7.7/10
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Beau Geste (1939)

Passed | | Action, Adventure, Drama | 24 July 1939 (USA)
Three adopted English brothers join the French Foreign Legion in North Africa, after one of them steals their adoptive family's famous heirloom sapphire.

Director:

William A. Wellman

Writers:

Robert Carson (screen play), Percival Christopher Wren (based on the novel by)
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Gary Cooper ... Beau Geste
Ray Milland ... John Geste
Robert Preston ... Digby Geste
Brian Donlevy ... Sergeant Markoff
Susan Hayward ... Isobel Rivers
J. Carrol Naish ... Rasinoff
Albert Dekker ... Schwartz
Broderick Crawford ... Hank Miller
Charles Barton ... Buddy McMonigal
James Stephenson ... Major Henri de Beaujolais
Heather Thatcher ... Lady Patricia Brandon
James Burke ... Lieutenant Dufour
G.P. Huntley G.P. Huntley ... Augustus Brandon (as George P. Huntley)
Harold Huber ... Voisin
Donald O'Connor ... Beau Geste (as a child)
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Storyline

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 <gshayes@mail.gwi.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

AGAIN...the three Gestes face a thousand dangers of the Sahara for each other...and love! See more »

Genres:

Action | Adventure | Drama | War

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Arabic

Release Date:

24 July 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Drei Fremdenlegionäre See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Even though both of his parents were British, Gary Cooper's impersonation of an Englishman was widely ridiculed. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

[Lt. Martin is bed-ridden with a fever]
Markoff: How do you feel tonight, Lieutenant?
Lt. Martin: I'm dying.
Markoff: I hope not, sir.
Lt. Martin: I'm going to die. I'll be buried under the sand and forgotten. When I was a little boy, I thought soldiers always died in battles. I didn't know there were so many soldiers... and so few battles... and so many fevers.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: "The love of a man for a woman wanes and waxes like the moon . . . but the love of brother for brother is steadfast as the stars, and endures like the word of the prophet."

. . . Arabian Proverb. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Charlie's Angels: Pretty Angels All in a Row (1977) See more »

Soundtracks

The Legionnaire's Song
(uncredited)
Music by Troy Sanders
Lyrics by Frank Loesser
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Beautiful Gesture.
28 October 2001 | by dbdumonteilSee all my reviews

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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