Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Scarlet Pimpernel

From a pair of Marxist crime writers to an author who had a nobler lineage and more names than both of them put together: Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála "Emmuska" Orczy de Orczi, known, to the relief of printers and book-cover designers everywhere, as Baroness Orczy and to readers as the author of The Old Man in the Corner (1909) and The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905).

The opening chapter of the latter, combined with the circumstances of Baroness Orczy's life, roused my interest. Here's a bit of the book:

"During the greater part of the day the guillotine had been kept busy at its ghastly work: all that France had boasted of in the past centuries, of ancient names, and blue blood, had paid toll to her desire for liberty and for fraternity."

Here's a bit from the life:

"Her parents left Hungary in 1868, fearful of the threat of a peasant revolution."

(I figured out the Scarlet Pimpernel's identity before Marguerite St. Just did even though she is supposed, in the novel, to be the most brilliant woman in all Europe.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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106 Comments:

Blogger Becky (Page Turners) said...

I saw a mini series of the scarlet pimpernel as a teenager but have never thought to read the book! I will definitely be on the look out for it now on my book buying expeditions

January 30, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Read it. Didnt buy it. Might be another rare case of the better movie version. I mean the one directed by Alexander Korda who off course was born just a hop skip and jump from the good baroness.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Read it for the first time a couple of years ago. Was familiar, of course, with the movie versions. My favorite: the one with Leslie Howard (the Korda version, I think.). Though Anthony Andrews was wonderful in his.

Loved the book.

January 30, 2011  
Anonymous James R. Benn said...

Leslie Howard was the perfect Sir Percy, in my opinion.
While it's not a mystery, I am thoroughly enjoying "Parrot and Olivier in America", which is set during the same period and features a young French nobleman sent to America for his own safety.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Becky, I didn't know there had been a movie version of it. I did know there had been a movie version or two. The story has apparently been enduringly popular.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian: And the daughter of the Pen & Pencil Club's bartender/manager lives in Hungary, which only proves that we live in a fascinatingly small world.

I wonder if Baroness Orczy is a temperamental relative of all the German Hollywood exiles.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, it appears that the Korda version should be the first stop in any cinematic exploration of Pimpernalia.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Jim: The reference to "Parrot and Olivier in America" reminds me that the Wikipedia article on "The Scarlet Pimpernel" includes what it calls "Real-life tie-ins.". Among these is Raoul Wallenberg.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Then of course, there's the terrific Leslie Howard financed film, PIMPERNEL SMITH (an update of the story) which I am going to talk about on my blog one of these days. Fabulous. If you haven't seen it - DO! Frances L. Sullivan as an evil Nazi, alone, is worth the price of admission.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Wow, The Scarlet Pimpernel captured lots of imaginations, didn't it?

OK, the Korda movie shoots to the top of my rental list.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Mack said...

And we shouldn't forget Daffy Duck as the Scarlet Pumpernickel.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Never!

January 30, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

The British show BLACK ADDER also did a spoof.
I can't remember much abou that novel. Also don't remember TALE OF TWO CITIES.
Fiction always falls way short of that particular horror.

January 30, 2011  
Anonymous James R. Benn said...

Peter - One of those real-life Pimpernels is Father Hugh O'Flaherty, a priest at the Vatican who saved many Jews, POWs and political prisoners. Good film with Gergory Peck as O'Flagerty, who is also emerging as a character in the 2012 Billy Boyle release, tentative title "Death's Door".
Jim

January 30, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Yvette

And of course in another of life's terrible ironies/deliberate schemes Howard was - probably - killed by the Nazis.

Its interesting how much tragedy seemed to follow those involved with Gone With The Wind - murder, insanity, decapitation, plane crashes, strangulation by scarf...

January 30, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Definitely watch the Korda version before all others. The supporting cast is fantastic including Basil Rathbone in his best performance if you ask me.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fiction always falls way short of that particular horror.

I.J.: I should know the answer, but I wonder when the French Revolution and the terror first started to figture in popular literature and drama -- and when lighter, escapist treatments such as that in The Scarlet Pimpernel came to the fore.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Jim: Thanks for the heads up. I can't helping thinking of the title as Billy Boyle: At Death's Door, which sounds nicely like an adventure serial.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I knew nothing of the sad ends of the G.W.T.W. cast. Death by fashion accessory is a terrible thing.

Who met which sad fate?

