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Marguerite De La Motte,
Leslie Howard plays Sir Percy Blakeney, an 18th century English aristocrat who leads a double life. He appears to be merely the effete aristocrat, but in reality is part of an underground effort to free French nobles from Robespierre's Reign of Terror. Based on the novel by Baroness Orczy. Written by
Patrick Dominick <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One might want to pre-judge this movie on the basis of its release date (1934), but it would be a mistake to consider this movie as creeky and old. On the contrary, it remains so brilliantly focused and sharply contrasted, that the viewer can get lost within the film-strip of this fine Korda film. The sets are realistic and evocative. Some, such as parlors and ballrooms glitter like the jewels of their occupants, while others, like public taverns and "clubs", can be grimy with pipe smoke, ale, and mutton.
The story is one of hidden identity, of unsung heroism, illusion, and danger......risk and reward, of good men doing what's necessary to save doomed people. It's also a moving love story.
Central in all of this is Sir Percy Blakeney (Leslie Howard in his finest screen role). He is a Fop in the extreme. He poses, he prances, and he eternally fusses with his attire. Are his cuffs properly ruffled, so that when he takes snuff, "it's a swallows flight"? Neckwear is another preoccupation of Sir Percy's.... he even uses this obsession in one of the film's wittiest lines, "A man who can't tie his own cravat isn't likely to put a noose around the Pimpernel's neck, is he?" But, the paradox of course is that Sir Percy, his wife not even knowing, is the bane of the French Revolutionists, the Scarlet Pimpernel. He and his followers make repeated and risky trips across the English Channel to rescue those they can from the fate of the guillotine. This charade of Sir Percy's is the core of much of the film's hilarious moments. But it's easy for this movie to take quick turns from humor to grim seriousness.
The love interest is the International beauty Merle Oberon, who is showcased exquisitly. She has developed a contempt for her foppish husband and his silliness, as she desperately tries to save her brother's life by trying to discover the true identity of the Pimpernel for villain Raymond Massey. She idealizes the Pimpernel who she often contrasts to her nit-wit husband, but as he tells her (and with some moment), "It's dangerous to fall in love with a phantom, m'dear. For all you know he's a married man who is deeply in love with his wife."
There is adventure and romance. A must see movie.
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