We Leaguettes decided to dig back in the recesses of our pre-TSP memory to recall exactly when we first met our elusive hero, whether it was the book or one of the film versions. Stay tuned in the next few weeks to read the stories...and leave a comment and share your own!
I'll go first. :)
Trying to remember back to a time when I didn’t know Sir Percy is practically impossible. He’s been such a huge part of my life for so many years it’s just ridiculous to imagine there was a time when I didn’t know he existed. But apparently it is so, and so for this series I had to dig far back to those sad days pre-Percy and remember exactly how I first became acquainted with my favorite Englishman.
I was just on the brink of seventeen, just foraying into the world of romantic films beyond the normal Austen fare and on the quest to find the Most Awesome Hero, which so far had eluded my attention – Mr. Knightley was the only gent who came close…but he couldn’t quite cut it, and I was beginning to despair that there was such a hero that would fit my bill. We had also just gotten one of those Blockbuster subscription things like Netflix and we were discovering all these films Mom and Dad had seen years ago. Two of the films were destined to become my two favorites – Somewhere in Time and of course The Scarlet Pimpernel. Mom had loved Jane Seymour for years and wanted me to see this film she had been in that she had seen years ago at a friend’s house. And so when The Scarlet Pimpernel came in I really wasn’t sure what to expect.
My mom had told me beforehand that I “would really like it”, and since the last few films I had seen and loved recently had been my favorite kinds – the romantic tragedies that so few people like – I prepared myself for the fact that someone in the story was going to die. That was ok. I loved those kinds of stories.
The film opened, and I was rather iffy about the scruffy old man that Mom said was the main character. Seriously? Then Sir Percy pulled off his fake nose…and I knew I would like this character. Too bad he was going to die.
I met Marguerite, and despite Jane’s crazy afro, I thought she was one of the most gorgeous women I’d ever seen…and when she met Percy, I knew I would absolutely love this couple. It was going to be sad when he died.
Unlike a lot of people who read/saw TSP the first time, the fop side of Percy didn’t annoy me…maybe because unlike the book, you know that Percy’s putting on an act right away because you know the Pimpernel’s identity from the beginning. As the film progressed, I just fell in love with the character more and more…and grew more and more apprehensive about how I knew it would end.
Now as anyone who knows me well (or has had the misfortune to watch something I’ve never seen with me) knows, I’m very vocal while watching films (you should have seen me watching The Avengers for the first time a few weeks ago). And this was no exception. Once the action really got going, I was yelling, bouncing, cheering, and whatever other crazy reaction the scene called for. My pulse was rushing, my head was reeling, my face was flushing…but it wasn’t loathing I was feeling. Sorry. Anyway. By the time The Epic Rescue scene happened, I was completely and totally head-over-heels for Percy, and I remember thinking, “Well…maybe he won’t die. Hehe. Maybe not. Surely not! Puleeeze not!”
And then he was Betrayed by the Infamous Flea-Riddled-No-Good-Very-Bad-Worthless Armand and I hated Armand forever more and wept because I knew now He Was Going to Die. And Marguerite came and they had the Ultimate Gorgeous Romantic Reunion scene with that oh-so-perfect-kiss and my heart was breaking because sob-sniffle-sob…he was really gonna die now. All their plans were in vain, he was gonna die and I was gonna die, too.
So when Chauvelin ordered him executed, I was heartbroken beyond belief but really not surprised. I was holding my breath with everyone else, kind of hoping against hope that he’d find a way out, and I screamed right along with Marguerite when they fired. I also threw pillows at Chauvelin and began fantasizing horrible deaths for the guy, which didn’t help the story but made me feel better.
And then, as everyone who’s seen it knows, there was The Twist that I will admit, I totally did not see coming! And I began screaming with joy and running around hugging everyone and doing the happy dance for five minutes while they had to pause the movie to wait for me to calm down. He Was Actually Alive!
I have to say though, I couldn’t quite relax yet. I didn’t enjoy the duel very much the first time, just because I was sure in my pessimistic brain that after all this, the sadistic director would have him stabbed at the last minute and die and I would hate this movie forevermore.
But as we all know, he didn’t. And when they shared the kiss on the Day Dream and the credits rolled, I knew two things – The Scarlet Pimpernel was my second favorite film EVER. And two, I was hopelessly, devotedly, unashamedly, passionately in love with Sir Percy Blakeney. And Anthony Andrews was pretty much the coolest guy evah, evah. Oh, wait, that’s three things. Oh, well.
I was obsessed with the movie. Showed it to all my friends and family, lived, breathed, ate, and slept The Scarlet Pimpernel. Watched it an enormous amount of times. Memorized it. The whole works.
And avidly avoided the book.
See, I have this thing. If I absolutely adore the film and see it before I read the book, I tend to like the movie more. When I do read the book, a lot of times it spoils the movie for me after I see all the glaring changes from the film that books usually have. And I did not want to read this.
So just about a year passes, and we move to Mexico. The first week we were there, all of the kids were staying at a missionary friend’s house while our parents moved our stuff in. We were kind of housesitting since they were out of town, and so we spent the days inside watching their movies and trying to keep occupied. You can only watch Veggie Tales so often before going crazy, and our friend had a huge bookshelf full of books that I began picking through.
And one of the books was The Scarlet Pimpernel.
I fought it. I didn’t want to spoil it. But I was bored. And the temptation was just too great. Soooo I read it.
And of course, I loved it. No, it didn’t have the Epic Twist Ending (do any of the books? I’m rather surprised Baroness O didn’t think up that kind of an ending…it has her written all over it, which I have to say is a major accomplishment for the screenwriters), but it was awesome, and best of all, I could totally see and hear the characters I knew and loved on the pages of the book. My admiration for Anthony Andrews grew by leaps and bounds as I realized just how perfectly he had nailed the character, and despite Jane’s hair not fitting description, I could absolutely see her in the role. And then I discovered…there were sequels! Tons of sequels! It was like a dream come true – ever loved a movie so much you wished they had just continued the story? Being able to picture them and imagine them in the roles made it exactly that kind of experience for me. I got The Elusive Pimpernel and El Dorado for Christmas that year, and of course completely fell in love with the latter – to this day it remains my favorite TSP book – and slowly over the next few years I discovered (and continue to discover) more.
That was a really fun trip down memory lane for me. J Percy has as you know become The Most Amazing Hero on my list, and for better or for worse it’s shaped my idea of the kind of man I hope for someday. You never know! Everything comes in our lives for a reason – even the most strange and “insignificant” things. J Regardless, through a random movie search six years ago I found one of my favorite films ever, and that, my dears, is the story of how it happened.
So! What was your experience with TSP? Did the book or film come first? Stay tuned for the rest of the Leaguettes' stories! J