Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oh, come now, no one really hides in a clock!

Continuing in my count-up!

#27 The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)

In discussing this movie, it really is necessary for me to discuss the book as well. So, I'll give you a brief nutshelling of the plot and then I'll go into further discussion.

The plot is as follows: Sir Percy Blakeney Bart. is the most fashionable fop in London and is adored by everyone except, perhaps, his clever wife, Marguerite. What Marguerite and society do not know, however, is that Percy leads a double life. He is also the elusive hero known only as the Scarlet Pimpernel who has been stumping the Republicans over in France by rescuing French aristocrats from the guillotine. As the Scarlet Pimpernel is known all over for being an ingenious master of disguise, no one even suspects that the foolish Sir Percy could be at all connected.

Now, let me say this: I absolutely adore Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel. She wrote around a dozen sequels to the book and I've kind of eaten them up like literary candy. The one frustrating thing is that there has to be a film adaptation that quite follows the book. Now, I know this is a common complaint and I also know that to fully adapt the book, one would have to make an A&E-type production lasting around 6 hours (which, ironically, has already been done - quite appallingly, I might add). Despite the fact that the writers of the film do not stay wholly faithful to the plot or the characters, this movie is quite wonderful. The dialogue, for one thing, is delightful. There's so much fun word play going on. So many quotable moments. Here is an excellent example. Go to 6:00 to get to the right moment. My favorite scene is at the end of the movie but I don't want to give any spoilers! (You may notice that you can see more of the film here. I highly recommend it!)

Leslie Howard plays Percy to perfection. He has the droop of the eyes, the voice, the mannerisms down to an art. I also really love the intensity he gives Percy, because that's part of the fun. This movie makes me want to watch much more of Leslie Howard but I find that I don't always care for his other films, more's the pity. What makes the book (and the consequent movie(s)) so much fun is the character of Percy. You get a whole bunch of fun aspects rolled into one character. On the one hand, he's a fashion-minded fop, best friends with the Prince of Wales, and always fun at parties; on the other hand, he's a genius, bravely and selflessly sacrificing his safety for the innocent; and then on the other hand, he's a husband who is quietly and passionately in love with his wife. All of these make for a very fun character to read about!

I do recommend it! And when you see it (or if you already have) comment with your favorite line because there are several fun ones. My personal favorite is in the title.


  1. I too love the book and the Leslie Howard movie version. My favorite lines? "It rhymes!" "Oh yes, it's a poem!"

  2. I haven't heard of this but it sounds really interesting! Leslie Howard is bound to be good :) If it is as amazing as you say it is, I'm quite surprised there isn't a BBC adaptation or something like that!

  3. I haven't seen this version! But Merle Oberon looks so adorable in that photo.


  4. I have always been interested in the book and movie. And I love Leslie Howard, so I will have to give this one a shot! I loved his voice in the clip.


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