The Imperial County, California, sand dunes are located west of Yuma, Arizona. Interstate 8 travels through the southern portion of the sand dunes. Most filming took place in the Buttercup Valley area of the sand dunes, north of the interstate.
One of the most difficult feats in the production of motion pictures was encountered by Herbert Brenon, Paramount producer, when he started the filming of the desert sequences in "Beau Gest," P. C. Wren's story of the Foreign Legion, which is one of the special attractions on the Paramount schedule for the fifteenth anniversary group.
Two thousand men and eighteen hundred head of live-stock including horses, mules and camels, lived on the American desert, thirty miles from the nearest base of supplies, for twelve weeks.
In building and maintaining Camp Paramount, supplies were transported over the state highway to within three and a half miles of the camp site. As the trail left the highway a plank road a mile and a half long was constructed through the desert, terminating at a foo-foot dune too sttep to permit descent or ascent of vehicles. To overcome this obstacle, a chute was built and material was shot down this to the valley floor where it was reloaded on sand sleds drawn by specially constructed tractors.
Over this improvised plank roadway and sand 80,000,000 pounds of materials were transported to the camp depot. Every day shifts of 100 men each labored to keep the plank road clear of sand drifts, for if the transportation of food supplies were impeded, the health and life of the men and animals would be endangered.
Camp Paramount, standing alone on the hot and barren desert, possessed the following features: 1,800 head of livestock, including 25 camels; 350 tents, all floored; a well producing 50,000 gallons of water daily, a telephone system connecting headquarters, horse corral, property department, important sets, hospital, mess halls, wardrobe departments, etc.; a water pipe system carrying water to within a few feet of every tent, a shower-bath for every 20 men in camp, four post offices distributed throughout the camp, which covered four and a half square miles; an electric lighting system, a clinic and a hospital with a physician-surgeon and trained nurses, a recreation tent 50 feet wide by 150 feet long for card-playing, radio concerts and concerts by the company orchestra; a mess hall 80 feet wide by 250 long where motion pictures were shown nightly, a clay tennis court and a Badminton court, a 16-foot canvas floored boxing ring.
Semi-military rules were observed, with reveille at 5:30 every morning, followed by breakfast a half-hour late. By 8:30 every man had his cot in order and was made-up and ready to start across the dunes on horseback for location. A long rest period was taken each noon to give the horses rest and to avoid filming during the hottest part of the day. The evening meal was served at 7 and at 10 taps was blown, and nearly 2,000 men slept like the dead until the next morning.
It required 17 trains to transport men, livestock and supplies from Los Angeles and other points to Yuma, Ariz., the nearest railroad approach to Camp Paramount.
During the course of production two airplanes were pressed into service to carry 100,000 rounds of blank cartridges to the camp.
Special blades six inches wide and 18 inches long had to be designed for the caterpillar tractors to pull the loaded sleds over the sand. These iron flanges made by Frank Blount, the studio representative who built the mammoth camp, succeeded where automobile, mule, steam winches and ordinary tractors had failed.
Featured in the picture are Ronald Colman, Alice Joyce, Noah Beery, Mary Brian, Neil Hamilton, William Powell, Ralph Forbes and Norman Trevor.
"Let's Go, Gallagher" (FBO 1925) Directed by: Robert De Lacey. Cast: Tom Tyler, Frankie Darro.
"Beau Geste" (Paramount 1926) Directed by: Herbert Brenon. Cast: George Regas, Bernard Siegel, Ram Singh, Donald Stuart, Norman Trevor, Noah Beery, Ronald Colman, Neil Hamilton, Victor McLaglen, William Powell.
"The Son of the Sheik" (Feature Productions 1926) Directed by: George Fitzmaurice. Cast: Rudolph Valentino, Vilma Banky, George Fawcett, Montague Love, Bull Montana.
"The Desert Song" (Warner Brothers 1929) Directed by: Roy Del Ruth. Cast: John Boles, Carlotta King, Louise Fazenda, Johnny Arthur, Edward Martindel, Jack Pratt.
"The Four Feathers" (Paramount 1929) Directed by: Merian C. Cooper and Lothar Mendes. Cast: Richard Arlen, Fay Wray, Clive Brook, William Powell, Theodore von Eltz, Noah Beery, Noble Johnson.
"The Big Trail" (United Artists 1930) Directed by: Raoul Walsh. Cast: John Wayne, Marguerite Churchill, Ward Bond.
"The Lost Patrol" (RKO 1934) Directed by: John Ford. Cast: Victor McLaglen, Boris Karloff, Wallace Ford, Reginald Denny, J.M. Kerrigan, Billy Bevan, Alan Hale.
"The Garden of Allah" (Selznick International 1936) Directed by: Richard Boleslawski. Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer, Basil Rathbone, C. Aubrey Smith, John Carradine, Henry Brandon.
"Beau Geste" (Paramount 1939) Directed by: William A. Wellman. Cast: Gary Cooper, Ray Milland, Robert Preston, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, J. Carrol Naish, Albert Dekker.
"Last of the Comanches" (Columbia 1953) Directed by: Andre de Toth. Cast: Broderick Crawford, Barbara Hale, Lloyd Bridges, John War Eagle.
"Hawmps!" (Mulberry Square 1976) Directed by: Joe Camp. Cast: James Hampton, Jack Elam, Slim Pickens.