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I think I've seen Rathbone only in one of the Sherlock Holmes movies, and his performance did not knock me out. He was no Robert Downey Jr.

January 30, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Peter, excuse me, I'm running out the door and I see your comment on my man, Basil Rathbone and I had to put on the brakes! Are you kidding me? Robert Downey Jr. couldn't shine Basil's boots!! Basil was fabulous is everything he did. He was the ultimate Holmes (next to Jeremy Brett who, admittedly played Holmes more 'realistically'). Basil Rathbone was fine and often brilliant in all his work. That piece of Downey crap last year that wished to pass itself off as a Holmes pastiche was unwatchable. I stopped after fifteen minutes and repacked that puppy in a blur of motion. I would have stomped on it but Netflix frowns on that.
...Wait, wait I'm beginning to froth at the mouth. I'd better stop now while I'm still somewhat coherent! HA!!!

And on another note: Take a deep breath Yvette...!

Adrian, I didn't know about the GWTW curse. I only know the REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE curse. (I almost wrote Rebel Without a Curse.)

Yes, I loved Leslie Howard. He was an honorable man and a great actor. Did the Nazi's get him? I just know his plane was shot down.
(So technically, I suppose they did.)Maybe he was in the OSS?

See, I can be calm and rational when I put my mind to it. :)

January 31, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Glenna hasn't linked to her own past and recent adventures with the book and movie, but I will.

January 31, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Peter, I thought that Dickens was the first to base a work of fiction on these events (1859), but it seems that Alexandre Dumas wrote LE CHEVALIER DE MAISON-ROUGE in 1845.
In 1874 Victor Hugo also picked up the subject in NINETY-THREE.

In any case, clearly one needs some distance, I think.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, if you muster that kind of passion when you're running out the door, I shudder to think what you'd come up with well-rested and at your leisure. I shall consider giving Sir Basil another try. (In fact, he was fine in the Holmes movie that I saw. My complaint was that the movie seemed stagey and confined. And the Downey remark was a bit of mischief on my part. I never dreamed it would induce apoplexy.)

January 31, 2011  
Anonymous James R. Benn said...

Strangulation by scarf? Did that happen to someone other than Isadora Duncan?

Peter: Interesting tidbit about "At Death's Door". There really is a Door of Death. It is the first of five doors leading into St. Peter's at the Vatican. It has always been used only for funerals; hence the name.
So guess where the body of a murdered American priest is found?

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, thanks for the link. I've posted on her discussion a couple of times. I happened just to have started reading the book when I saw her post, and I wondered if The Scarlet Pimpernel was working its way into a small corner of the zeitgeist.

January 31, 2011  
Anonymous James R. Benn said...

Yvette: Not to stir things up, but I think the Downey movie was fine, except for the fact that they used the names Holmes and Watson. It was an OK Victorian action flick, which had little to do with Holmes as we know him.
There is SH II coming out - with Stephen Fry as Mycroft, which ought to be fun at least.

I think Rathbone would have been the Holmes for all time if his material had been up to the task. The b-movie scripts worked against him.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I also wonder how readily fiction responded to popular events in the eighteenth century -- and to what extent popular fiction even existed in France at that time. We can all name English popular authors of that century, but did they have French counterparts? Especially as the subject is revolution, perhaps pre-Revolution France never got to build up a middle-class reading public.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Jim, I wonder if that tradition is related to the old Roman one of a gate that was opened (or as it closed?) in wartime.

In any case, it must be an irresistible motif for a crime writer.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Jim, I thought the plot of the Downey movie was silly, but I enjoyed Holmes' dissipation and the friction between him and Watson. One man's desecration is another's interesting innovation, I suppose. I also enjoyed the movie's undertones of an Irish presence in London, not least the soundtrack's inclusion of Luke Kelly and the Dubliners singing "Rocky Road to Dublin."

In re b-movie scripts, mayne I'll rent one of the movies and concentrate on Rathbone's performance.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Ok:

Leslie Howard shot done by the Nazis (possibly a deliberate act by the Abwehr)

Vivian Leigh went insane

Carole Lombard (Clark Gable's wife) decapitated in a plane crash. (Gable never gets over this and dies at 59 of heart attack.)

Margaret Mitchell struck and killed by a car in 1949. (Yeah I mixed her up with Isadora Duncan with the whole scarf thing, but still a tragic accident)

Selznick dead of a heart attack, and his only daughter commits suicide.

