Just some fun trivia I found about the 1935 movie:
Alexander Korda (the producer) was Hungarian, and had been born in a town not far from Baroness Orczy’s family’s farm.
Korda had recently had great success with the actor Charles Laughtonin the film The Private Life of Henry VIII, so he asked Laughton to play the role of Sir Percy. But when the announcement went out to the press, the reaction from the Pimpernel’s many fans was negative; the pug-nosed Laughton was thought inappropriate to play the suave Sir Percy.
So speaking of the mini-series,
I decided to find out what all of the other episodes were about. Here’s what the BBC website had to say about them.
Episode 1 - Ennui
More adventures with Sir Percy Blakeney and his crew as he uses ingenious disguises and tricks to rescue French aristocrats from the guillotine, and escape the cluthes of Robespierre. And a new challenge for Percy - Margueritte has died in childbirth leaving him with a baby daughter to look after.
I have such a huge problem with how every episode summary treats Marguerite’s death so flippantly. I’ve read fan fic that does a better job killing her off. We’re going to call his wife, whom he loves more than life itself and would and has risked his life for on several occasions, dying and leaving him to raise their child alone “a new challenge”???? Let’s not bother mentioning the devistating agony he’d feel and the deep depression he’d probably be in after losing her, plus the at least slight hint of resentment he’d probably feel towards the baby for killing her at war with the unconditional love of a father, who now has this baby as his only living piece of Marguerite to hold on to. This is a moment for some fine acting and character work. I really want to see if Grant pulls it off, or if they just glance over all of these feelings to get back to the action. Hopefully, he spends more time mourning her than he does Dewhurst.
Oh, and we don’t see Chauvelin or Ffoulkes after this episode either. It’s as if everyone but Grant could see that the ship was going down…
Episode 2 - Friends and Enemies
When brilliant French scientist, Antoine Picard, is coerced into producing a revolutionary bomb for Citizen Robespierre, only the Scarlet Pimpernel, aided by Picard’s beautiful sister Francoise, can rescue him from the guillotine.
Episode 3 - A Good Name
Adventures with Baroness Orczy’s disguised superhero. The true identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel is threatened with exposure when a foppish young aristocrat is mistaken for Sir Percy.
I just realized as I was writing this post that having been introduced to The Scarlet Pimpernel through the musical, when I read the book, there were certian things that I just assumed based on the information presented by the musical. As we know from previous posts, in the novel, finding Percy’s ring is how Marguerite figures out that Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel. Since in the musical Percy usues the ring that bears his family crest of the scarlet pimpernel to sign his communications with his men, I had always just assumed that was what it was used for in the novel. But in the novel, after Marguerite notices the pimpernel engraved on the ring and puts two and two together, nothing more is said about the ring, so we actually don’t know if it was used as a seal to communicate with his men, if it was a family heirloom that inspired him to take on the name, or really, anything, other than that he owns the ring.
In almost every adaptation, the ring has been an important part of the Pimpernel’s character.
In the 1935 movie, Percy uses the ring as a seal ring to communicate with his men. As evidenced in the portrait, the ring is either an heriloom that he’s had a hinged stone put over to hide the pimpernel, or he’s created a new ring. Either way, the scarlet pimpernel has been in the family for some time.
In The Elusive Pimpernel, Marguerite and Percy have matching rings, which are presumably their wedding rings. Percy’s ring again has a pimpernel hidden under a hinged stone, although we never see him using it (that I can remember. Someone correct me if I’m wrong).
In the 1982 version, Percy’s ring is again used as a seal ring to communicate with his men. In this version, the seal is on the underside of the ring, and the center part rotates to reveal/conceal it. Again, as evidenced by the portrait Marguerite sees, it wasn’t always concealed, and scarlet pimpernels are part of the Blakeney family crest. When he is in prison, Percy gives Marguerite the ring so that she can instruct the leage.
