Beau Geste

[boh zhest]
Beau Geste is a 1924 adventure novel by P. C. Wren, which has been adapted for the screen several times. The phrase "beau geste" has come to mean "a gracious (but usually meaningless) gesture".

Plot summary

The central character is Michael "Beau" Geste, the eldest of the three Geste brothers of Brandon Abbas, who have been brought up by their aunt. When a precious jewel known as the "Blue Water", the focus of the family fortunes, goes missing, suspicion falls on the brothers, and Beau leaves Britain to join the French Foreign Legion followed by his brothers, Digby and John. There they encounter the sadistic Sergeant Lejaune, and the unit is besieged at Fort Zinderneuf by Tuareg rebels. Beau's heroism is proved, but only John survives to return home, where he is welcomed by their aunt and the reason for the jewel theft is revealed to have been a matter of honor.


The original novel, on which the various films are more or less loosely based, is written in a dated style in which English upper class values and attitudes are dominant. It does, however, provide 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 this military unit. However the climax, in which one of the Geste brothers is the only survivor of the garrison of a desert fort, is melodramatic and has no historical basis.


Although minor plot points separate the film versions, all of them share a common element of a stolen gem which one of the Geste brothers, Michael "Beau" Geste, is thought to have stolen from his adoptive family. He subsequently runs away to join the French Foreign Legion. In some adaptations, more than one of the Geste brothers and his childhood friend Joe McCarthy join him or go to find him.



  • R. S. Thomas - "P C Wren's Beau Geste", Children's Literature in Education, vol. 21, no. 4, Dec. 1990


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