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The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)

Not Rated | | Adventure, Drama | 7 February 1935 (USA)
A noblewoman discovers her husband is The Scarlet Pimpernel, a vigilante who rescues aristocrats from the blade of the guillotine.

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Writers:

(by) (as The Baroness Orczy), (scenario, continuity & dialogue) (as Lajos Biro) | 3 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
The Priest
...
...
...
Mabel Terry-Lewis ...
Countess de Tournay
O.B. Clarence ...
Count de Tournay
Ernest Milton ...
Robespierre
...
...
Romney
...
The Barber
Morland Graham ...
Treadle (the tailor) (as Moreland Graham)
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Storyline

London fop Percy Blakeney is also secretly the Scarlet Pimpernel who, in a variety of disguises, makes repeated daring trips to France to save aristocrats from Madame Guillotine. His unknowing wife is also French, and she finds that her brother has been arrested by the Republic to try and get her to find out who "that damned elusive Pimpernel" really is. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Scarlet Pimpernel. Who Was He... What Was His Strange Power?

Genres:

Adventure | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

7 February 1935 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die scharlachrote Blume  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Wide Range Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Sir Percy recites his poem, it contains the word "demmed" which, in the US in 1934, would have been construed as profanity and would not have been allowed. This film was produced in England, however, where it was. See more »

Goofs

Blakeney and the Prince of Wales are seen at a boxing match in which the combatants are in a structure similar to a modern 'square' ring. This form of the ring was not used until around 1838. See more »

Quotes

Percy Blakeney: Open up your sleeves, man. Let your ruffles take the air. Let them flow. Let them ripple.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Comedians (1967) See more »

Soundtracks

The Comical Fellow
(uncredited)
Traditional
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User Reviews

"We Seek Him Here..."
4 November 2004 | by See all my reviews

And those "Frenchies" sought him everywhere.

Leslie Howard probably was the first British stage star who became a genuine Hollywood star as well. We tend to think of Ronald Colman, his elegant contemporary, but Colman never had the great stage career Howard did, and never made films in England - he worked (for Samuel Goldwyn mostly) in Hollywood. Howard conquered English cinema, most notably in PYGMALION (which he co-directed) and this film. His ability to play a romantic figure like Percy Blakeney and a Shavian master character like Henry Higgins shows his amazing talent. By 1935 he had been in several films opposite Frederic March and Norma Shearer (SMILIN' THROUGH), Mary Pickford (SECRETS), Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart (THE PETRIFIED FOREST), Davis and Olivia de Haviland (IT'S LOVE I'M AFTER), and Bogart and Joan Blondell (STAND-BY). He continued in this manner, eventually being in Ingrid Bergman's first American movie (INTERMEZZO), and in GONE WITH THE WIND as Ashley. For an actor who died tragically prematurely in World War II, Howard left an impressive film record.

Sir Percy Blakeney must have become a favorite role to Howard. He was to make it the basis for a final spy comedy-thriller (his last role) PIMPERNELL SMITH, bringing the character up-to-date (taking on the Nazis led by Francis Sullivan as a "Goering" clone). But the original is the better film, as there is a real attempt to capture the spirit of the 1790s, the stirrings of Regency England. The scenery looks a little forced, but it is done consciously to capture the London of 1793.

There are slightly jarring effects (inevitable in any historical movie). Nigel Bruce captures the triviality of the Prince of Wales (the future George IV), although he does strike the proper note in explaining the difficulties of attempting to rescue French political prisoners and aristocrats. But his Scottish burr is noticeable. Merle Oberon does well as the heroine, cruelly twisted into helping the French (via the detestable Chauvin, played by Raymond Massey) into betraying aristocrats to the guilloutine. Her willingness to spy for the Frenchman based on his threatening to execute her brother for treason. Only later does she accidentally realize that her noodle-headed husband is the man she is ultimately forced into betraying.

Massey played mostly villains at this point in his career, except in THINGS TO COME. However, he was to soon make a "favorable" transition, by starring on stage and in the film of ABE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS. His turn as the psychotic John Brown in SANTE FE TRAIL also changed his movie personae - as he shows that his psychosis is based on a genuine desire to end slavery, as opposed to the opportunistic greed of his betrayer Van Heflin. Here his Chauvin is pompous and deadly. Not a nice character at all. But he has moments to shine: When he hears Blakeney's idiotic verses about the Pimpernell, he is doing a quiet slow burn and says, "I particularly like that use of the term "Frenchies"!". When he hears Oberon bemoaning the deaths her testimony (which he forced her to give) caused in the French courts, he suddenly makes a comment too often forgotten in movies about the French Revolution: "Why is it that everyone is always bemoaning the fate of the poor aristocrats? Don't people ever recall what they did to us?!" Even Chauvin and Robespierre had some points to bring up.

Howard's gleeful performance is the anchor for it all. As clever and watchful a spy as one imagines, instantly dropping the seriousness to play the fool. Look at how he keeps bringing up the proper tying of cravats, or his miscalling the apoplectic Colonel Winterbottom "Ramsbottom". Wonderful stuff Sir Percy. Wonderful movie still.


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