In the Broadway musical, Percy instructs his men never to act on any written instructions unless they bear the seal of his family crest, the scarlet pimpernel, which is on his seal ring. At the end of the show, the ring is what ends up giving Percy away to Chauvelin. He keeps the ring on while he is disguised as Grappin, and to cover for it, he tells Chauvelin that he couldn’t catch the Pimpernel because he galloped away on his horse, but that he managed to grab his ring. Chauvelin sees the problem with Grappin grabbing the ring off of the finger of a man galloping away on a horse, and Percy realizes that the game is up and reveals himself.
The 1999 adaptation is the only one to not include any mention of or reference to Percy’s ring. He does wear two rings, but one is just a plain black stone, an the other one is never in focus, so we never see what is on it.
This picture from BlakeneyManor.com features what is presumably on the ring that we never see. It does look like a flower of some sort, but seems to be a decoration on top of the stone rather than a seal ring, which would seem to serve little purpose.
How Marguerite finds out that Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel has been different in just about every adaptation.
In the novel, the morning after Lord Grenville’s ball and Percy’s sudden departure, Marguerite’s curriosity is piqued when she sees the door to Percy’s private study, which is usually kept locked, ajar. She goes in and sees the simple decorating, the maps of France on the wall, and the desk full of business papers and ledgers, all of which confirm her suspicions that Percy is not the inaine, foppish dilliatant the public thinks him to be. She gets spooked at this realization, and goes to leave, when
“her foot knocked against a small object, which had apparently been lying close to the desk, on the carpet, and which now went rolling, right across the room.
She stooped to pick it up. It was a solid gold ring, with a flat shield, on which was engraved a small device.
Marguerite turned it over in her fingers, and then studied the engraving on the shield. It represented a small star-shaped flower, of a shape she had seen so distinctly twice before: once at the opera, and once at Lord Grenville’s ball.”
At first she tries to talk herself out of belieing that Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel, rationalizing that everyone is wearing fabric and jewelry adorned with pimpernels, it’s almost become a symbol of national pride, so why wouldn’t Percy have a ring with a pimpernel on it? But once Suzanne tells her that the Pimpernel himself has left that morning to go and rescue her father, Marguerite finally confirms her fears.
In each of the film adaptations, the realization comes a bit quicker.
In the 1935 film, after Percy and Marguerite finally have it out in what is probably my favorite scene from any of the Pimpernel movies, he leaves claiming he is going to his tailor and bootmaker, and to see what he can do for Armond. Marguerite sits alone in his study for a few hours, and then when Percy’s vallet comes and kicks her out, she happens to catch sight of a portrait of Percy, in which he is wearing a seal ring with a scarlet pimpernel on it, and realizes that Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel.
In The Elusive Pimpernel, at some point during the ball, Percy has given Andrew his seal ring to use. When Marguerite catches Andrew in the library, he tries to distract her with a magic trick, asking her for her ring - which is identical to Percy’s except for the seal hidden behind the stone on his - and making it “dissapear”. When he goes to give it back to her, he realizes that he can’t tell the two apart, and accidentaly gives her Percy’s. Back home, Marguertie is angry and frustrated with Percy for neglecting her, and throws things around the room, including her ring. When she throws it, it hits the floor and opens to reveal the seal. After looking at it curiously for a moment, she realizes what has happened and what it means.
The 1982 version is similar to the original 1935 film. After the ball, Marguerite wakes to a note from Percy, saying that he has had to leave suddenly. She reads it in the study, flattening the paper against a bookcase. As she’s looking at it, she notices the painting on the moulding above the letter, a bunch of small, red flowers. She turns to see a portrait with the same small red flowers on the Blakeney family crest. She realizes that they are scarlet pimpernels and that Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel.
In the 1999 adaptation, Marguerite has breakfast with Chauvelin, and he blackmails her into helping him catch the Pimpernel. He tells her that in a recent encounter with the Pimpernel he shot and wounded him, and Marguerite remembers that when Percy helped her down from the carriage the other day he winced at what he claimed was a fencing accident. This paired with Percy’s departure that morning is enough to make her suspicious, and she forces Peryc’s vallet to unlock the door to Percy’s study. Inside she finds a desk decorated with a gold flower (which is supposed to be a pimpernel), and when she presses the flower, a secret drawer pops open containing a map of france. This convinces her that Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel.
