May 19, 2020  (Web Review)

Beau Geste

Kino Lorber, 112 min., not rated, Blu-ray: $24.99, Apr. 7

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

Writing in VL Online9/09, reviewer Sean Axmaker said: “In William Wellman’s 1939 Hollywood adventure, Gary Cooper, Ray Milland, and Robert Preston play the boisterous Geste brothers, three orphans raised as gentlemen with a sense of playful camaraderie and undaunted chivalry. When the noblewoman who has mothered them announces she must sell the family’s last remaining asset, the huge “Blue Water” sapphire, the gem is stolen on the night of its impending sale. The brothers’ sense of honor and sacrifice inspires each of them to take the blame for the theft of the jewel and run off to join the French Foreign Legion in North Africa, where they square off against a brutal sergeant (Brian Donlevy) who is convinced the siblings have the jewel and will stop at nothing to steal it from them. The film opens with a prologue that delivers an irresistible sense of mystery—involving a desert fort where men are slumped dead at their posts, a disappearing scout, a confession, and a sudden fire that engulfs the haunted fortress—and this dark beginning hangs over the adventure like a shadow of doom. The big action set piece—an attack on the legion outpost by an army in Arab dress (played by Hollywood character actors and extras)—is a magnificent reworking of the American western stock Indian attack on a cavalry fort. The characters are hearty creations, and Wellman’s muscular direction keeps the action moving briskly, although the romantic subplot (with a very young and beautiful Susan Hayward) is almost an afterthought to the boys’ grand adventure. A great, classic romantic tale of hard men, loyal comrades, and the fraternal love and sacrifice of brothers who risk everything to protect one another.” Bowing on Blu-ray with a fine 4K digital transfer, extras include an audio commentary by William Wellman Jr. and historian Frank Thompson. Highly recommended. (R. Pitman)