Sunday, May 22, 2022

"They seek him here. They seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. ...."

I read the book long ago, but bought a DVD of the 1934 film just recently. Sarah Schutte at NRO:
"They seek him here. They seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in Heaven? Or is he in Hell? That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.” Thrilling words, aren’t they? My 14-year-old self thought so, and honestly, I’ve never stopped thinking it. That enigmatic character, the Scarlet Pimpernel, has captured many an imagination for over a century now and has worked his way into mainstream cultural references. Daring rescues and clever escapes are now described in Scarlet Pimpernel-esque terms. ....

If you’ve never read the story, I’ll give just a brief taste to whet your appetite, but don’t go looking for spoilers, I beg you. It is the year of our Lord, 1792. The French Revolution scythes its bloody way through the country, abhorred but unchecked by neighboring lands. Noble men, women, and children are cruelly put to death. Will no one come to their aid? Enter the Scarlet Pimpernel. Never seen, but somehow always present, this master of disguise uses his clever wits and immense courage to spirit away those doomed to die. What is known about him? That he is an Englishman. That he is followed and implicitly obeyed by twelve unfalteringly loyal men. That he is a pestilence, according to Chauvelin, and must be destroyed. ....

.... While much of the tale may seem quaint to audiences of today, oversaturated as they are with modern cinema’s twists, turns, and explosions, Baroness Orczy’s classic story retains a certain sense of intrigue and chivalry now rarely found.

Emmuska Magdalena Rosalia Maria Josefa Barbara Orczy was born in 1865 to noble Hungarian parents. Local unrest led her family to flee to Budapest when Orczy was quite young. She then spent much of her early life in various parts of Europe and England. First performed as a stage play, The Scarlet Pimpernel opened in 1903 and gained acclaim by 1905 — enough to merit a book version. .... (more)

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