In the musical, Marguerite is entirely in the dark until the last 10 minutes of the show. In all of the other versions, she goes to Paris after she has realized that Percy is the Pimpernel and that she has betrayed him to Chauvelin. In the musical, Marguerite goes to Paris in order to save Armond herself. After they are captured and subsequently “rescued”, Armond keeps babling on about how he knew Percy - whoops, he means the Scarlet Pimpernel - would rescue them, and how Percy - whoops, he means the Scarlet Pimpernel again - would never have let anything happen to them. Marguerite begins to put two and two together, realizing that Percy’s foppish attitude was a distraction to throw everyone off the scent, and makes Armond tell her the truth.
Which version do you like the best?
Remember those earrings I posted pictures of a while back?
Turns out they were the earrings worn by “Mam’zelle Guillotine” herself in the second episode of the A&E/BBC version.
I finally got around to finishing the second and third episodes of the A&E/BBC version this week.
Episode 2 seems to be a mix of plots vaguely suggested by both Mam’zelle Guillotine and Sir Percy Hits Back. It’s alright. Once again, a lot of people die, and Percy doesn’t use any disguises. They completely cut Gabrielle Damiens’ backstory, so you have no idea why she’s so hellbent on revenge on this one particular family of aristocrats. And the only thing they took from SPHB is that they very vaguely hint that one of the characters may be Chauvelin’s long lost bastard child.
In one scene, Percy manages to trick Gabrielle into thinking that he and Andrew are Chauvelin and Fumier (Chauvelin’s sidekick in the series) and that Chauvelin and Fumier are Percy and Andrew. He then goes about seducing her in order to get her guard down, and then makes his escape by seeming to suggest they engage in some light bondage play, and then actually tying her up. But before he does, they’re seriously going at it!
It’s disgusting! Percy would never EVER do such a thing! He loves and respects Marguerite WAY too much to even consider it, even to make an escape. He wouldn’t forfit his honnor when he was being tortured, so why would he do it when he could just say “Oop, well, time to go. Have to go off and catch the Pimpernel”?
Episode 3 is a little more tollerable. This one centers around the Pimpermel rescuing the Dauphin. And again, that’s where the similarities to Eldorado end.
The plot is a bit ridiculous. The Dauphin is being held at an orphanage in Paris, and being brainwashed with a cute little song about sending his parents to the guillotine, when all of a sudden, someone in a red mask comes in and snaps the male jailor’s neck, punches his wife out, and steals the Dauphin.
Meanwhile, back in England, Percy and Marguerite stage a very public “break up” at a party at Carlton House; she says he’s emotionally unavailable, he calles her a french whore, she tries to slap him, yada yada yada. Lots of stuff that Percy and Marguerite would never do in public. Then, as planned, she leaves the party in a huff, and without even going home to change aparently, boards a ship and moves back to Paris. They stage several more public arguments in Paris, with him being an insensitive prick telling her to stop whining and come home, and her being a horrbile overactress, throwing her wedding ring at him and saying things like “I will not, for I… have done with you!” So now both Percy and Marguerite, apparently having caled it quits, can move through Paris without any suspicion, and figure out who took the Dauphin and what they’re planning to do with him. From there it only gets stranger.
The thing I really do like about this episode is the evolution of Percy and Marguerite’s relationship (that is, when they’re not pretending to hate eachother). When they do get to meet in secret, they’re so loving and tender to each other, just like in the books. And he calls her Margot, which I love, and looks at her like he’s so proud of her. And the ending scene back at Blakeney Manor where he gives her back her wedding ring and says “Welcome home” is very sweet.
The script has some very funny moments. At one point, Percy has the Dauphin and Chauvelin has a gun pointed at Marguerite. Percy, knowing that Chauvelin could never bring himself to harm her, basically tells him to go ahead and shoot. When they do escape, the conversation is along the lines of ”You risked my life?!” “I knew he would never do it” “I hate you!” *kiss very passionately* And there’s yet another great scene where they’re in bed together. Only this time, Marguerite’s horny and Percy keeps falling asleep :)
I’ve never actually seen Neil Jackson in anything, but look-wise, he looks PERFECT to play Percy.
