Saturday, December 3, 2011

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum and sees BEAU GESTE

But first, as always, a couple of shorts.

THE GIRL IN THE ARMCHAIR (1912): Back in the really early days, when female directors were respected if they were good. Alice Guy made this little romantic drama about a young lady who is sent to live with family friends after her father passes away. She immediately falls in love with the young man of the family, but he doesn't feel the same way. And all her inheritance doesn't change that...until he needs some money and she helps him out of a jam. Mostly kind of a cheesy story, but I did love the card-playing nightmare sequence.

A SMALL TOWN PRINCESS (1927): A Mack Sennet Comedy starring Billy Bevan and bathing beauty Madeline Hurlock. They live in a small Iowa town, perhaps the last young Iowans who haven't moved out to Southern California. But when a movie star gets off the train for a bit on his way back to Hollywood, she gets the fame and fortune bug. So she borrows a fancy dress from the store she works at, and goes on a vacation posing as a Russian princess. And a couple of producers decide they can make a lot of money if they put her in the pictures (and pay her way too much). And, of course, wacky hijinks ensue.

Then a brief intermission, and our feature.

BEAU GESTE (1926): I saw this when it played before in Niles, back in February of last year. Here's what I wrote then:
Famously remade many times, I've seen no versions, and so I've started with the first [Note: I've still seen no other versions]. The movie opens with a battalion of the French Foreign Legion approaching a fort, warned of an impending Arab attack. They find a mysterious scene. First a trumpeter goes over the wall, and disappears. So the captain goes over. He finds everyone dead (but propped up on the walls to appear as a defending force). The fort's commander is dead, with a french bayonet in his back. Another corpse is holding a letter of confession about a sapphire called "The Blue Water". The captain opens the gate, walks out, and starts describing the scene to his men. And then the fort spontaneously catches fire, and burns to the ground. The rest of the movie is about getting us back to that scene.

Flash back to the Geste brothers--Michael (Beau), John, and Digby--as young boys in England. They're from an aristocratic family, and play at being soldiers. The Blue Water is a family treasure. But the family is on hard times, and has to sell it. So Beau steals it and runs away, or so says his note. In fact, John claims he's only covering for him, and he runs away too. And Digby does the same, all covering for each other. And they all, to escape their self-condemnation, join the French Foreign Legion. There they are split up, but the bonds of brotherhood are stronger than any bond, and they brave the desert, a sadistic commander, attack by Arabs, and a plot to steal Blue Water. All ending in a viking funeral in the desert.
Yup, that's certainly what it's about, and I have nothing to add. It's still exciting. In February 2010 we had John Marsalis playing the Kurzweil organ, so we had trumpets, guns and winds. Last night, we had Judith Rosenberg on the piano, making it up as it went along. She had never even seen the film before. That always amazes me how people can do that.

Total Running Time: 139 minutes
My Total Minutes: 257,296
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