carla Lehmann). He is looking for a camera which contains photos that will reveal the exact location where the Allies rehearse the invasion of North Africa. Susan is fascinated by Mason and probably also fancies him from the start and spontaneously decides to help him. The unlikely couple will try to get the camera back and in doing so are constantly  hunted by Dr. Muller, an evil Nazi sympathiser. Dangerous and comical moments alternate.

Maybe it isn’t the greatest achievement of British cinema history but it is very likable and I often enjoy the contrasting of British and American characters in movies of the 40s. I found it particularly fascinating as I had just watched Patton before that begins at the very same moment in history which is at the heart of Candlelight in Algeria. This movie is occasionally also mentioned in lists of forgotten noir movies.