Beau Geste Reviews
In the best-known version of novelist Percival Christopher Wren perennial,
Gary Cooper, Ray Milliand, and Robert Preston play Beau,John,and Digby Geste,three inseparable adventurous brothers in search of adventure which one of them steals their benefactress's family jewel,it's off to the French Foreign Legion for all. A fairly deadly early flashback introduces the brothers as children-though it's the only time you'll ever see Donald O'Connor playing a younger version of Cooper. The movie really kicks into gear when the brothers enlist into the brutal stages of unjustly war. Directed by the great William A. Wellman,the supporting cast features future Oscar winners Broderick Crawford and Susan Hayward. Oscar nominee Brian Donlevy is excellent and so damn good as Sgt. Markloff that some think he should have taken the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor award for his riveting performance. Worth seeing.
This Willam Wellman, Hollywood classic deserves to be a part of any man's DVD library. I know, those old movies deal with imperialism and this movie was obviously gearing the kids up for World War II, but this is a great action movie all the same.
The movie starts out in the middle with a mysterious deserted French fort, and goes back to the young Geste boys who are staying at Lady Patricia Brandon's (Heather Thatcher) house, along with Isobel Rivers (Susan Hayward). Young Beau (Donald O'Connor) grows up to be a handsome young man (Gary Cooper) and his brothers, John (Ray Milland) and Digby (Robert Preston) are hungry for adventure.
So, when a family gem comes up missing, and Beau has taken off, the other two brothers leave the house too, and join the French foreign legion. By pure luck, they meet at this one fort, defended against the desert hoards by a cruel Sergeant Markoff (Brian Donley). Although Beau hates Markhoff's sadism, he admires his desert warfare savvy. The trick is just trying to live through it.
The film boasts a stellar cast. You have Gary Cooper (Beau Geste). You have Ray Milland (Beau's brother John Geste). You have Robert Preston (Beau's other brother Digby Geste) and a young Susan Hayward (Beau's step sister O. Yu Geste). Heh...I jest at that last one!
It's directed by one of my fave classic directors, William Wellman. The film has very good production values with some rousing battle scenes...but as I've mentioned - the twist and turns of the story just seem a bit too implausible to di-Geste. Zing.
The story is mostly done in flashback as the beginning scene above really is near the ending. We get the back story of the Geste Brothers who are part of a wealthy family and live in a lavish english estate. There is a scene here that foreshadows what will happen later - yes, I get it...but it still doesn't excuse the silly twists to come.
The head of the estate, Lady Patricia decides that she must sell a family jewel in order to pay off some debts. Before she sells the beloved jewel, Lady Pat decides to show it to her family one last time. The family gathers around the jewel - when all of a sudden the lights go out. When the light comes back on - the jewel is gone...but no one will admit to taking it. Maybe it was Beau - who decides to join the French Foreign Legion right after the incident. Maybe it was John - who joins the Foreign Legion too. Or, maybe it was Digby - who likewise joins up. Just a bunch of copycats, if ya ask me.
The brothers end up at the aforementioned Fort Zinderneuf under the command of a cruel Sgt. Markoff (Brian Donlevy). He is so cruel that the troops decide to mutiny. Sgt. Markoff gets wind of the mutinous activity and becomes even MORE cruel. Then the drama is interrupted by attacking arab tribesmen. Man, I just hate it when arab tribesmen interrupt the story like that, don't you?
4 / 10
The story is badly constructed, we could not care less about what happens to the characters and the blatant racism makes it painful to watch.
If you want to see Gary Cooper in a good soldering colonial film, watch The Life of a Bengal Lancer.
Oh, all right; it's also a rousing adventure story in the grand old style, with a theme of brotherhood running through the entire film. Look for Donald O'Connor's cameo.
I don't want to go into too many plot details as much of [i]Beau Geste[/i]'s brilliance lies in the way in which the story unfolds. At its most basic, the film is the story of the Geste brothers: Beau, Digby and John. It's a story of love, friendship, loyalty and brotherhood, set against the backdrop of the French Foreign Legion. I know I'm not giving you a whole lot to go on other than a 9 rating, but the film was too special for me to put into words just yet. How's this for a recommendation: Beau, Digby and John are played by Gary Cooper, Robert Preston and Ray Milland, all of whom are in top form.
My previous encounters with director William A. Wellman have pretty much all been with films from the pre-code era, including [i]The Public Enemy, Female[/i], [i]Wild Boys of the Road[/i] and [i]The Purchase Price[/i]. [i]Beau Geste[/i] is a natural descendent from these socially conscious films with its clear indictment of man's inhumanity to man presented without sacrificing the story, trivializing the characters or descending to broad proseletyzation. And if you've ever sat through [i]Dogma[/i], you'll understand just how great Wellman's accomplishment is.
Sweet William would love this movie.
Double Feature Fun: [i]Gunga Din [/i](Stevenson, RKO, 1939)
After about 30 minutes of sitting out our punishments on the couch, we were given the chance to get up.
We refused. We were transfixed and wanted too finish watching.
My brother was about 8 and I was about 6 at the time.
That says A LOT for the brilliance of this movie in that it was able to capture the attention of two little pouty kids who'd just bruised the tar out of each other. BRILLIANT!!