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Beau, John, and Digby Geste are three inseparable, adventurous brothers who haven been adopted into the wealthy household of Lady Brandon. When money in the uppercrust household grows tight, Lady Brandon is forced to sell her most treasured jewel the mighty "Blue Water" sapphire. The household gets it out for one final look, the lights go out and it vanishes stolen by one of the brothers, no doubt. That night, Beau, Digby, and John each "confess" and slip out, John leaving behind Isabel, whom he loves. They all join the Foreign Legion, and Beau and Digby are split from John and put under the command of the ruthless and sadistic Sergeant Markoff. Things begin to get hairy as the rest of the Legionaires plot a mutiny against Markoff, in the midst of an attack by Arab hordes. Written by
Sam Hayes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Charles Barton, who has a small part as Buddy McMonigal, was at the time an assistant director at Paramount, having started his career as an actor. He had had a bad experience working as an A.D. to Paramount's top director, Cecil B. DeMille, on Union Pacific (1939) and refused to work with him again when he was assigned to. Paramount "demoted" him to a bit actor on this picture as punishment. Barton soon left Paramount for Columbia where he was made a director, and never worked for Paramount again. See more »
After Markoff puts the first corpse back on the wall to give the illusion that there are many legionnaires on the wall, it is clear that the "corpse" is still breathing. See more »
[after she reads the letter Beau had written to explain what happened to the jewel - he has signed the letter with his name - she reads... ]
Lady Patricia Brandon:
Lady Patricia Brandon:
Beau Geste... gallant gesture. We didn't name him wrong, did we?
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People who know Julien Duvivier's "la bandera"(1935) will find analogies between the two movies.In both of them, the legion is an escape from law.The approach is different however:in "la bandera",the hero and his mates are simple,crude people.In Wellmann's work,they are distinguished,"noblesse oblige" characters.Wellman's movie has a romantic flavor,which is totally absent in Duvivier's pessimistic story.
It seems that "beau geste" has worn well,better than Duvivier's dated saga.Both movies have the same flaw:the Tuaregs are the "villains",we absolutely know nothing about them.In Duvivier's movie,we don't even see them,and they are always referred to as "the bastards" (sic)They seem reduced to attacking baddies,an entity whose humanity is denied. Wellmann's superiority lies in the fact that he plays the game of adventure ,now matter how unlikely it is while Duvivier has "realist" ambitions.
Wellmann smartly blends a whodunit with pure adventure elements.The solution of the mystery,which we learn at the very end of the movie is very unexpected and gives the movie some kind of Hustonian touch (and in 1939,Huston had yet to make a movie!)
As for the directing is concerned,the last third of the movie shines.If the legion routine life scenes inside the fort are inferior to those of Duvivier,on the other hand its finale is more moving and more astonishing.The sergeant,using dead bodies as scarecrows ,is almost surrealist and might have influenced the conclusion of Anthony Mann's "Cid".A scene we saw at the beginning ,"the Viking funeral" finds an absolutely brilliant explanation .While John (Ray Milland) is preparing the "ceremony" in a fort full of dead bodies,we don't realize.It's only when he explains to his brother (yes,there was a dog at his feet)that we understand.
A very fine cast,including Susan Hayward on the threshold of a brilliant career (it's her second movie).The title is justified too.Because "Beau Geste" means in French "Beautiful gesture".
NB: A trip to Norway taught me this:the Vikings were buried in the ground on their boats.
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