Cast & Crew
After six days without rations, a group of Foreign Legionaires who have been made part of a penal battalion and have been imprisoned in an abandoned desert grain pit, slowly perish until only two soldiers remain. As one of the soldiers nears death, he mutters the phrase "stout fellow" and is recognized as John Geste by his American comrade, Otis Madison. The story of John and Otis is then told, beginning with their childhood friendship in the English countryside. Many years later, a now grown Otis returns to England to propose to aristocratic Isobel Brandon, the little girl whom both he and John adored as children. Otis is stunned when Isobel tells him that John joined the Foreign Legion and was unjustly court-martialed and sentenced to a penal battalion. Moved by Isobel's tears, Otis pledges to rescue John, even though he knows that John and Isobel are engaged. After joining the Legion, Otis, who has changed his name to Brown, is shipped to Northern Africa for training. As a first assignment, Otis' battalion is ordered to cross a stretch of the Sahara desert on foot and occupy a French fort. Hit by a brutal sandstorm, some of the recruits buckle with exhaustion and mutiny. Although Otis tries to stop the uprising, he is accused of being the head mutineer and is sent to a penal battalion. Shortly after his arrival, Otis suffers further punishment and is thrown in the grain pit, unaware that John, who calls himself Smith, is his fellow prisoner. As soon as Otis recognizes John, a band of Arabs, lead by an Emir and his half-French mistress, belly dancer Zuleika, rescues them. Although saved from the pit, John is returned to the fort as a prisoner, while Otis becomes a prisoner of the infatuated Zuleika, who informs him about an upcoming Arab revolt. By promising to take her to Paris, Otis gains his release from Zuleika, who then rides to alert the French cavalry. Disguised as an Arab, Otis sneaks to the Legion fort and joins John in the battle. Bravely fighting side by side, John and Otis help save the fort and thereby earn their freedom. True to his word, Otis prepares to leave John and return to Zuleika, but is relieved when he finds the fickle dancer in the arms of his Legion major.
John M. St. Polis
Joseph De Stefani
Producer: William LeBaron
Director: Herbert Brenon
Screenplay: Paul Schofield, Elizabeth Meehan (adaptation and dialogue); P. C. Wren (novel)
Cinematography: J. Roy Hunt
Music: Max Steiner (uncredited)
Film Editing: Marie Halvey
Cast: Ralph Forbes (John Geste), Loretta Young (Isobel Brandon), Irene Rich (Lady Brandon), Lester Vail (Otis Madison), Frank McCormick (Carl Neyer), Otto Matieson (Jacob Levine), Don Alvarado (Ramon Gonzales), Bernard Siegel (Ivan Radinoff), Myrtle Stedman (Mrs. Frank Madison), John M. St. Polis (Judge Advocate)
RKO borrowed Lester Vail from M-G-M and Loretta Young from First National for this production. Vail, who made his screen debut in the film, replaced Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who was recalled by his contract studio, Warner Bros., before shooting had begun. A Film Daily news item states that Ray Lissner wrote lyrics for the "marching song of the Foreign Legion" that was to be included in the picture. No evidence that such a song was included in the film has been found. Two weeks of location shooting was done in the Sonora Desert of Mexico, according to Film Daily. Another Film Daily news item noted that a "concentrator microphone," which was developed at RKO, was used in the production during noisy exterior filming. According to a Motion Picture Herald pre-release news item, this film was "valued" by RKO executives at $1,000,000. It is unclear whether this figure refers to the film's budget or its expected box office gross. Modern sources state that the film lost $330,000. Beau Ideal was billed as a sequel to Herbert Brenon's 1926 film, Beau Geste. Some of the same characters appear in both films, although the film stories do not appear to be strictly sequential. Ralph Forbes played "John Geste" in both productions. J. Roy Hunt was the cameraman, and Paul Schofield was the screenwriter for both films. According to a Film Daily news item, the same "atmospheric orchestra" that performed during rehearsals of Beau Geste also played for Beau Ideal rehearsals. In 1928, Paramount released Beau Sabreur, the second of Percival Christopher Wren's Foreign Legion stories. Beau Sabreur, which starred Gary Cooper and Evelyn Brent, was not directly related to Beau Geste or Beau Ideal (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.0309). For information concerning versions of Beau Geste, listing.