Beau Geste (1939)

120 mins | Drama | 24 July 1939

Director:

William A. Wellman

Writer:

Robert Carson

Producer:

William A. Wellman

Cinematographers:

Archie Stout, Theodor Sparkuhl

Editor:

Thomas Scott

Production Designers:

Hans Dreier, Robert Odell

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

According to a news item in HR , Paramount considered producing this film in 1936 as their first Technicolor picture, to be directed by Henry Hathaway. Later news items in HR note that Susan Hayward replaced Patricia Morison in the role of Isobel Rivers, and that part of this picture was filmed on location in Yuma, Arizona. According to a contemporary source, Paramount built an entire desert city 19 miles west of Yuma for this picture. Modern sources note that this was the site used by Paramount's 1926 film. The city consisted of roads, 136 tents to house 1,000 men, and a movie theater. A HR news item added that Howard Batt flew a daily aerial taxi service between the Yuma location and Paramount studios in Hollywood. Once the production was completed, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors renamed Buttercup Valley, the site on which the city was built, "Beau Geste Valley." The picture was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Brian Donlevy) and for Best Art Direction. It also marked the first credited screen appearance of Susan Hayward (1917--1975), who had appeared in a few bit roles prior to Beau Geste . Paramount previously filmed the Percival Christopher Wren novel in 1926, under the same title, and starring Ronald Colman and Neil Hamilton, and directed by Herbert Brenon (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0307). In 1966, Universal filmed another version using the same title, directed by Douglas Hayes and starring Guy Stockwell and Telly Savalas; and in 1977, Universal filmed a satirical version called The Last Remake of ... More Less

According to a news item in HR , Paramount considered producing this film in 1936 as their first Technicolor picture, to be directed by Henry Hathaway. Later news items in HR note that Susan Hayward replaced Patricia Morison in the role of Isobel Rivers, and that part of this picture was filmed on location in Yuma, Arizona. According to a contemporary source, Paramount built an entire desert city 19 miles west of Yuma for this picture. Modern sources note that this was the site used by Paramount's 1926 film. The city consisted of roads, 136 tents to house 1,000 men, and a movie theater. A HR news item added that Howard Batt flew a daily aerial taxi service between the Yuma location and Paramount studios in Hollywood. Once the production was completed, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors renamed Buttercup Valley, the site on which the city was built, "Beau Geste Valley." The picture was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Brian Donlevy) and for Best Art Direction. It also marked the first credited screen appearance of Susan Hayward (1917--1975), who had appeared in a few bit roles prior to Beau Geste . Paramount previously filmed the Percival Christopher Wren novel in 1926, under the same title, and starring Ronald Colman and Neil Hamilton, and directed by Herbert Brenon (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0307). In 1966, Universal filmed another version using the same title, directed by Douglas Hayes and starring Guy Stockwell and Telly Savalas; and in 1977, Universal filmed a satirical version called The Last Remake of Beau Geste ; it starred Marty Feldman and Michael York and was directed by Feldman. According to modern sources, Feldman acquired the rights to the 1939 version and used footage from it in his version of the story. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Jul 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
24 Jul 39
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Apr 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jan 39
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jan 39
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jan 39
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Feb 39
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 39
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 39
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 39
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
9 Apr 36
p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily
20 Jul 39
p. 7.
Motion Picture Herald
22 Jul 39
p. 48.
New York Times
3 Aug 39
p. 15.
Variety
26 Jul 39
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
William A. Wellman Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Int dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus score
Orch arr by
Mus adv
PRODUCTION MISC
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Beau Geste by Percival Christopher Wren (London, 1924).
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 July 1939
Production Date:
16 January--early April 1939
added scenes 13 June 1939
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
15 September 1939
Copyright Number:
LP9143
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
120
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5240
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Arriving with his troops at the fort at Zinderneuf, Major de Beaujolais is puzzled to find that the soldiers are all dead, eerily frozen at their stations as they guard the deserted fort. A letter of confession found on one of the bodies mentions the Brandon estate in England, where fifteen years earlier the Geste brothers, Beau, John and Digby, and Isobel Rivers grew up under the benevolent care of their guardian, Lady Patricia Brandon. Aunt Pat rears her wards using the income of the estate, thus throwing her into conflict with Sir Hector Brandon, the boys' uncle, who is intent upon wasting away their inheritance on expensive luxuries. Years pass, and finally only the sapphire known as the Blue Water is left, until one night, as the lights go off, that too, disappears. The next day, Beau is missing, leaving behind a note claiming credit for the theft. Digby and John, assuming that their brother is fulfilling their lifelong dream of joining the French Foreign Legion, follow suit, but not before John pledges his love to Isobel. Digby and John arrive at the fort in Saida, where the sadistic Sergeant Markoff zealously turns his men into soldiers. Rasinoff, one of the other recruits, overhears the brothers discussing the jewel and after he attempts to steal it, Markoff beats a confession from him and determines to gain possession of the treasure himself. To accomplish this, Markoff divides the brothers, accompanying Beau and John to the fort at Zinderneuf. When the commanding officer dies of fever, Markoff assumes command and the soldiers plan to mutiny. Markoff discovers their plot, but before he can punish the ... +


Arriving with his troops at the fort at Zinderneuf, Major de Beaujolais is puzzled to find that the soldiers are all dead, eerily frozen at their stations as they guard the deserted fort. A letter of confession found on one of the bodies mentions the Brandon estate in England, where fifteen years earlier the Geste brothers, Beau, John and Digby, and Isobel Rivers grew up under the benevolent care of their guardian, Lady Patricia Brandon. Aunt Pat rears her wards using the income of the estate, thus throwing her into conflict with Sir Hector Brandon, the boys' uncle, who is intent upon wasting away their inheritance on expensive luxuries. Years pass, and finally only the sapphire known as the Blue Water is left, until one night, as the lights go off, that too, disappears. The next day, Beau is missing, leaving behind a note claiming credit for the theft. Digby and John, assuming that their brother is fulfilling their lifelong dream of joining the French Foreign Legion, follow suit, but not before John pledges his love to Isobel. Digby and John arrive at the fort in Saida, where the sadistic Sergeant Markoff zealously turns his men into soldiers. Rasinoff, one of the other recruits, overhears the brothers discussing the jewel and after he attempts to steal it, Markoff beats a confession from him and determines to gain possession of the treasure himself. To accomplish this, Markoff divides the brothers, accompanying Beau and John to the fort at Zinderneuf. When the commanding officer dies of fever, Markoff assumes command and the soldiers plan to mutiny. Markoff discovers their plot, but before he can punish the traitors, the Arabs attack. The troops repel the first attack, but Beau is shot in the second round of firing. Markoff greedily steals the jewel from Beau's body, but Beau shoots him and with his last dying breath, instructs John to leave a letter in the Sergeant's hand while taking a private letter and the jewel home. John obeys Beau's wishes, and as he strikes out for Egypt, Digby and the reinforcements arrive, too late. After honoring Beau with the flames of a Viking funeral, Digby joins John in the desert, where he perishes at the guns of the Arabs, leaving John alone to return to England and Isobel. John reaches Brandon manor and delivers Beau's letter to Aunt Pat. As she reads the confession, John and Isobel learn of Beau's beautiful gesture: When he was a child, Beau was hiding in a suit of armour during a game with John and Digby when he saw Aunt Pat secretly sell the original sapphire. Knowing that she was forced by dire circumstances to part with the gem, Beau stole the fake to protect her from the recriminations of Sir Hector. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.