My daughter’s been poorly all week with an infection, so I’ve been at home with her doing far more caring than painting. In my quiet moments, however, I have been reflecting on the impact that the French Foreign Legion have had on popular culture.
I have a DVD copy of the BBC TV series on Beau Geste made in 1982 and starring Benedict Taylor, which I greatly enjoyed seeing when I was a young boy. Even if the desert scenes look suspiciously like they were filmed in a disused quarry in southern England rather than the scorched Saharan sands, it mattered not one bit with me. The uniforms were accurate and as a depiction of the regiment it was very convincing. It wasn’t the first interpretation on-screen. Three films have been made on the story of Beau Geste; 1926 (a silent movie), in 1939 (starring Gary Cooper) and in 1966. In 1929, even the great thespian Laurence Olivier played the eponymous role in a stage version which enjoyed only a limited run.
The Beau Geste tale has been parodied by many over the years, notably the “Carry On” films and in 1931 by Laurel and Hardy in “Beau Hunks” (with Jean Harlow as the woman they all joined ‘to forget’) and later again in a their remake called The Flying Deuces.
Aside from the retelling of the story of Beau Geste, and the 1977 movie “March or Die” which I’ve previously mentioned in this blog, La Legion has been the subject of a spoof in a long-running comic strip in the UK called “The adventures of Legionnaire Beau Peep”. The strip sends up many of the well-known motifs that appeared in Beau Geste. In a twist on the common theme of joining the legion to forget a lost love, Beau Peep has apparently joined the legion to escape his somewhat intimidating wife!
Now: my figures. I’ve noticed that these metal figures seem to reflect the light in photographs more than plastic figures, so you’ll have to believe me when I say they are much more matt looking in reality. My Saharan desert sand has come through the post and I think it looks rather good. Compared to the often hideously complexity of, let’s say Napoleonic hussars, painting my French Foreign Legionnaires is a fairly quick process. One big blue greatcoat, a white covered kepi and white trousers makes for about 90% of the figure. Consequently, I find I am already tackling the final 8 of the 24 figures in the Artizan designs set.
Unfortunately, just as my daughter seems to be better, it’s now my wife that seems to have picked up the infection! I can’t cope with it any more. It’s enough to make me run off and join the Foreign Legion…