Olivia de Havilland however is STILL going strong. My mate Dan Stone interviewed her last year for the NEH archives and said that she was in great form.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian: I knew three of the first four. I did not know that Carole Lombard had lost her head. And was she in Gone With the Wind?

Yeah, I've heard good things about Olivia de Havilland and how well she has held up.

January 31, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Re 18th c. popular fiction and historical events: I give you Daniel Defoe, THE JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR and MOLL FLANDERS.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson. But that was my point: all were Engish, so I found myself wondering whether a lack of a middle class had inhibited contemproary development of similar popular writing in France.

January 31, 2011  
Anonymous James R. Benn said...

Regarding Margaret Mitchell; on a trip to Atlanta once I stood at the exact spot where she crossed the street and was hit (while remaining on the sidewalk. She was jaywalking.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

James

How did you know? Do they have a blue plaque there or something?

I was ticketed for jaywalking once in New York. This was in 1992 when there were about 2500 murders in the city that year. I had a few things to say...But maybe this was the start of the famous zero tolerance policy.

Peter

Lombard was not in the picture but frequently on set visiting her husband Gable.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Jim, I've never stood where a literary celebrity jaywalked, but I did stand outside the apartment where Dashiell Hammett wrote The Maltest Falcon, Red Harvest and The Dain Curse.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I guessed either that or that she might have had an unbilled role.

I am mildly embarrassed to admit that I have never seen the movie.

Jaywalking and murder go hand in hand.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One of these days -- and the day will come -- I will type The Maltese Falcon without inadvertently typing Maltest first.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Peter, in case you were wondering where to see Basil in anything other than Holmes:
He plays the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn. Basil is a hoot in this and near the end you get to see his absolute mastery of the sword in a duel with Flynn which is famous. Basil was actually a much better swordsman than Flynn and had to play that down so he would lose the duel, of course.

He also plays a creepy Nazi villain in ABOVE SUSPICION, a terrific spy flick with Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray.

He also plays a French buccaneer with a hammy accent (but I loved it) in Captain Blood, again with Errol Flynn. (A terrific movie, by the way. I have the book by Rafael Sabatini here and mean to read it when I have a moment.)

Just a sampling of Basil, Peter, for your edification. :)

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

James, you may be right about the Downey movie, I suppose. If only they HADN'T called it a Holmes film, I might not have felt the urge to stomp.

Yes, you're right about the B-movie scripts working against Basil. But still he make Holmes larger than life, he added to the myth, I think. And I am also a big fan of Nigel Bruce, though his doddering Watson was so unlike Doyle's creation. Note: Most of the scripts, if you paid attention, made little sense and some were downright indecipherable.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, I've been edified. Thanks.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Yvette, Peter,


The REALLY bad ones of that series were the ones when Holmes is somehow transported across time and space into the fight against the Nazis.

A few years ago I found a cache of radio shows that Bruce and Rathbone made reprising their Watson and Holmes roles. They were really pretty good and included all the period advertisements for products that have long since vanished into the mists of time.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian: Let's get Holmes and Watson fighting the big bankers in Washington and Dublin. Are those radio shows available online?

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Adrian: You mean SHERLOCK HOLMES GOES TO WASHINGTON and SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR. I didn't mind those that much, at least the stories were, more or less, coherent.

Some of the earlier films - there was one with Ida Lupino playing British (well, actually she was supposed to have been born in South America ?!), that made no sense whatsoever, especially near the end. I've always felt that there must have been some missing scenes. But, perversely, Basil was quite good in this.

The Basil version of HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES wasn't as good as it should have been. (Not that the Jeremy Brett version was any better.)

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, I now to begin my Rathbone viewing with "The Adventures of Robin Hood." But what's the best SHerlock Holmes movie?

By the way, a friend in England took me through the moors of Devon and a your of the Hound of the Baskervilles country. We even had some mist, though it lifted in time for a sunny lunch.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

James, you may be right about the Downey movie, I suppose. If only they HADN'T called it a Holmes film, I might not have felt the urge to stomp.

Yvette, this part of the discussion is fraught with interest. I'm sure I'd be just as upset with such radical alterations to some of my favorite books. But because I'm only a casual Holmes readers and viewer, some of the changes did not bother me.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I did stand on the spot in Sarajevo where Princip stood when he shot the Archduke Ferdnand. I know there was a plaque, but I doubt it was in English. Our friend and guide must have translated it for us. Having read Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon not too long before, I found it a bit chilling.

