Beau Ideal

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Beau Ideal
Theatrical poster
Directed by Herbert Brenon
Ray Lissner (assistant)[1]
Produced by Herbert Brenon[2]
Written by Paul Schofield (screenplay)
Elizabeth Meehan (adaptation)
Marie Halvey (dialogue)[3]
Based on the novel, Beau Geste 
by P C Wren
Starring Ralph Forbes
Loretta Young
Irene Rich
Lester Vail
Music by Max Steiner[4]
Cinematography J. Roy Hunt[1]
Edited by Herbert Brenon[5]
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • January 16, 1931 (1931-01-16) (Premiere-New York City)[1]
  • January 25, 1931 (1931-01-25) (US)[1]
Running time 82 minutes
79 minutes (Canada, Ontario)[6]
Country USA
Language English
Budget $707,000[7]
Box office $575,000[7]

Beau Ideal is a 1931 American adventure film directed by Herbert Brenon and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The film was based on the adventure novel, Beau Ideal, by P C Wren, the third novel in a series of five novels based around the same characters. Brenon had directed the first in the series, Beau Geste, which was a very successful silent film in 1926. The screenplay was adapted from Wren's novel by Paul Schofield, who had also written the screenplay for the 1926 Beau Geste, with contributions from Elizabeth Meehan and Marie Halvey.

The film starred Ralph Forbes (reprising his role as John Geste from the 1926 film, Beau Geste), Loretta Young, Irene Rich, and Lester Vail, however it was neither a critical nor financial success. Although the film was not a success, it did introduce two technological advancements to film: the concentrator microphone and the Dunning process.

Plot summary[edit]

Lester Vail and Ralph Forbes awaiting death in the prison pit
Lester Vail & Paul McAllister

The last two surviving members of a French Foreign Legion detachment consigned to a grain pit in the desert await death. The two soldiers who know each other as Smith and Brown recognize each other as the childhood friends, John Geste (Ralph Forbes) and Lester Vail (Otis Madison), respectively.

The two flashback to their boyhood friendship in England, followed by Otis' return to England and discovery that John has joined the French Foreign Legion. Otis also learns that Isobel Landon (Loretta Young), who is enamored with, is betrothed to John. Despite this betrothal, he vows to follow John to Africa and return him to England. Upon his arrival in Africa, Otis, through a series of coincidences, ends up in the same penal detail as John, which puts them both in the pit where the film begins.

Back in the present, as they are about to die, they are miraculously rescued by a passing band of Arabs. Unknown to the two friends is that the Arabs intend to use them as bait to draw their fellow legionnaires into a death trap. Fortunately for the friends, the girlfriend of the Emir, Zuleika (Leni Stengel), also known as "the Angel of Death", is attracted to Otis. After Otis agrees to marry her, Zuleika informs him of the impending attack by the Arabs, and then helps Otis and John to escape. The two legionnaires race to the fort, and help to repel the Arab attack, which earns both of them their freedom.

After Otis is relieved of his matrimonial duties to the exotic Zuleika, whose romantic attention has moved on from him to Major LeBaudy (Hale Hamilton), Otis and John return to England, where John relinquishes his claim on Isobel, clearing the way for Otis to marry her.


Loretta Young at Forbes' court-martial
Leni Stengel as Zuleika, in Beau Ideal (1931)

(Cast list as per AFI database)[1]


The precursor to Paramount Pictures, Famous Players-Lasky Corp, produced the first of P.C. Wren's novels based on the French Foreign Legion, Beau Geste, in 1926. The second book in the series, Beau Sabreur, was made into a film in 1928, also by Paramount, which starred Gary Cooper. While Beau Sabreur was unconnected to Beau Geste, having completely different characters, this third film was billed as the sequel to the first film, having many of the same characters. Like the other two films, this movie was based on the Wren novel of the same name, which had been released in 1928.[1][8][9] RKO purchased the rights to the novel in July 1930,[10] and Herbert Brenon, who had directed Beau Geste, became the first person attached to the project.[11]

In August it was announced that Ralph Forbes would reprise his role of John Geste, which he had originated in the original film.[12]

In the beginning of September it was announced that Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. would have a leading role in the film, on loan from Warner Brothers; also announced to the cast were Ralph Forbes and Leni Stengel.[13] In September 1930, RKO hired an Arab chieftain, Abdeslam ben Mohammed, as a technical consultant for the film. Initial reports also indicated that he would appear in the film, but no sources credit him with appearing.[14][15] By mid-September, however, Fairbanks, originally scheduled to play the role of Otis Madison, was recalled by Warner Brothers prior to the start of filming, so that he could star in a scheduled sequel to The Dawn Patrol (which was never made).[16] He was replaced by Lester Vail, who was making his screen debut.[17][18][19] Vail had a very short-lived career, making a total of only eight films in 1931 and 1932.[20]

French Foreign Legion marching through the desert

Also in September, it was decided that the film would use the same location as the earlier Geste film, in Yuma, Arizona.[21] Besides the Yuma location, some location filming was done in the Sonora Desert in Mexico,[22] as well as studio work on the RKO lot in Hollywood. Later in September, Otto Matieson, Paul McAllister, Hale Hamilton, and Don Alvarado were announced as joining the cast.[23][24] Ray Lissner, who was the assistant director on this picture, also wrote the only song in the film, the marching song of the French Foreign Legion,[25] however it appears the song did not appear in the final version of the film.[1] In late September it was announced that Noah Beery, Jr. would be part of the cast, interesting in the fact that his father had been part of the cast of Beau Geste[26]

