Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Defending Marguerite Blakeney

Marguerite Blakeney gets a bad rap. Get over it, people.

The end. :-D

Ok, seriously. While I was looking around for the interviews I mentioned in an earlier post, I hit upon a phenomenon in the World Wide Web…

Many, many people labor under the delusion that Marguerite Blakeney is a wimp.

Thus the post. :-)

Actually, it was a combination of stuff. Right after looking for that, I was talking to Miss Dashwood and we were discussing the Epic Prison Scene in Eldorado and how Marguerite is "less wimpy" than some other books she's in (the garden scene in The Elusive Pimpernel comes to mind as one of her less-than-heroine-material moments). Which got me to thinking, wimpy (if at all) is she, really?

I love Marguerite. She’s one of those heroines that I painfully identify with. We often do things before we think through them. We both have a huge passion for life. We’re both so beautiful people can’t stop talking about it (ha…just seeing if you were paying attention. :-P). We are both passionately in love with Sir Percy Blakeney. Unfortunately, she’s married to him and I’m not. Thus the comparisons abruptly end.

Anyway. So I’d just like to speak my opinion on Marguerite.
Ok, so in the first book she’s a bit dim-witted. Ok, so yes, more often than not in the series she is responsible for making Percy’s scrapes even scrapeyer (I have the right to make up my own words. As Amy Adams’ character says in Night in the Museum 2, “It’s the way I speak.”). But people! After much observation, I have changed my mind. (Hey, I'm admitting I was wrong! Admirable, no? :-P) 

Marguerite is not a wimp.

So maybe in the first few books she has a hard time letting go and accepting Percy’s mission in life. She has a hard time letting him go, risking his life when she knows that he very well may never come back. Can you blame her?    


This past week I’ve started reading Lord Tony’s Wife (and Sir Percy Leads the Band…and Sir Percy Hits Back…and The Way of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Reading four TSP books at once is simply delish), and Marguerite gets a cameo in this story, which is nice…I was missing her. Anyway, Baroness Orczy finally says what I’ve been waiting to hear, putting perfectly into words how I feel about this character. In my opinion, despite her tears, occasional drama, and sometimes lack of substantial grey matter when it comes to plots and traps, she’s one of the strongest heroines in literature, and this is why.  (Emphasis mine, by the way).

All those who knew Marguerite Blakeney these days marvelled if she was ever unhappy. Lady Ffoulkes, who was her most trusted friend, vowed that she was not. She had moments—days—sometimes weeks of intense anxiety, which amounted to acute agony. Whenever she saw her husband start on one of those expeditions to France wherein every minute, every hour, he risked his life and more in order to snatch yet another threatened victim from the awful clutches of those merciless Terrorists, she endured soul-torture such as few women could have withstood who had not her splendid courage and her boundless faith.

 But against such crushing sorrow she had to set off the happiness of those reunions with the man whom she loved so passionately—happiness which was so great, that it overrode and conquered the very memory of past anxieties. Marguerite Blakeney suffered terribly at times—at others she was overwhelmingly happy—the measure of her life was made up of the bitter dregs of sorrow and the sparkling wine of joy! No! she was not altogether unhappy: and gradually that enthusiasm which irradiated from the whole personality of the valiant Scarlet Pimpernel, which dominated his every action, entered into Marguerite Blakeney's blood too.

His vitality was so compelling, those impulses which carried him headlong into unknown dangers were so generous and were actuated by such pure selflessness, that the noble-hearted woman whose very soul was wrapped up in the idolised husband, allowed herself to ride by his side on the buoyant waves of his enthusiasm and of his desires: she smothered every expression of anxiety, she swallowed her tears, she learned to say the word "Good-bye" and forgot the word "Stay!"
-Lord Tony’s Wife

A woman who could support her man in such a dangerous mission is a woman to be applauded. Her steadfast, unwavering love was his anchor, was what gave him courage to continue, and motivated him in tight spots to keep going and survive to return home to her. Behind every man is a great woman, and Sir Percy Blakeney, the greatest hero in literature (it’s my post, I can say what I want) is no exception. When Marguerite stands the kind of situation that few women could without breaking, who can begrudge her a few tears?