“strong, clearly-cut mouth”
“tall, above the average”
“broad shouldered and massively built”
Well, not “massive,” but certainly built! He was a championship boxer and a personal trainer before becoming an actor.
“undeniably handsome”, “six food odd of gorgeousness”
I mean, check.
I hope he’s still going to be involved in 5 years!
Scarlet Pimpernel Remake?
About this time last year, news started circulating that Fairbanks Productions, the new U.K. based brainchild of Dominick Fairbanks, the great grandson of Hollywood legend Douglas Fairbanks, would be launching it’s name into the public arena with a $120 million (£75 million) remake of “The Scarlet Pimpernel”.
The film was to star Neil Jackson, who has had roles on the big screen in Push and Quantum of Solace, and in TV shows such as Blade; The Series, Upstairs Downstairs, and currently, Make It or Break It.
Ufortunately, the company announced in February of this year that the plans for Pimpernel have been temporarily shelved, after it emerged that movie adaptation rights to Pimpernel in the U.K. fell foul of a change in copyright laws when the European Union extended them from 50 years to 70 years, which means the rights are no longer in the public domain in the U.K.
But Fairbanks Productions executive producer James Blacksays the company plans to wait for five years and revisit Pimpernel when all rights return to the public domain.
While Pimpernel proves ‘elusive’ due to rights issues, Ivanhoe is in the public domain and Fairbanks Productions is fast-tracking it. As of May, Colin MacDonald had been hired to write the script for the $81 million (£50 million) Ivanhoe, and the film is litsted under “Feature Films in Development” on his website.
Black said originally when introuding the Pimpernel remake, “We want to try and do to the story of The Scarlet Pimpernel what Guy Ritchie did to Sherlock Holmes [for Warner Bros]”. David Stratton of The Australian, while he praised Ritchie’s Holmes for it’s production design and score, disliked the film’s interpretation of the original Holmes stories and concluded, “The makers of this film are mainly interested in action; that, they believe, is all that gets young audiences into cinemas today. They may be right, but they have ridden roughshod over one of literature’s greatest creations in the process.” Reviews like this may scare some of us Pimpernel fans who already have scars that are yet to heal from the 1999 A&E/BBC remake.
So maybe it’s a good thing that Pimpernel has been put on the back burner. We’ll have to see how well Ivanhoe holds up to the original.
Showing A&E/BBC Some Love
Having ranted on for several posts about how much I dislike this movie, I do have to admit that there are two very small parts of it that I actually like.
- The scene where Chauvelin is chasing Percy through the streets (after Tony gets shot the first time). One of the big things in the novels is how much fun all the members of the league have doing what they do. As much as it is about rescuing innocent people from death, for them it’s also about the rush and the thrill and the excitement, the hair’s-breadth escapes, pissing off the French, etc. It’s a sport for them really. And this scene is the only one that shows it. While Percy is outrunning Chauvelin, who’s on a horse, Percy looks back at him, turns forward again, and grins from ear to ear. Then, after tricking Chauvelin, he steals his horse and gives him a little salute before he rides away on it. THERE’S the cheek and the ingenuity and the audacity that Percy has been missing throughout the entire movie!
- The ending scene. Now I know some Pimpernel fans are gasping at me behind their fans and claiming that the Baroness is rolling over in her grave, but before you crucify me, hear me out. One of the sequel novels, Pimpernel and Rosemary, is about a direct decedent of Percy. So, Marguerite and Percy had to have had sex and had children. They were both extremely passionate people, and after their months of estrangement, you know they were just dying to make love. I’m sure the only reason it doesn’t appear in the book is that the Baroness’s Victorian morals would never have allowed her to set this act, or any allusion to it, down on paper. But after everything that Percy and Marguerite go through, it’s nice to see them have a tender moment. And in comparison to the rest of the movie, it’s very well scripted, especially keeping the time period in mind.
Seriously, the ages are so off in this movie. Marguerite and Suzanne should be in their mid 20s. They are supposed to have gone to school together, and they look 10 years apart. Chauvelin’s still supposed to be in his late 30s, and Percy and the League are all supposed to be in their late 20s. Tony looks young enough to be Percy’s son!