Production on the film began in late September 1930,[27] and would finish in late October.[28] In addition to Brenon directing and Schofield writing both films, J. Roy Hunt was the cinematographer on both the 1926 Beau Geste and this film.[1] Editing for the film was done during November and December 1930 by Brenon.[5][29] Max Steiner would finish the score for the film by December 22, 1930.[4]


The film recorded a loss of $330,000.[7]

Mordaunt Hall, film critic for the New York Times, gave the film a poor review, calling it "...scarcely a tribute to the audible screen".[30] According to some sources, the film was considered "...the most wretched picture turned out by the studio in what was, generally, to be a very poor year."[31] Variety also gave it a less than favorable review, calling it "ordinary program stuff."[32] However other reviews were much more favorable, with The Film Daily calling it a "Stupendous Foreign Legion production with stout direction and excellent photography". They criticized the story as weak, but also praised the acting of the mostly male cast, and singled out Loretta Young's strong performance.[33] And Photoplay magazine called the a "spectacular sequel to Beau Geste, and complimented the acting.[34]


The second novel in Wren's series, Beau Sabreur, had been produced by Paramount in 1928. The film starred Gary Cooper, Evelyn Brent, Noah Beery and William Powell, and was directed by John Waters.[35]

Two new technological improvements were inaugurated in this film. The "Dunning Process" was used to adapt the film for foreign-language versions.[36] The concentrator microphone was developed by RKO to be used in productions to filter noise in exterior shots, was first used during this film's production.[1][22]

In 1958, the film entered the public domain in the USA due to the copyright claimant's failure to renew the copyright registration in the 28th year after publication (the film is copyright 1930).[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Beau Ideal: Detail View". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on March 29, 2014. Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ "To Make "Beau Ideal"". Motion Picture News. July 12, 1930. p. 23. 
  3. ^ "Beau Ideal, Credits". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on February 1, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "A Little from "Lots"". The Film Daily. December 22, 1930. p. 6. 
  5. ^ a b "Hollywood Activities". The Film Daily. November 30, 1930. p. 4. 
  6. ^ "Beau Ideal: Technical Details". Retrieved August 9, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p58
  8. ^ Review of novel accessed 10 Sept 2014
  9. ^ ""BEAU IDEAL.".". Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954) (Perth, WA: National Library of Australia). 5 August 1928. p. 10 Section: Third Section. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Herbert Brenon to Direct RKO's "Beau Geste" Sequel". The Film Daily. July 11, 1930. p. 6. 
  11. ^ "Variety's Bulletin Condensed". Variety. August 6, 1930. p. 28. 
  12. ^ "A Little from "Lots"". The Film Daily. August 23, 1930. p. 7. 
  13. ^ "Schnitzer Sells Idea of Loaning Fairbanks". Motion Picture News. September 6, 1930. p. 21. 
  14. ^ "Ab, Ben & Mo, 3-in-1 Riff Chief - Actor!". Variety. September 3, 1930. p. 1. 
  15. ^ "Stop Us If We're Wrong". Motion Picture News. September 6, 1930. p. 93. 
  16. ^ "A Little from "Lots"". The Film Daily. September 16, 1930. p. 4. 
  17. ^ "A Little from "Lots"". The Film Daily. September 17, 1930. p. 4. 
  18. ^ "Hollywood High Lights". Picture Play Magazine. December 1930. p. 106. 
  19. ^ "RKO Signs Lester Vail". Motion Picture Magazine. September 20, 1930. p. 31. 
  20. ^ Vail &SortType=ASC&SortCol=RELEASE_YEAR "Lester Vail". American Film Institute. Retrieved September 29, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Same Old Fort". Variety. September 3, 1931. p. 33. 
  22. ^ a b Wilk, Ralph (October 22, 1930). "Hollywood Flashes". The Film Daily. p. 8. 
  23. ^ "Hollywood and Los Angeles". Variety. September 17, 1930. p. 69. 
  24. ^ "A Little from "Lots"". The Film Daily. September 29, 1930. p. 4. 
  25. ^ "A Little from "Lots"". The Film Daily. September 19, 1930. p. 6. 
  26. ^ "Stop Us If We're Wrong". Motion Picture News. September 20, 1930. p. 44. 
  27. ^ "Seven Production Units Working at RKO Studio". The Film Daily. September 29, 1931. p. 11. 
  28. ^ "Monthly Production Survey". Variety. November 5, 1930. p. 14. 
  29. ^ "RKO Finishes Shooting 4 Feature Productions". The Film Daily. December 8, 1930. p. 1. 
  30. ^ Hall, Mordaunt (January 19, 1931). "Beau Ideal". New York Times. Archived from the original on August 9, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2014. 
  31. ^ Jewell, Richard B.; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New York: Arlington House. p. 33. ISBN 0-517-546566. 
  32. ^ "Beau Ideal". Variety. January 21, 1931. p. 77. 
  33. ^ "Beau Ideal". The Film Daily. January 11, 1931. p. 10. 
  34. ^ "Brief Reviews of Current Pictures". Photoplay. April 1931. p. 8. 
  35. ^ "Beau Sabreur: Detail View". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on March 28, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2014. 
  36. ^ ""Ideal in 4 Tongues Under Dunning Process". The Film Daily. January 2, 1931. p. 1. 
  37. ^ Pierce, David (June 2007). "Forgotten Faces: Why Some of Our Cinema Heritage Is Part of the Public Domain". Film History: An International Journal 19 (2): 125–43. doi:10.2979/FIL.2007.19.2.125. ISSN 0892-2160. JSTOR 25165419. OCLC 15122313.  See Note #60, pg. 143

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