(And side note here…Jane Seymour’s portrayal of Marguerite in TSP1982 was spot-on in her portrayal of the strength of the character. It’s a great place to start if you want to see what Marguerite’s like.  Plus it’s one of the greatest films of all time. The end)
So puleeze, Marguerite-bashers, give the gal a break. Try putting yourself in her place for a while and see what a wimp you’d be. J As for myself, I see Marguerite as an example of a true, supportive, and loving wife, the kind of wife I want to be to a husband someday, if I am lucky enough to get a Sir Percy. Except the unintentional scrapes, of course J. This couple’s love and devotion to each other is the reason they’re my favorite literary couple, and her support of her husband is one (of many) reasons why she is one of my top favorite literary heroines.   


She had not interrupted him while he spoke. At first she just lay in his arms, quiescent and listening, nerving herself by a supreme effort not to utter one sigh of misery or one word of appeal. Then, as her knees shook under her, she sank back into a chair by the hearth and he knelt beside her with his arms clasped tightly round her shoulders, his cheek pressed against hers. He had no need to tell her that duty and friendship called, that the call of honour was once again—as it so often has been in the world—louder than that of love. She understood and she knew, and he, with that supersensitive instinct of his, understood the heroic effort which she made.

"Your love, dear heart," he whispered, "will draw me back safely home as it hath so often done before. You believe that, do you not?"

And she had the supreme courage to murmur: "Yes!"

- Lord Tony’s Wife

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The First Sir Percy

The year is 1624. The setting: Holland.

The town celebrates a double wedding as Mynheer Beresteyn sees both his children married. His daughter Gilda’s new husband, Sir Percy Blakeney- commonly known as Diogenes- is a mysterious man with a murky past. Recently a war hero, he is greatly admired and applauded- until he disappears shortly after his wedding. As he is suspected and then accused of treason, will Gilda remain loyal to her husband, even in his absence?

The second of two novels about an ancestor of Sir Percy (aka The Scarlet Pimpernel), The First Sir Percy is the second book in The Scarlet Pimpernel book series that I’ve read.

I didn’t get “into” this book until after the first chapter; it didn’t immediately grab my attention the way the original book in the series did. Also, because I didn’t know much about the culture/time period, sometimes the names and leaders confused me. However, this became less of a problem the further through the book I got.

Gilda was a lovable character. She was intelligent and loyal, and even when it looked as though all hope was gone, she kept faith in both God and in her husband.

There is a definite similarity between The Scarlet Pimpernel and The First Sir Percy. Baroness Orczy, beside being fond of overly long sentences (heehee), also seems to enjoy giving her heroines extremely dislikable brothers. Except, in this case, Gilda’s brother is about a million times worse than Armand. (yes, really!) He’s not the villain of the story, though. Ooooh, the villain was evil. Which was a good thing, of course!

So…this Sir Percy wasn’t *that* Sir Percy. But they never called him by his actual name, so it never bothered or confused me. Diogenes was outrageous, daring, and a very good actor. And he even proclaimed “odd’s fish!” at one point!!!

Traits that Sir Percy obviously inherited. :)

There wasn’t nearly the inappropriate language that plagued TSP. There were quite a few Dutch words, which, I suppose, could have been swear words or something. But I don’t know Dutch, so I couldn’t tell. And in context I have no idea why they would be inappropriate.

This story was, in part, influenced by the painting “The Laughing Cavalier” by Frans Hals- the artist is even mentioned in the book, and this is what Diogenes is supposed to look like:

So he’s not really what I pictures Diogenes as looking like…let’s blame it on the artist.

The First Sir Percy has all the daring and intrigue that Scarlet Pimpernel fans will love. I can’t lie and say that I love it better than The Scarlet Pimpernel, but it’s definitely worth reading. I got the book on a Saturday morning and read it in one sitting! (Okay, I did break for lunch, but hey, I was hungry!)


Saturday, March 17, 2012

My TSP Movie Trivia Trove...Or I Beg to Put Before You...

