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United Kingdom 1935
Directed by
Harold Young
99 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Given the decline of Britain after WWII, the tongue-in-cheek Anglophile baiting of the French in Alexander Korda's London Film Productions transposition of Baroness Orczy's famous romance is rather ironic.

Leslie Howard plays Sir Percy Blakeney a.k.a The Scarlet Pimpernel with such delicious foppery that the film has mainly survived for its comic value, notably as Daffy Duck’s Scarlet Pumpernickel and his “They seek him here, they seek him there…” doggerel. Nevertheless the screenplay by Lajos Biró, Sam Bermann, Robert Sherwood and Arthur Wimperis is often witty. As a romance or action film however it is wanting, with Howard not getting to use his sword in any sense of the word and when he is not onscreen there is little of interest to watch, Merle Oberon and Raymond Massey notwithstanding

Three directors (including Rowland Brown and Korda) worked on it, although only Harold Young is credited. Unsubtly exploiting English vanity (Blakeney’s “This happy breed” recitation towards the end of the film comes from Shakespeare's Richard II and was used by Noel Coward for the title of a 1943 play which was in turn filmed by David Lean) it was a huge commercial success. Korda produced a sequel, Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel (d. Hans Schwarz, 1937) that, with none of the original cast bar Anthony Bushell as Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, understandably tanked.




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