I know--off topic.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Nothing is too off to be on-topic here. I have visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. I recall no plaques there.

January 31, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"...how readily fiction responded to popular events in the eighteenth century -- and to what extent popular fiction even existed in France at that time."

Well, maybe it's because I was a French major as an undergraduate but 3 that spring to mind, and that I think many readers may be familiar with, are Antoine François Prévost's (the Abbé Prévost) Manon Lescaut first published in 1731, Voltaire's Candide (1759), Choderlos de LaClos's Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782). All pretty scandalous in their day for cultural and political reasons.

January 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ah, I'd always thought of the early Voltaire as a playwright and a historian, and I'd have been umable to tell you when Les Liaisons dangereuses appeared. I know that Voltaire moved in high social circles early in his life. So I maintain my curiosity about how widely read popular literature was in England and France in the eighteenth century.

Merci bien, citoyenne!

January 31, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Depends where you go in the Church of the Nativity. There is a silver plaque on the floor where a piece of bare rock is supposed to be the place where the holy family sheltered in a cave. The Church of the Nativity however is a big confusing mess of a place so I can understand how you missed it. (Not as big a mess as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre it must be said but few spiritual places in the world are that crazy).


And as for the Sherlock Holmes radio series? Yes I think I downloaded them online somewhere.

February 01, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

The American cultural historian and librarian Robert Darnton has written extensively on, among other topics, readership in 18th c. France. The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (don't be put off by the lurid title). I found his info on reading in the lively, multipurpose cafés and coffeehouses of the time (pick up a prostitute along with the latest broadsheet) very interesting.

His assertion, based on the few available primary sources, that reading probably was not limited to the upper classes and aristocracy has opened up new paths of cultural history study. I think the history of reading is fascinating.

Generally speaking, the political climate of 18th c. England was of course more conducive to a more readily available supply of novels than that under France's Ancien Régime.

Oh, and Leslie Howard aside... I'd like to put in a plug for Richard E. Grant's interpretation of the Pimpernel in the BBC's 1999-2000 mini-series. We've never taped over our videos of them (a sign that they are worth watching now and again). Ronan Vibert is a dandy Robespierre. And dour Martin Shaw (Inspector Adam Dalgliesh) as Chauvelin is a fine villain-you-love-to-hate. What I particularly liked about the series was its often quite faithful adherence to period speech (within reason for a 20th c. audience), Revolutionary morals and arbitrary violence, and ambient elements like period music and dress. I remember one scene with a fantastic recreation of a Parisian cafe complete with automatons--a big fad of the day.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Elizabeth, I only saw one of the Richard E. Grant episodes, and I loved it. He has always been someone to watch, though. A clever one. Have you seen the movie he made based on his childhood in Swaziland, Wah-wah? It was very good, I thought. And the little filler clips we were treated to on PBS called Posh Nosh were fantastic.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Seana

And a great writer too. His autobiography is a hoot, esp the chapter on the making of Hudson Hawk.

And I love his drunken Withnail Hamlet.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Why, oh why have I never watched Withnail and I? Soon to be corrected, for sure. That and the missing Pimpernel episodes are bumping up my Netflix list.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, thanks for having the good grace not to mention my reference to 1759 as "early" Voltaire. I realized about ten minutes after I put up the comment that that was in fact late in his life. Hmm, so was a prostitute the French equivalent of a trade paperback?

Thanks for the Ronert Darnton recommendation. I've observed that Voltaire and Montesquieu (the Persian Letters, at least) are relatively easy to read for even someone with my not-quite fluent grasp of French. I concluded from this that they were writing for a public audience and thus strove for clarity of style. But they were publicists and polemicists. I had never wondered until now whether the same desire to reach a public expressed itself in French fiction of the time.

Chauvelin: bad guy. I'd like to see a good portrayal of him.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, yeah, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the post-war Berlin of holy sites, I guess. My favorite holy place in the Holy Land? The Cave of the Patriarchs ( or מערת המכפלה in the original), still relatively accessible, simple and picturesque when I was there.

I'll try to remember to look for the Holmes radio series. They might make good listening during down time or page-proofing time at work.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, anything called Posh Nosh bears investigation. I also never saw Withnail and I, though I remember the good reviews it got on its initial release. And thanks to you and Adrian for the heads-up on Richard E. Grant. Soon I'll be discoursing wittily on my favorite Pimpernels.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, that's a fine soliloquy, but give the non-human actors credit for their subdued but able supporting roles.