...literally the only scraps of interviews concerning The Scarlet Pimpernel (for future reference, we'll call it TSP1982, K? Because I'm lazy like that.) on the internet. And believe me, I've looked. These were posted on Blakeney Manor and on a few costume-drama-review sites. I tried to find the original Anthony Andrews interview these came from, but alas, alas, no where to be found (Ally runs off and sobs). I'm not going to go into my 30th Anniversary DVD rant again.

(I think I'm going to call my role on The Daydream "Official TSP1982 Walking Encyclopedia". My specialty. :-))

So! Without further ado...the interview snippets. And my comments in scarlet. Because it's only appropriate, no?

Blakeney Manor, Sir Percy Blakeney's house in the film, is an actual house called Milton Manor, which is located only a few miles from Abingdon in England. The duel scene at the end of the film was shot on location in Broughton Castle. Other footage came from Blenheim Palace near Oxford.

Making "The Scarlet Pimpernel" was a "real holiday" for Andrews, because the film took a mere six weeks to complete. During the shoot, actor Anthony Andrews sought to develop a close working relationship with the other actors and his director. To Andrews, it was important to "look at the overall production, to understand what everyone is doing." 

(Six weeks!!!! Wowza. I wish there was  mooooooooore on this...Ally, be thankful.) 

Although the filming of the movie went smoothly for the most part, Andrews barely escaped a serious injury when a cart he was driving in a chase sequence overturned. Andrews recalls: "I had been complaining about that antique all day. During the second take of that sequence, I was going full tilt down the road and the wheel came off the cart. In a funny sort of way, I had foreseen that happening because I was worried about it all day. So as the wheel came off, I made my exit by doing a forward roll on the ground, nearly giving the producer a heart attack. The wheel, which was made of steel, and the cart went on both sides of me and crashed into the camera car. Then twelve horses that had followed us, nearly trampled me. It was a mess." 

(I'm intrigued. Which cart scene is he talking about? Because as everyone knows, the one cart chase scene (aka The Epic Rescue) has him crashing the cart...which makes me wonder if that was an accident or intentional or what? Verrrrry interesting. Clip attached for study and observation...please comment and give your opinion!)       

Anthony Andrews and Ian McKellan learned to work well together, especially in their fencing scenes. Although the final edits made the sequences look masterful and smooth, the actual filming was sometimes dangerous. Andrews had done fencing previously, but he was still worried that he might injure McKellen with his sword because of the high speed movements they were required to make: "We had our backs to the wall in the fencing scene because we had little time to film it -- only one afternoon. It really needed a week. It was hair-raising because when you fence at high speed, you have to be well-rehearsed and really understand the moves you are going to make ahead of time. Since we were so unrehearsed, every once in a while we'd forget a move, putting each other's life in danger. You had to remember to duck quickly. Ian McKellen and I developed a rule that if we forgot what we were doing, we would both scream to give the other person a chance to get out of the way."

(Amazing what goes into the scenes. Such an epic scene, ya know? Sigh...Ally, get with it.)

On playing the elusive Sir Percy Blakeney, actor Anthony Andrews remarks: "The Scarlet Pimpernel was such a temptation. I defy any actor not to want to play the Pimpernel if it´s offered to him! [It was] tremendous fun playing someone of dual character with all those disguises."

It was not all fun and play, however. Andrews spent hours walking around his London house, practicing accents and dialects: "The difficulty in playing 'The Pimpernel' is in keeping abreast of the different characters you are playing, not just the disguises. What you have to do is go through the script in tremendous detail, plotting who you are at any given point. It could get very confusing."

(I've always wondered about those different accents...especially the hag! Hahahaha. He sounds so...hehehe. Different.)

