A British aristocrat goes in disguise to France to rescue people from The Terror of the guillotine.


Baroness Emmuska Orczy (romance) (as Baroness Orczy), Michael Powell | 1 more credit »
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
David Niven ... Sir Percy Blakeney / The Scarlet Pimpernel
Margaret Leighton ... Marguerite Blakeney
Cyril Cusack ... Chauvelin
Jack Hawkins ... Prince of Wales / Footpad attacking Lord Anthony
Arlette Marchal ... Contesses de Tournai
Gérard Nery Gérard Nery ... Philippe de Tournai
Danielle Godet ... Suzanne de Tournai
Edmond Audran Edmond Audran ... Armand St. Juste
Charles Victor Charles Victor ... Colonel Winterbotham
Eugene Deckers ... Captain Merieres
David Oxley ... Captain Duroc
Raymond Rollett Raymond Rollett ... Bibot
Philip Stainton Philip Stainton ... Jellyband
John Longden ... The Abbot
Robert Griffiths Robert Griffiths ... Trubshaw


A British aristocrat goes in disguise to France to rescue people from The Terror of the guillotine.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They seek him here, they seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he is Heaven or in Hell? That demmed, elusive pimpernel. See more »


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Did You Know?


Although filmed in 1949, the movie did not have a US release until 1954. See more »


Sir Percy Blakeney: The hours past are numbered against us.
See more »


Referenced in Stars of the Silver Screen: David Niven (2014) See more »

User Reviews

A lesser Pimpernel
15 April 2018 | by SimonJackSee all my reviews

Baroness Emma Orczy's "The Scarlet Pimpernel" is one of those stories that seem to attract actors, directors and producers to want to make it again and again. The story was first produced as a 1905 stage play in London, even before the novel was published. The huge success of the play and subsequent book inspired Orczy to write several sequel novels. Most of these in time were made into films. The first films were silent productions in 1917 and 1919. Then, in 1934, London Film Productions made the first sound film. That remains the model with which to compare all film remakes since.

Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon and Raymond Massey headed the superb cast of the 1934 film. The screenplay, filming, sets and scenes were outstanding. The quality of that black and white masterpiece hasn't faded these many decades later. Of all the remakes for the silver screen and TV, only one is equal to the sound original. That's the splendid 1982 film, "The Scarlet Pimpernel," made by the same company.

The 1982 movie is in color and has a cast equal to the first film. Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour and Ian McKellen give superb performances. The screenplay in this version delves more into Percy's time in Paris and the love and marriage of Percy and Marguerite at the beginning of the French Revolution. Otherwise, both films give considerable screen time to some of the many clever ways that Sir Percy had for freeing and smuggling prisoners out of France. Especially good are the disguises that heroes don in each of these films. The audience gets to see them change, and it's a good look at how one can change one's physical appearance and not be recognized. I had to strain to see the two actors in their various makeups. So, it's understandable how disguises can work so well when those being fooled aren't folks who know the disguised person well.

In between and after the two excellent movies, there have been a number of remakes for the movie theaters and for TV. None comes close to matching the outstanding 1934 and 1982 films.

This film, "The Elusive Pimpernel" (aka, "The Fighting Pimpernel"), is one of those other films. After the 1934 success, it took 16 years before someone got the itch or courage to attempt a film remake. London Films again did the job. But, a new bevy of actors was there from which to pluck a new Percy and others. They mostly were stage and screen stars who were young wannabe stars at the time of the 1934 film. So, one can understand a David Niven, Margaret Leighton and Cyril Cusack wanting to tackle the Pimpernel story. And, of course, London Films would always like to have another hit on its hands.

But, such was not the case with this remake. It was originally planned as a musical. The producer, director and other backers squabbled over the film from start to finish. David Niven didn't want to do it, and Margaret Leighton was given the female lead against the director's wishes (Michael Powell). Samuel Goldwyn and Alexander Korda were at odds. The finished product is very rough with holes in places and poor editing and splicing in other places. The film seems to have bombed in the UK, barely earning 25 percent of its cost (£477,000) at the box office.

Still, this is the Scarlet Pimpernel, and the film has some of the intrigue and a little action of the original. Leighton's part is very minimal and almost blasé. But Niven seems to have put some energy and effort into his role as Sir Percy Blakeney. So, this 1950 Pimpernel isn't a total wash. For the few good acting efforts, and for Madame Orczy's story, it gets six stars.

Here are some favorite lines from the film.

Prince of Wales, "Damn it, Percy. You may be brainless, spineless and useless, but, uh, ha, you do know clothes."

Sir Percy Blakeney, "The hours past are numbered against us."

Marguerite Blakeney, "Are we really free, Percy? Sir Percy Blakeney, "Not you, my darling. Chauvelin said that you would be free the moment that I die. Not a moment sooner."

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Release Date:

June 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Fighting Pimpernel See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (R.C.A. Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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