As some Legionaries approach a fort in the desert, they initially think it’s fully manned with soldiers, but upon closer inspection, they realize all the soldiers are dead and have been posed to look alive from a distance. As they look at the bodies, they find a note on one of them confessing to stealing a valuable sapphire known as the “Blue Water.”
As children, brothers Beau (Gary Cooper), John (Ray Milland), and Digby (Robert Preston) were adopted by their aunt Lady Brandon (Heather Thatcher) and enjoy a happy childhood living with her, her ward Isobel (Susan Hayward), and her heir Augustus (G.P. Huntley). Lady Brandon is the owner of the valuable “Blue Water” sapphire, which, thanks to her husband, is the last valuable asset she owns. When her husband wants to sell it, Beau asks Lady Brandon to let them see it one last time. But while they’re looking at it, the lights suddenly go out and the jewel is gone.
Not wanting to disgrace the family, each of the Geste brothers leaves a note confessing to stealing the jewel and leaves to join the French Foreign Legion. But it isn’t long before their cruel Sergeant Markoff (Brian Donlevy) hears the brothers had been involved in a jewel heist and that Beau is the most likely suspect. When the fort where Beau and John are stationed is attacked, nearly all of their fellow soldiers are killed during battle. Markoff, Beau, and John are the last three standing and Markoff takes the chance to try to make the “Blue Water” sapphire his own.
Beau Geste is a movie that really does have a little something for everyone. It’s got the mystery surrounding the missing jewel, it’s got a story about brotherly love, it’s got lots of thrilling battle scenes, and it has just a little bit of a love story to it. You just don’t see too many movies that have that kind of combination. And if you were to find another movie (that wasn’t another adaptation of the novel “Beau Geste”) that has all of those things, you’d be even harder pressed to find one with such a high-caliber cast and excellent direction. I had a hard time buying a nearly 40-year-old Gary Cooper as a 20-something Beau Geste, but other than that, the cast was great. Although Gary Cooper and Ray Milland are two very recognizable names, Brian Donlevy is a great reason to want to see this movie; his performance as the sadistic Markoff was fantastic.
Beau Geste also had one of the most absolutely intriguing opening scenes I’ve seen in a while. A few Legionaries finding a fort manned by a bunch of corpses and a note confessing to a jewel heist is definitely the kind of opening that makes you want to keep watching the movie. On the whole, I really liked Beau Geste a lot more than I expected to; in fact, it’s one of my favorite movie discoveries in recent memory. Although it was a big hit when it was released, it’s not a movie I hear talked about very often anymore, and that’s really too bad.