February 01, 2011  
Anonymous James R. Benn said...

Adrian - you asked how I knew the spot where Margaret Mitchell was killed; I had just come from a display about her at the Atlanta Public Library, which is just around the corner. I don't recall exactly how I knew, but I'd guess there was a map or some reference there.

Jim

February 01, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

What a fine conversation this is. I knew someone would pick up on the French writers of the 18th c.

As for my Defoe and your Fielding and Richardson, I only picked Defoe because he was a journalist and wrote about actual events (slightly fictionalized).

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., this little salon session has me wanting to read the Robert Darnton book cited above. I wonder if anyone has written a comparable bok on English reading habits.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

James

If it had been London they would no doubt have had a blue plaque on the wall, a habit I wish would cross the Atlantic.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, Philadelphia is dotted with black-and-yellow historical plaques, though I know of none commemorating such a memorable achievement as does this plaque in Belfast.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Peter, back to your earlier question: if you really want to know the best Holmes film with Basil Rathbone, see: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (This is the one with the script that made no sense in the end, but Hasil was wonderful in it.)
The Scarlet Claw is another and The Woman in Green another. Those are not necessarily my favorites, but showed Basil to good advantage, I think.

None of the B-movie scripts were really much good. It's amazing to me that Basil was able to make as much of these movies as he did.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Yvette. Some day at the movie-rental shop, maybe when I'm looking for a third to complete the three-for-the-price-of-two special, I may do some Holmes shopping.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

You may mock but a few months ago I was in Japan trying to explain to uncomprehending pharmacists that I had heartburn. Heartburn was not only an unknown word but because of their healthy diet a largely unknown phenomenon. Several hours of agony followed before I finally found a druggist who gave me milk of magnesia. Not the ideal product for my condition but it worked a treat.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

How did you manage to get heartburn in a country that doesn't have it?

February 01, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Just my native brilliance I guess. Either that or the "Pineapple Burger", chili fries and several bottles of Firerock Pale Ale that I had at a Hawaiian Themed Restaurant.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Chili fries. Say no more.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, you mock, but future generations of Japanese will shiver at the mention of the gaijin bastard who brought heartburn to their country.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Gee, pineapple, beef, chili and beer never bothered me, though I still don't know what was in that hot dog I ate at Narita Airport in 1990.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I'm not mocking. I had a burrito yesterday that could have used a milk of magnesia chaser.

February 01, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Seana, No I haven't seen "Wah-Wah" but I've now read more praise of it. I did read his novel By Design, subtitled "a Hollywood novel" because it's always fun to read an outsider's view of life and work in Tinseltown.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, you'd have raised a glass of the stuff to Sir James!

February 01, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Elizabeth, sounds like I have as much Richard E. Grant reading to do as watching.

Peter, I hope to remember Sir James in the future.

Well, I hope not to remember him, but this is a burrito sort of town.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Does that mean that the locals think Milk of Magnesia is for effete Easterners?

February 01, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

No, I just meant I hope not to need to resort to it.

The thing we Californians think is for effete Easterners is snow.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Stop bragging. We're about to get hit with another blizzard of weather stories in the newspapers.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I know--that's why I mentioned it. Don't worry, we get earthquakes that even the whole thing out. I was going to say, level the playing field, but its too close to home.

Good luck to everyone reading west of, say, the Sierra Nevadas. Hope you've got your canned goods and your candles.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Canned goods? We may have to start eyeing one another with wild suspicious eyes, and drawing straws.

Yes, if you ever grow weary of being needled about your lack of weather, just say, "earthquake," and I'll shut up.

February 01, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Well, it only comes up every once in awhile, but I do know whereof I speak.

February 01, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

We might have a little wind in the Los Angeles area tonight. Since it is not a Santa Ana-type wind does that count as winter?

I see that "freezing rain" is forecast for many parts of the East. What the heck is this stuff?! When does "rain" become "snow"? It's all too much for me. As are these relentlessly balmy days of late.

February 02, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

By sheer coincidence, I happened upon Richard E. Grant reading this selection from Far From the Madding Crowd just now.

February 02, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, that a beautiful little bit of contemplation. I shall make no earthquake jokes!

February 02, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I see that "freezing rain" is forecast for many parts of the East. What the heck is this stuff?!