Andrews was able to bring a part of his own creativity to the many disguises Sir Percy Blakeney wore. While the disguises were detailed in the actual script, he was able to develop the characters to his liking: "They were basically my own interpretation, especially Sir Percy the fop." Of all the characters, Sarron the Hunchback gave him the most trouble, but in the end, he was brought the disguise to life: "Having gotten the makeup on, I felt there was something missing. I really didn't believe in him. Although the audience knew he was the Pimpernel dressed up in disguise, he had to really be believable to the characters around him. The first way I did it was to stuff handkerchiefs in my mouth. He really worried me until I discovered that the trick was to change the shape of his face. So to change the contours of his jaw, I had plastic gum shields and molds made up. Suddenly, the character began to come alive. It's extraordinary how you could put on makeup and wear costumes and you still may need one small element to bring it all together." 

(Absoutely fascinating. I did get a kick out of the fact that Sir Percy the fop was "his own interpretation"...since it is exactly the book's Percy to a T. Ha. And the whole Sarron the Hunchback neat. I love that character, BTW.)

In a scene of the movie, one of Andrews' disguises involved a plastic gum device [for Sarron the Hunchback], which caused the actor some degree of discomfort: "It was very difficult for me to speak. And that could be a big problem for an actor. But I managed to do this character in bits and pieces. I fell in love with him mostly because he was difficult to achieve and because he was supposed to be terribly sick." 

Andrews admits that he has at least one thing in common with Sir Percy: "I've been accused of hiding behind faces and disguises." 

Ian McKellen originally wanted to play the role of Sir Percy Blakeney. He admits: "When Clive Donner invited me to work with him again I was a little disappointed that it was not to play the eponymous Scarlet Pimpernel, one of the great romantic roles of popular cinema. The foppish aristocrat who rescues victims of the French Revolution is a master of disguise transforming himself, years before Clark Kent or James Bond, into a dashing action hero. Anthony Andrews, fresh from his startling screen debut in 'Brideshead Revisited' was the luckier man, but I was pleased to play his principal opponent in love and war, the steely politician Chauvelin." 
(Um. I can so not see Ian McKellan as Percy. Of course that's probably partially because he was such a perfect Chauvelin...but looks-wise...I mean, the whole physical description of Percy is completely Anthony Andrews. Naw, the casting was definitly better how it was. :-))

Andrews and Seymour gained so much recognition for their roles as Sir Percy Blakeney and Marguerite that they were cast six years later to star opposite each other in "The Woman He Loved," a television miniseries about the relationship between the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson.

(I've only seen a clip from this (The Woman He Loved), and it's a shame that these two films are the only films they were in together. They're my favorite screen couple and I would so watch them do anything together, even now in their sixties! Casting people wherever you are, take note - put them in a romantic role together again. Thank you.)  

So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed this bit as much as I did sharing it. Sigh, sigh, sigh...everyone is always so focused on the other roles that the principle actors have played (Anthony Andrews in particular) that we never hear anything about this role, which in my opinion (and I've seen a lot of Anthony Andrews films) was his best.

So! What do you think?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

And This Is Why We Love Sir Percy

It isn't as if anyone needs to be reminded that we do, in fact, love our swashbuckling hero.  But when I listened to this portion of the book El Dorado this afternoon (and ended the chapter in tears), I was reminded --even if I didn't need to be-- that Sir Percy is amazing.  Unbelievably so.

This is the part that started my waterworks going (emphasis is all mine).  Because it never hurts to be reminded of someone's amazing-ness.

Armand, I know. I knew even before Chauvelin came to me, and stood there hoping to gloat over the soul-agony a man who finds that he has been betrayed by his dearest friend. But that demmed reprobate did not get that satisfaction, for I was prepared. Not only do I know, Armand, but I understand. I, who "do not know what love is," have realized how small a thing is honour, loyalty, or friendship when weighed in the balance of a loved one's need.

To save Jeanne you sold me to Heron and his crowd. We are men, Armand, and the word forgiveness has only been spoken once these past two thousand years, and then it was spoken by Divine lips. But Marguerite loves you, and mayhap soon you will be all that is left her to love on this earth. Because of this she must never know .... As for you, Armand--well, God help you! But meseems that the hell which you are enduring now is ten thousand times worse than mine. I have heard your furtive footsteps in the corridor outside the grated window of this cell, and would not then have exchanged my hell for yours. Therefore, Armand, and because Marguerite loves you, I would wish to turn to you in the hour that I need help. I am in a tight corner, but the hour may come when a comrade's hand might mean life to me. I have thought of you, Armand partly because having taken more than my life, your own belongs to me, and partly because the plan which I have in my mind will carry with it grave risks for the man who stands by me.

