Sunday, December 23, 2012

Silent Sundays: Beau Geste (1926)



Beau Geste is a silent film I came across while looking for the 1939 version with Gary Cooper. I hit a bonus when I found out William Powell and Ronald Coleman were in it. Unfortunately neither Powell nor Coleman could save Beau Geste from being dull and boring.
            The brothers Geste- Beau, Digby, and John- live with their cousin Isobel and their aunt Lady Patricia. They have been close since they were children. The brothers have been raised by their aunt since their parents died. Years later when the children are grown men Lady Patricia falls on hard times and she forced to sell a valuable diamond the family has been in possession of for years. Lady Patricia finds the diamond is missing. Beau (Coleman) leaves a letter to his brothers that he is the one who stole the diamond. He has left to join the French Foreign Legion out in the desert. Digby and John eventually follow their older brother to the desert.
            At camp Beau tells his brothers that he has the diamond in his pocket. They are overheard by a vagrant soldier named Boldini (Powell). That night Boldini tries to steal the diamond from Beau’s pocket but he is stopped by Digby. The other soldiers are awoken. They plan on doing something to Boldini for stealing from a fellow soldier. The heads of the Legion hear the noise and walk in on the fighting. Boldini tells the ranking officers that he believes the Geste brothers are jewel thieves. One of the officers splits the brothers apart. He sends Beau and John to Fort Zinderneuf in the middle of the desert.
            Conditions at Fort Zinderneuf are terrible. It is unbearably hot. To make matters worse the men are treated like dirt by a Lieutenant Lejaune. Some of the men plot to kill Lejaune. Beau and John refuse to join. Beau tells Boldini that he and his brother pledged an oath to the French flag and they will stand by it. Boldini tells the brothers that Lejaune knows about the revolt. He has already sent out for new troops because he plans to kill all the soldiers and leave no witnesses. He also plans to steal the diamond.
            Lejaune has Beau come to his office. He tells Beau to give him the diamond for safe keeping but Beau refuses. The two men start to fight but luckily John is the guard and holds up Lejaune. That night the lieutenant has his men take the guns out of the barracks as the soldiers are sleeping. Before the plan can be carried out the Arabs begin to attack.
            All the men in the fort are dead from the attack. Beau is seriously wounded. Lejaune and John are the only ones left alive. Lejaune threatens to have John killed for mutiny. John shoots Lejaune dead. Beau dies in John’s arm. Digby comes into the fort as part of the reinforcement troops. He gives his older brother a Viking funeral in his bead in the fort just the way Beau wanted. He sees John in the desert and runs after him.
            John and Digby wonder the desert trying desperately to find the next town so they can get home. They meet with two other soldiers who have also deserted. The two men have a camel that can only hold three men. Digby sacrifices his life to save John since he has Isobel waiting for him at home.
            John is the only Geste brother to make it home alive. He gives his aunt a letter Beau had written to her. Beau wrote that he was the one who stole the diamond but it was the fake one the one that was made out of glass.
            I was so bored with this film. It started off slow which just totally killed the rest of the film.
            I cannot even really comment on the acting because after its slow start I kind of stopped paying attention. I will say it was very interesting to see Ronald Coleman and William Powell in a silent film. I am so used to seeing Powell in his talking films this was the first time I have ever seen one of his silents. Boldini was a very slimy character, very different to Powell’s slick charming gentlemen he would become known for.
            This silent version of Beau Geste is worth seeing at least one even though I found it boring.