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Beau Geste

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Wikipedia article

'Beau Geste' is a 1924 adventure novel by P. C. Wren. It has been adapted for the screen several times.

Plot summary

Michael "Beau" Geste is the protagonist. The main narrator (among others), by contrast, is his younger brother John. The three Geste brothers of Brandon Abbas are used as a metaphor for the British upper class values of a time gone by, and "the decent thing to do" is, in fact, the 'leitmotif' of the novel. The Geste brothers are orphans and have been brought up by their aunt. The rest of Beau's band are mainly Isobel and Claudia (only daughter of Lady Patricia, and in a way, also reason enough for Michael to join the French Foreign Legion), and Lady Patricia's relative Augustus.

When a precious jewel known as the "Blue Water" goes missing, suspicion falls on the young people, and Beau leaves Britain to join the Foreign Legion ('la Lgion trangre'), followed by his brothers, Digby (his twin) and John. There, after some adventure and separation from Digby, the sadistic Sergeant Lejaune gets command of the little garrison at Fort Zinderneuf in French North Africa, and only an attack by Tuaregs prevents a mutiny and mass desertion (of course the Geste brothers and a few loyals are against the plot). Throughout the book and adventures, Beau's behaviour is true to France and the Legion, and he dies at his post. At Brandon Abbas, the last survivor of the three brothers, John, is welcomed by their aunt and his fiance Isobel, and the reason for the jewel theft is revealed to have been a matter of honour, and to have been the only "decent thing" possible.


The phrase '"beau geste"' is from the French, meaning "a gracious (or fine) gesture".[http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/beau%20geste Definition at Dictionary.com]

In French, the phrase includes the suggestion of a fine gesture with unwelcome or futile consequences, and an allusion to the 'chanson de geste', a literary poem celebrating the legendary deeds of a hero.[http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/chanson%20de%20geste Definition at Dictionary.com]

In English, "geste" is a homophone with "jest," meaning "a joke" or "to joke." As a pun, a "beau geste" may therefore indicate a beautiful (or poignant) joke.


P.C. Wren wrote the sequels 'Beau Sabreur' and 'Beau Ideal'. He also wrote 'Good Gestes', a collection of short tales (about half of them about the Geste brothers and their American friends Hank and Buddy, who also feature prominently in 'Beau Sabreur' and 'Beau Ideal') and 'Spanish Maine' (UK) or 'The Desert Heritage' (USA), where loose ends are tied up and the successive tales of John Geste's adventures come to an end. John Geste's adventures appear in five different volumes.Wren, P.C. 'Beau Sabreur', Grosset & Dunlap, 1928Wren, P.C. 'Beau Ideal', Frederick A Stokes Company, 1928Wren, P.C. 'Good Gestes', Frederick A Stokes Company, 1929Wren, P.C. 'The Desert Heritage', Houghton-Mifflin, 1935


The original novel, on which the various films are more or less loosely based, provides a detailed and fairly authentic description of life in the pre-1914 Foreign Legion, which has led to (unproven) suggestions that P. C. Wren himself served with the legion.


* 'Beau Geste' (1926), starring Ronald Colman, William Powell, Noah Beery

* 'Beau Geste' (1939), with Gary Cooper, Ray Milland, Robert Preston

* 'Beau Geste' (1966), with Guy Stockwell, Doug McClure, Telly Savalas

* 'Beau Geste' (1982 BBC mini-series), starring Benedict Taylor, Anthony Calf, Jonathon Morris

'Beau Geste' was also adapted for the stage in 1929 by British theatrical producer Basil Dean. The production featured Laurence Olivier in the lead role. The play ran for just five weeks.Coleman, Terry (2005). 'Olivier'. Macmillan (ISBN 0-8050-7536-4), pp 3132.


* 'Beau Hunks' 1931, a 1931 movie starring Laurel and Hardy.

* 'The Goon Show' episode "Under Two Floorboards (A Story of the Legion)" (1955)

* 'Follow that Camel' (1967) A Carry on film.

* "Round the Horne, s04e14" (1968) Beau - Arbuthnot Nidle, known to his friends as Beau Nidle is accused of stealing a priceless Manchester City Supporters' Club scarf

* 'The Generation Game' (around 1975) did a parody of Beau Geste, may have been the first to use the names Beau Peep and Beau Nidle.

* 'The Last Remake of Beau Geste' (1977), starring Marty Feldman, Ann-Margret and Michael York

* 'Soul Music' (1994), by Terry Pratchett. The Death of the Discworld uses the name Beau Nidle and has him join the Klatchian Foreign Legion, a parody of the French Foreign Legion.

* The comic strip 'Crock' claims to be "the greatest and longest-running parody" of Beau Geste,[http://www.kingfeatures.com/features/comics/crock/about.htm King Features Syndicate] although it bears little similarity to the original novel.

* A popular comic strip entitled 'Beau Peep' has featured in British newspapers and separate anthologies since 1977. This version has a distinctive identity in its own right and a large fan base.

* In the early 1980s, 'Beau Geste' was a recurring story arc in Charles Schulz's comic strip 'Peanuts', during which Snoopy was a leader of a squad of Legionnaires (usually played by birds, Snoopy's "Beagle Scouts") and Ft. Zinderneuf was Snoopy's doghouse.

In the Uk logic puzzle compendium series of puzzle books, a regular character used in the backstory panel guides is Beau Nidle



*Thomas, R. S. (1990-12). "P C Wren's 'Beau Geste'". 'Children's Literature in Education', vol. 21, no. 4, December 1990.

*Coleman, Terry (2005). 'Olivier'. Macmillan. ISBN 0-8050-7536-4.

Category:1924 novels

Category:Adventure novels

Category:Novels adapted into films

Category:French Foreign Legion in popular culture

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