I swore once that never would I risk a comrade's life to save mine own; but matters are so different now ... we are both in hell, Armand, and I in striving to get out of mine will be showing you a way out of yours.

Will you retake possession of your lodgings in the Rue de la Croix Blanche? I should always know then where to find you on an emergency. But if at any time you receive another letter from me, be its contents what they may, act in accordance with the letter, and send a copy of it at once to Ffoulkes or to Marguerite. Keep in close touch with them both. Tell her I so far forgave your disobedience (there was nothing more) that I may yet trust my life and mine honour in your hands.

I shall have no means of ascertaining definitely whether you will do all that I ask; but somehow, Armand, I know that you will.

~El Dorado, chapter 34, "The Letter"

Now, if you read through all of that without at least welling up a little, then you are either a) more than human and therefore worthy of awe, or b) completely heartless and therefore worthy of pity.  Or else you just haven't quite grasped just how wonderful the Scarlet Pimpernel is.  In that case, please do go read the book posthaste.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Scarlet Pimpernel Snippets of Trivia #2

Did You Know?

The Scarlet Pimpernel was a play before it was a book--it opened in London on January 5, 1905.  Three years later, Baroness Orczy, the playwright, novelized the story and went on to write seventeen more novels and one short story about the swashbuckling hero.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: Sir Percy Hits Back


Fleurette lives in a village in Dauphine with old Louise and her father, Citizen Armand, whom she calls Bibi.  Life in her sleepy little village goes on as it has gone for all her eighteen years, until revolutionary soldiers come to her friends up at the chateau and she hears a mysterious voice that seems to come from an old, decrepit faggot-carrier.  And when her sweetheart is arrested and taken away Fleurette is caught up in a maze of terror, arrests, and hatred that threatens her very life.

My review:

I loved this book.  Other TSP novels find me sitting on the edge of my chair in suspense; this one had me doing that – and squealing with delight.  Baroness Orczy’s masterful writing style (a genius in her way with words, in my opinion) admirably echoes Fleurette’s sweetness and naïveté. Marguerite fans might be disappointed that she doesn’t make an appearance in this book, but there are plenty of things to make up for that.  Sir Percy and the League are behind it all, guiding everything.  In this book our dear M. Chaubertin (My spellchecker think that word is spelt wrong.  I wonder why.  Oh, beg pardon, I meant Chauvelin.  What!  My spellchecker still doesn’t accept it?  Really, does it have any respect for anything that matters?  (It doesn’t.  I’ve even had to add Blakeney to its dictionary.  Shame on it.))

But, as I was saying, you will be delighted to hear that the clever little villain figures quite heavily and actually begins to get what he deserves in this book. Whether you will want him to be punished when you actually see him begin to get tortured is rather a different matter entirely.  (But you do need to remember is that his first name is not Paul.  Just sayin’.)

What I suppose this review is supposed to tell you is that you must-must-mustly read this book as soon as you can.  I made the mistake of reading this book’s spoiler-filled Wikipedia article before reading – not a very good idea, but it was absolutely delightful all the same.  And as to the ending itself, as our hero would say, “La, man, it’s astonishing.”  But really, what else could you expect from Sir Percy Blakeney and the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel?

Note: Sir Percy Hits Back can be read online at Blakeney Manor, or downloaded as a text document from Gutenberg Australia.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Scarlet Pimpernel Snippets of Trivia #1

Did You Know?

Sir Percy Blakeney's famous catchphrase "Sink me!", though spoken eleven times in the 1982 film version, does not appear in Baroness Orczy's original novel The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Quote of the Week #3

Marguerite Blakeney: Can't you rise above trivialities for once?
Sir Percy Blakeney: Can't rise above anything more than three syllables, my dear - never could.
-The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)