So I have to write a review of this movie? Charmed, delighted, enchanted.....
How do I tell you what I really thought of this film? How do I explain that if I didn't know anything else about TSP this would probably have been one of my absolute, absolute favorite movies? How do I say that while Jane Seymour was perfect as Marguerite Merle Oberon still brought something else to the role? And how can I talk about Leslie Howard as Sir Percy without exploding?
Well, since in a movie review you sort of have to talk about the lead, I'll try. But I don't guarantee that I won't explode.
Note to Leslie Howard fans: You are not obligated to read this part. These are only my opinions and my opinions have been known to be wrong before. Not that they are now, but for the sake of agreement......
Leslie Howard would make an acceptable Sir Percy Blakeney to people who haven't watched Anthony Andrews amazing performance or read many of the books. As I have, he just doesn't cut it. Leslie Howard is NOT Percy. End of story.
Leslie Howard is quite tall, which is excellent for the role, and rather good-looking, but not as much as he could be. I'll try to blame it on the black and white movie. They may be nice, but they don't make people any more good-looking. He also says 'sink me' which makes me wonder if the makers of this movie were the first ones to think of that. Something to thank them for, I guess. But I won't thank them for calling him Percival.
Sir Percival is a random weird knight, Sir Percy is, well, Sir Percy. Understood?
One thing that wasn't as good as it could be was his inane remarks. Occaisionally he came up with a witty comment, but most of the time he was the foppish fool, instead of the foolish fop. And yes, there is a difference.
Oh wait, I said that when I meant it, but now I think his inane remarks were very good indeed. So see, my opinions can change.
But when his mask is off Leslie Howard's performance is quite emotional, which didn't strike me as quite right. I suppose Sir Percy sometimes shows a little of what he feels to someone like Sir Andrew, but I don't think he'd be parading his feelings to the rest of the League and certainly not to Chauvelin. If he has an extreme in his self-control it's too much, not too little, peoples. And I'd expect him to show a little bit more feeling to Marguerite - y'know when they're reunited and all that? But he doesn't. At least, not as much as I could like. And I would like a LOT, so maybe the problem is me, not him.
And besides SPOILER ALERT after Marguerite has betrayed him he stands over her and pulls everything out of her bit by bit. No 'why couldn't she trust me?' but instead "What happened? What did you do? Who did you betray?" Ugh. END OF SPOILER
But, now that I've vented my feelings and not quite exploded I'll say that Leslie Howard's performance was quite enjoyable to watch. If you can stop making comparisons (I can't; comparisions are my one weakness!) and especially if you haven't watched the TSP with a certain somebody else you should find it actually delightful. And I mean REALLY delightful. Some of the scenes are done just to a T.
After I heard that Baroness Orczy disapproved of Merle Oberon's casting, I didn't expect much, but I was pleasantly surprised. While Jane Seymour is 'my' Marguerite, Merle Oberon shows her from a slightly different angle. Her Marguerite is vivacious, delicate, actressy, and even a little bit childish. Too childish, in my opinion. After she says the only heroic thing she probably says in her life she faints, leaving Percy holding this silly, desperate woman. (Disclaimer (said quickly, before Alexandra comes after me): that is not my opinion of Marguerite in general, or Marguerite in this movie, just how she comes across in that particular scene.)
But I had no problem accepting her as Marguerite. She is absolutely gorgeous and (bonus points!) has a beautifully, curled updo while not making it look like an afro. A few of the scenes are done almost better than Jane Seymour's, while the scenes not done as well as they could be are the ones with Leslie Howard in them. I protest, that fellow's a public nuisance.
*catches herself quoting that fellow.*
Well, it is quotable.
What do I have to say about this Chauvelin? Well, he's ugly. Did I hate him? Did he vex me? Well, of course. He's Chauvelin, so he's vexing and I hate him. That's all. He was adequate for the part, although perhaps a little too... um, physically repulsive. But they kept the abbe scene! Yippee! (unfortunately they didn't keep the "nasty, awkward thing, soup . . . er . . . a friend of mine died once . . . er . . . choked . . . just like you . . . with a spoonful of soup." But then, you can't have everything.)
The storyline was interesting. It followed the first book rather closely, although for unexplainable reasons there were occaisonal sidetracks. Granted, the sidetracks were very good ideas and many of them were reused in the 1982 version. I almost get the impression that that one is saying to this one, "Sink me, it's good. Quite good, indeed. But the deplorable casting of that character! And the sad state of those quotes! No, no, no. But with a tweak here, and a twist there.....
|You have the cleverest heads in the world. The trouble is, you all seem to go to pieces round the neck.|
It had a soundtrack, too. I didn't know before that movies made in the 1930s had any kind of music at all in them, but I was pleasantly surprised. The scenery was tolerable, but, being a black and white movie, it was not as see-able as it could have been.
|That hair, m'dears...|
If you are a fan of That Other One with That Other Guy I wouldn't recommend using this film to introduce anybody to TSP. (I did, bad idea.) Because it's delightful, but not quite what the books and the other ones are. And if you are an excessive fan of That Other Guy I would recommend self control and a good notebook to rant about Leslie Howard during watching so as to not annoy the people who are watching it with you. (I did that. You can see my notebook. It tells rather an interesting tale.)
But all in all, I loved The Scarlet Pimpernel 1934. Loved, loved, loved. Taking into account everything that I said I didn't like, it was still a splendid bit of adventure and romance with beautiful, ridiculous, glorious humor. Which, being TSP, it kind of couldn't help. :)