Searching for the lost remake of “Beau Geste”
When I was twelve years old I saw William A. Wellman’s “Beau Geste” (1939) on television. It was, literally, a life-changing moment. It inspired me to become a film historian and to write many books on movies – including two on Wellman. And it all started with “Beau Geste.”
That’s why the subject of this documentary has been so magical to me. When I learned that a group of San Diego State students had, within months of the release of the Wellman film, made a parody of “Beau Geste” on the very set used for the Hollywood blockbuster, I knew I had to find out more.
What I uncovered was more than I could have hoped for – dozens of photographs taken on the set in 1939, an original poster, a copy of the script and a videotape of the film itself.
I even discovered the desert site of the fort used in both the Wellman film and the lost remake – the ground was littered with spent cartridge shells that had been lying there since 1939.
Even better, I found three survivors of the film, men in their 90s who remembered their youthful lark with clarity and affection.
Through it all, I discovered that there was a great story behind the movie – the arduous conditions under which it was filmed in the vast California desert and the legal threat from a major studio who wanted to shut the film down. It had everything – humor, drama, good guys vs. bad guys and a happy ending.
I love this project. Even though it has been a real struggle – and will continue to be one for awhile – it has been a genuine joy to meet these wonderful people and explore this fascinating tale. I hope you’ll let me introduce you to them.
What is my Kickstarter goal?
I’m asking for much less than I need to finish this film -- $5000. My hope, of course, is that I’ll raise more than this so that I can give The Lost Remake everything it needs. Over the past two years I’ve traveled many hundreds of miles and spent thousands of dollars that I couldn’t and can’t afford. Now, I need the completion money for these final steps:
- Hiring an editor to work my rough cut into a polished, entertaining final product.
- Hiring a composer to score the film and then get musicians into a recording studio.
- Recording the narration and other voice-over.
- Mastering the film to DVD and submitting it to film festivals.
$5000 is clearly not enough to do all of these things but my hope is that enough of you will believe in me and my quixotic film to contribute more than this minimum goal. Just remember that any donation you make will be most welcome, whether $5 or $500 or – from my keyboard to God’s ear -- $5000.
How can I donate and be a part of the film?
All you’ve got to do is hit the button that says “Back This Project” and you’ll be led through the simple process. I’ll be more than happy to ship the premiums to anyplace you live, so I want to see donations from around the world.
What happens if the money isn’t raised in time?
Nothing. If I don’t raise the money within the 60 day deadline, I get zip. Every Kickstarter project must be fully funded before its time expires or no money changes hands. Your credit card or debit card will not be charged. I’m asking with a certain pleading tone in my voice – please don’t let that happen.
How can I contact you?
You can reach me at LostRemake@AOL.com. I’ll try to answer any questions that you have as quickly as possible.
How do I follow the project?
I’ll keep yakking about it on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll do updates to this site as often as needed.
Thanks to my wonderful and supportive wife Claire McCulloch Thompson, to my friend Craig Covner who helped me find Fort Zinderneuf, to his wife and my friend Nina Rosenstand for giving me the most crucial single bit of information when I first started trying to solve the mystery of the lost remake, and to Gary Robinson of Sharpcut Productions --http://www.sharpcut.com/featuresandtv.html -- for creating this terrific trailer.
And especially thanks to Bob Wade, Nord Whited and John McCulley, three of the intrepid legionnaires who trekked out into the desert in 1939 and made a movie specifically for me.
And if you need more information, here's an article about me and the film that appeared last year in the San Diego State Alumni Association newsletter: http://www.sdsualumni.org/s/997/index.aspx?sid=997&gid=1&pgid=1492
- (60 days)