I hate, Hate, HATE, the 1934 film version of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL starring Leslie Howard. It is very stagey and profoundly boring. My sister, for some unfathomable reason, loves it, which is the only reason I ever agreed to watch the wretched thing.She also loves the 1905 novel by Baroness Orczy, so much so that her paperback copy had been read over and over to the point of disintegration. In 2011, I stumbled upon a majestic hardcover edition in the discount section of Half Price Books in Omaha, NE. Being a fantastically thoughtful brother, I purchased it to replace her well-read paperback.
After finishing the exciting novel, I figured I really should watch the film again. I did, and found it even more heinously boring. It was a literary crime to turn such a thrilling novel into the equivalent of a cinematic sleeping pill. Though by comparing and contrasting the novel and film, I was able to pinpoint an overall problem. The film, much like most versions of Dracula, failed to utilize the title character as a peripheral figure. In the novel, the story is predominately seen through the eyes of Percy Blakeney's wife, who is ignorant of her husband's secret life as the Scarlet Pimpernel. The film, on the other hand, is all about Percy, and thus played by Leslie Howard, sucks all the mesmerizing intrigue from the plot.
Now it is 2014 and, thanks to my sister, I've seen various versions of The Scarlet Pimpernel, none of which have lived up to the novel, but have generally been better than the 1934 version! I've also been able to read e-books for the first time, which lead me to look for Baroness Orczy's other Pimpernel books. I actually thought of searching before my sister suggested it, because, as previously stated, I am fantastically thoughtful. So it came to pass that my sister and I read THE LAUGHING CAVALIER from 1913, which is a prequel detailing "the story of the ancestor of the Scarlet Pimpernel.”The Laughing Cavalier is a surprising entertaining book, full of everything I enjoyed about The Scarlet Pimpernel. Here is the brief review I wrote for it on iTunes...."An entertaining prequel to The Scarlet Pimpernel with equal amounts adventure, romance and intrigue! Not to be missed!”
If there is a lesson to be found in these laughing scarlet ramblings, it must be to never say never. I truly assumed I would hate the novel of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and even figured The Laughing Cavalier would be a lackluster prequel, but I was proven so very wrong.
“Dreams and memories are stronger than reality” - from The Laughing Cavalier by Baroness Orczy
Be Well, Readers, & Freak Out,JLH