Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Beau Geste (1939)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Beau Geste (1939)

In director William Wellman's epic adventure drama about three adopted brothers (Beau, John, and Digby in the Geste family, raised by their aunt Lady Patricia Brandon) who joined the French Foreign Legion in N. Africa:

  • the opening forward: 'The love of a man for a woman waxes and wanes like the moon... but the love of brother for brother is steadfast as the stars, and endures like the word of the prophet.' Arabian Proverb
  • the memorable puzzling opening sequence in which a relief column of French Foreign Legionnaires soldiers crossed the Saharan desert dunes and arrived at a strangely silent Fort Zinderneuf - it appeared that all the soldiers along the fort's parapets were propped up and dead
  • the brutality of sadistic tyrant Sergeant Markoff (Brian Donlevy) toward deserters
  • the "Viking's funeral pyre" in the fort, set by Digby Geste (Robert Preston) to honor his heroic brother Beau (Gary Cooper), who had died in the fort at the hands of Sgt. Markoff, but then John Geste (Ray Milland) was able to bayonet Markoff in the heart with his sabre - in revenge
  • the concluding scene in which John Geste, the only surviving Geste son, presented Lady Patricia Brandon (Heather Thatcher) with a letter from brother Beau, disclosing that her prized valuable gem - "The Blue Water" sapphire, had been sold years before and that Beau had stolen a substitute gem to save her the embarrassment of selling it - she read the letter aloud at the foot of the stairs: ("Dear Pat: I was inside the suit of armor in the hall the day you sold the Blue Water to the Maharajah's agent and received an imitation to take its place. When the wire from Sir Hector came, I thought I could repay your devotion to us by giving Brandon Abbas its first robbery. So the lights went out and so did Beau. Lovingly, Beau Geste")
  • the unraveling of the 'Blue Water' Sapphire mystery - with the final line tearfully spoken by a grateful Lady Patricia Brandon after she finished reading Beau's letter, realizing that he had spared her humiliation years earlier over the jewel's sale: "Beau Geste? Gallant gesture. We didn't name him wrongly, did we?"

Desolate Fort Zinderneuf

Brutal Sgt. Markoff
(Brian Donlevy)

"Viking's Funeral Pyre" For Heroic Beau Set Inside Fort

Lady Brandon Regarding Beau: "We didn't name him wrongly, did we?"


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