search button
newscenter logo
Sunday, December 5, 2021

Follow SDSU Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook SDSU RSS Feed

An archive photo taken during the taping of the student parody film, "Beau Geste." An archive photo taken during the taping of the student parody film, "Beau Geste."
 


Pioneers of Student Film

Decades Ago at San Diego State: looking back at a student film parody of "Beau Geste."
By
 

With top prizes won by students from the School of Theatre, Television and Film at the 2011 CSU Media Arts Festival and an Aztec filmmaker invited to premiere his latest work at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Decades Ago looks back at a student film begun 72 years ago, in December 1939.

The Aztec of Dec. 15, 1939, reported that the Sigma Lambda fraternity decided to produce the moving picture “Beau Geste.” Filming of desert exteriors was to begin in a few days, and in early February 1940, The Aztec reported that the film had reached the final stage of shooting.

On March 1, The Aztec reported that “State college’s first full-length movie and hour-long epic was shown in its entirety for the first time before its weary producers.” After the Student Council’s enthusiastic approval, President Walter Hepner, the dean and others approved the production after a sneak preview on March 5.

The film was “right in line with President Hepner’s dream of making State college a ‘Little Florence’ and a mecca of art and drama.” The film was shown three times in the Little Theater on March 6-7, 1940. Admission was 25 cents to help cover the $300 production costs.

A parody on the 1939 film produced by Paramount featuring Gary Cooper, Sigma Lambda’s “Beau Geste” was a “1600-foot burlesque” that “set the movie industry back 10 years” according to the producers.

Although “any similarity between this version and the original is purely coincidental,” Sigma Lambda was to destroy it after the shows on March 6, in an agreement with Paramount. An Aztec editorial in support of the film urged students to attend the showings, saying “the movie speaks highly of future possibilities at the college. One of the few colleges in the country to break away from commercialism in dramatics, State’s drama department has been pioneering in creative work for years.”

On March 8, the Aztec reported “’Beau Geste’ a hit; gag-packed” before a packed house that “roared and howled” at the “excellent burlesque with clever comedy rampant throughout.” The film spoke “highly of those students connected with it” and “it is certainly unfortunate that the film must now be destroyed…”  Or was it?

About Decades Ago at San Diego State

The SDSU Library's Department of Special Collections and University Archives presents the weekly series "Decades Ago at San Diego State." Special Collections and University Archives staff members collect articles and photos from archived issues of The Daily Aztec, providing a glimpse of the university's past and its memorable events, people and programs. 

More Decades Ago at San Diego State


Related Content
  • The Forbidden Film
    SDSU students' parody of a popular 1939 film resurfaces 70-plus years later.

 

 
Pioneers of Student Film
Decades Ago at San Diego State: looking back at a student film parody of "Beau Geste."
VIEW SLIDESHOW