It's cold rain that coats sidewalk with a glaze that's delicate, translucent and deadly. I walked nine blocks of careful steps throught the stuff, from my local bar to the CVS and back on an expedition to buy ice-crystals. This should reduce the chance that I will be awakened by agonized screams of pedestrian collapsed in heaps outside my door inthe morning.

It's all too much for me. As are these relentlessly balmy days of late.

Oh, I bet you're positively languid with the sub-tropical ennui of it all. Read this, will you?

February 02, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the fates are telling me to make this Richard E. Grant a part of my life.

February 02, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

"The Scarlet Pimpernel" doesn't do it for me, however, Basil Rathbone--how we're talking. Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes is a foundation of my mystery movie viewing.

Agree with Yvette on Basil Rathbone. By the way, Yvette knows more about vintage movies than anyone, so her wisdom on these matters counts heavily.

Her website has a plethora of information on vintage/classic movies, including some which are totally new to me.

This discussion will motivate me to see the Rathbone/Holmes movies of yore--those I've seen or not seen.

February 02, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I'll leave a comment on Yvette's site now -- in the unlikely event that my computer lets me do so. Service has been worse than awful tonight.

February 02, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Watch Withnail and I. I think you may like it.

February 02, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I can't remember why didn't see it in a theater. I had heard good things about it, and that was when I saw a lot more movies than I do now. When was it released? Very early '80s?

February 02, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Yeah, but it still holds up. Its set in 1969.

Someone has downloaded the entire film on YouTube.

February 02, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll look for it. Thanks. I liked the drunken Hamlet.

I have a nice v-word, if one pronounces the vowels right: silias

February 02, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

Kathy: Thanks for the compliment. :) But I actually know very little about films compared to some of the excellent film bloggers online. Still, it's nice to be appreciated.

February 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No, you deserve the compliment, even if you're a little shaky on your Lubitsch!

February 03, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

When I was in Zabars a few weeks back I saw a Rubenesque zaftig lady who was a little shaky on her lubitsch.

February 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yes, a pulled lubitsch can be painful.

February 04, 2011  
Anonymous adrian said...

Peter

well I dont want this to become a tsutcheppenish or anything but it is better to be safe than sorry.

February 04, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If it does become an obsession, I'll turn into a musical play. Tentative title: The Tsutcheppenish Opera.

February 04, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

For godssake, somebody stop them.

February 04, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's too late for that, ma'am. This is a case for the goyishe cop.

February 04, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Well, send him or her in.

February 04, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, a very nice reference to the subject of my current post.

February 04, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re Basil Rathbone, he was Margaret Mitchell's choice to play Rhett Butler and Daphne Du Maurier's choice for Maxim de Winter in REBECCA (he was the model for the hero of FRENCHMAN's CREEK and ironically played the villain in the film).

He was du Maurier's cousin, and the great uncle of thriller writer Desmond Bagley.

And I agree --- hands down the greatest Holmes.

Re the GWTW curse, Carol Lombard was one of the actresses considered to play Scarlett O'Hara.

For a real curse check out Dick Powell's THE CONQUEROR --- virtually all of the name stars died of cancer, including the director and a considerable percentage of the crew. Of course they filmed it in Utah downwind of a nuclear test site ...

Re the Pimpernel, according to Baroness Orczy's autobiography he was modeled on the Englishman who helped her family escape Hungary. Among her later books she wrote about at least one of his contemporary descendants and one of his ancestors (THE FIRST SIR PERCY).

Agree, Richard E Grant was a fine Pimpernel, and the reviews suggested the Broadway musical version was good too. I haven't seen the Barry Barnes film James Mason is in, but the Michael Powell version with David Niven as Sir Percy, Joan Greenwood as Marguerite, Cyril Cusack as Chauvelin, and Jack Hawkins as the Regent is highly entertaining combining two of the novels (the first and EL DORADO) --- though you can tell where they cut the musical numbers out.

Marius Goring was Sir Percy in a half hour television series.

Other real life Pimpernel's include George Hill, known as the Pimpernel of the Russian Revolution and Sir Paul Dukes, who also rescued many Russian aristocrats while a spy in revolutionary Russia. James Hilton's novel WITHOUT ARMOR (and the film KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOR) was loosely based on their exploits.

Leslie Howard was working for SOE, Special Operations Executive, when he was killed. Noel Coward, Anthony Quayle, and David Niven all also worked in intelligence during the war --- Quayle even wrote a novel about his experiences.

February 17, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for that Pimpernel encyclopedia and viewing list!

February 17, 2011  

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