Saturday, September 29, 2012

Film Review: Beau Geste (1939)

My addiction.
Photo Courtesy of
TCM: Three brothers in the French Foreign Legion fight off murderous Arabs and a sadistic sergeant.

     To say that I simply really like this film would be a gross understatement. My feelings for Beau Geste amount way more than a "I like this film". No. It's to the point where for a brief second, just a brief one mind you, I wondered if Only Angels Have Wings might have competition. 
     Yes, it's that serious.
     And what makes it all the more funny to me is that I had been putting this film off for so long that it almost became an inside joke for me. I don't know why I put it off for so long, I guess I thought, despite the fact that Gary Cooper was the star, it was going to be boring and I wouldn't like it.
     I laugh in the face of irony.
     What got me to finally watch Beau Geste? The chance to see little Donald O'Connor. Yes. That is the sole reason why I decided that at last I was going to sit down and watch it.
     Of course, by the very first scene, it had me.
The boys.
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     As I watched Beau Geste, I couldn't help but be jealous of the relationship between the three brothers, Beau, Digby, and John. I'm a girl, and though I have two older brothers and a younger sister, I have never felt the camaraderie between my siblings and I. Sure, I know that they'd be there for me, and if I cried for help, they'd come help me. I love them, and I'm pretty sure they love me. But I would kill to have the relationship that these Geste boys have with each other.
     Now going off of the word "relationship" and "camaraderie", I would like to pay special attention to the charisma between Gary Cooper, Robert Preston, and of course, the man of the month, Ray.
Ray, Darling, could you please stop being so handsome?
GIF Courtesy of
     Despite the fact that Gary Cooper is the star, and the fact that I love both him and Robert Preston (the Music Man!), every time I watch Beau Geste, I cannot stop myself from staring at Ray the whole time. Yes, he was incredibly handsome, but it is much more than that. This was Ray's first action adventure film after many "drawing room comedies where he played the suave sophisticate" (TCM) and he welcomed the chance, and you get this feeling that he had a lot of fun during the production with Coop and Robert.
Top of the mornin' to you!
GIF Courtesy of
     This 1939 version is a remake of the popular silent 1926 version which starred Ronald Colman in the role of Beau, Neil Hamilton as Digby, and Ralph Forbes as John. Now, I haven't seen the original, but supposedly, the 1939 version is basically a carbon copy of the 1926. And while I know Ronald Colman, and respect him greatly as an actor in the few films that I've seen him in, I do not know who Neil Hamilton or Ralph Forbes are so I can't really say if they were great actors or not. In any case, I have a very hard time in seeing anyone play the Geste brothers as well as Coop, Robert, and Ray did (especially Ray).
Just kill me now.
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     Going back to how I thought this picture would be boring and that's why it took me so long to finally watch it . . . well, obviously, that thought easily wins the award for all of the stupid thoughts that I've had over the years. I mean, really? Beau Geste boring? I laugh at my stupidity. There are multiple reasons times multiple reasons why Beau Geste has got to be one of the best action adventure films ever, if not the greatest (the opening scene has got to be the coolest opening scene ever).
     As much as it is exciting, however, there is an equal amount of comedy and sadness. The comedy comes from Coop, Robert, and Ray as they act like brothers will: their "fighting" and picking on one another is just so funny. And then, the sadness . . . oh, there as the ending is coming nearer and nearer it was almost unbearable for me to watch (I assure you, when you get to the end, you'll be yelling why! at your television or computer the same way I was).
Oh, why, oh why!
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     Before I leave you, I would like to point out something that I found very interesting. In the film, Coop plays Beau, the eldest, Robert Preston plays Digby, the middle child, and Ray plays John, the youngest. Out of curiosity, I wondered if that was how the order went like that in real life. To my astonishment, I found out that while Coop was indeed the oldest (being born in 1901 he was thirty-eight when he made this film), Ray was actually thirteen-years-older than Robert, having been born in 1905 compared to Robert's 1918. Which means that Ray was thirty-three when he made this picture, and Robert was just a baby at twenty-one.
     Oh, and one one more quick thing, I give Beau Geste a 4/4 stars, so go do yourself a favor and watch it.


azw596 said...

I thank you wholeheartedly for recommending this film to me, and now for your excellent review! The tight brotherhood portrayed is truly remarkable, as are the performances by the stars. And you are so very right, I was yelling "why" at my computer, but actually much before the end! The "laughing" scene on the ramparts, now there's a fine example of "gallows humour"!
Thanks once more, and oh, your choice of stills are absolutely perfect!!!

RosieP said...

"BEAU GESTE" was probably one of the most graphic and well made adventure movies then and now.

Neil Hamilton portrayed Commissioner Gordon in the "BATMAN" series that starred Adam West.