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Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,
In England, Otis Madison learns from the girl that he loves, Isobel Brandon, that the man she loves is his best friend, John Geste, and so there is nothing that Otis can do but stiffen his upper lip and set sail for Morocco and tell John that he is the man that Isobel loves. This is not easy to do as John is confined to a prison for disgraced Legionaires and the people who put him there aren't overly concerned about who Isobel loves. But the resourceful John promises his love to an Arabian beauty, Zuleika, the 'Angel of Death', which gets him out of prison, and then he has to go after the evil Emir who caused him to fall into disgrace. Isobel waits patiently in England. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A colossal flop, the film lost nearly $350,000, an astronomical amount of money in the early 1930s. As a result, the story of the Geste family was considered such a financial risk that producers weren't sure that making Beau Geste (1939) eight years later was a good idea. See more »
Waffles incoherently between silent and sound film technique ...
... with an overall incoherent story to boot. The beginning really interested me, as I found myself dropped into a story in progress, with no real context, making me want to know the whys and the hows and the whos of the situation. You see half a dozen men at the bottom of an underground grain pit that is acting as a prison in the middle of the desert. They are wailing about how it has been six days since they had rations. There are two left alive, one looks at the one who has just died and says "Stout Fellow" then collapses himself. The one left conscious says, with great interest, "What did you say??" At this point the story goes back 15 years to England and shows the Geste brothers, Isobel Brandon, and Otis Madison as children. There really is no point to this part of the story other than to show the camaraderie among the four even at this early age. American Otis returns to England years later as an adult to propose to Isobel (Loretta Young). Funny how he'd take such a long journey believing that time had stood still for Isobel, but it is just the first of many odd things Otis does.
Instead of tears of joy, Otis is greeted by just plain tears before he even gets to pop the question. Apparently the Geste brothers joined the French Foreign Legion because of an indiscretion one had committed but, heck, those Geste boys always do things together don't you know! When John's mortally wounded brother is attacked by a sadistic officer, John in turn kills the officer. The military court shows mercy since the officer struck one of his own men and sentence John to ten years in the French Foreign Legion Penal Battalion rather than hang him. Oh, and by the way, John and Isobel were engaged to be married prior to all of this and have tried and lost all appeals to the French government.
Otis, being all dressed up with no place to go, decides to go to Africa, get John, and bring him back to Isobel. Now, remember, Otis doesn't know what John looks like anymore, apparently doesn't know what last name he is using - it is not Geste, and for that matter doesn't even know if there is more than one French Foreign Legion penal battalion on the continent of Africa. Then there would be the little matter of escaping from the French on the continent of Africa where their white skin would hardly make them blend into a crowd. James Bond would shake his head at the lack of prep work in this operation.
Now I could take this outlandish plot if it wasn't for the poor overall technique. At some points there is pretty good dialogue, but for the most part this film lapses into pantomime-like silent film acting with the players actually saying the kinds of things that they would have said during the silent era when filming just to get in the mood - the kind of stuff the audience was never intended to hear lest they break out laughing. Towards the end it just gets so ridiculous. Maybe the problem here was that the director for this film also directed the silent version of "Beau Geste" in 1926 and just had a hard time moving the story ahead in time. Between the odd plot, the silent film acting coupled with a multitude of title cards, and the fact that top billed Loretta Young is only on screen between five and ten minutes, I'd recommend you pass on this one unless you are just interested in film history.
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