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 ... See full summary »
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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>
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There are some including previous reviewers here who would argue that The Scarlet Pimpernel afforded Leslie Howard his finest screen role. I wouldn't argue the point.
This Pimpernel guy, a sort of English Zorro/Lone Ranger is one tricky fellow. He's declared his own private war on the French Revolution and while not prancing about Regency society, he's over in France rescuing as many aristocrats as he can from Madame Guillotine.
Like Zorro in order to throw off suspicion, Sir Percy Blakeney affects the guise of a fop so that no one will think him capable of anything bold. Unlike Don Diego De La Vega, Blakeney's a married man, married to a French woman played by Merle Oberon who has her own dirty little secrets she's keeping.
Come to think of Don Diego and Sir Percy were operating in roughly the same period.
There's a guy named Chauvelin who's got a mission from the head guy at the Revolution, Robespierre himself. Bring back the Scarlet Pimpernel to face Revolutionary justice or you will. That's one great incentive.
Raymond Massey is a ruthless hunter as Chauvelin. And he believes in his mission. As another reviewer quite plainly put it Massey well remembers all the excesses that the aristocrats indulged in for centuries. He's pretty good too, but Leslie Howard is a tad better.
Leslie Howard is one of those players you can listen to and never be bored. He had that marvelous ability to make some of the most trite dialog sound like Shakespeare. As did his fellow British players Ronald Colman and Robert Donat. No one ever played the jaded world weary soul quite the way Howard did, whether it was Alan Squire, Ashley Wilkes or Percy Blakeney.
The Scarlet Pimpernel after over 70 years holds up well as classic entertainment. No one, but a jaded regency fop could not like this film.
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