Saturday, May 08, 2021

Saturday movie

Strange Saturday afternoon - political things have dried up, think I might bring the film forward and run it now, then about 7 p.m. start the other things again, if anything comes through.

All right - this was the version of 'Pimpernel' Smith sent by Distant Relative:


There is another version here, some minutes longer, so who knows why that would be?  Something about Leslie Howard first:

#  Leslie Howard was a great friend of Humphrey Bogart. After Bogart's first stay in Hollywood ended in failure, he returned to Broadway, where he played Duke Mantee opposite Leslie Howard in The Petrified Forest. ... Bogart always remained grateful to Howard, and named his daughter Leslie in tribute to him.

Uh huh, now the gay thing, which I thought was possible, given that the man who brings the film describes him as his 'darling'.  I looked it up and it seems that perhaps he was bi but he certainly had no issue with congress with the female [species].

Here's a Telegraph article on him:


Either way, he seems to be some sort of gay icon - Data Lounge likes him.  Perhaps he was just the quintessential notion of the refined Englishman.

And so to this Pimpernel thing:

#  Howard's World War II activities included acting and filmmaking. He was active in anti-German propaganda and shoring up support for the Allies—two years after his death the British Film Yearbook described Howard's work as "one of the most valuable facets of British propaganda". 
He was rumoured to have been involved with British or Allied Intelligence, sparking conspiracy theories regarding his death in 1943 when the Luftwaffe shot down BOAC Flight 777 over the Atlantic (off the coast of Cedeira, A Coruña), on which he was a passenger.

A real Pimpernel then. And a movie version:


#  Korda thus gave the role to Leslie Howard, with Merle Oberon as Marguerite. Howard set the standard with his portrayal of Sir Percy Blakeney.
#  Leslie Howard was an actor's actor, the highest form of praise, a man whose skill at his craft would allow him to blend into almost any character, any role. While he left behind for fans of the future many fine performances, it is generally thought that one of his best was the original Scarlet Pimpernel in which he had to play what was arguably one of the screen's first "superheros" complete with a secret identity. 
In the iconic original he manages to effectively portray the mild-mannered fop (more interested in clothing than fighting); the warrior and man of action known as the Pimpernel; and even the romantic counter-part to his wife (who, in a brilliant sub-plot, was also not what she seemed, but for entirely different reasons). It was an astonishing portrayal. Hollywood being what it is (was?)

And so to Pimpernel Smith:

#  Leslie Howard directed this film himself and it's interesting to speculate had he survived World War II whether he would have done more work behind rather than in front of the camera.
#  It is mid-1939 and both Germany and England are preparing for an inevitable conflict. Professor Horatio Smith, an effete academic, asks his students to come with him to the continent to engage in an archaeological dig. When his students discover that the professor is the man responsible for smuggling a number of enemies of the Nazi state out of Germany, they enthusiastically join him in his fight. 
But things are complicated when one of his students brings a mysterious woman into their circle, a woman who is secretly working for the Gestapo.

Ah, those treacherous wimmin - can never trust them [in noir anyway].

#  In particular, the exchanges between Howard and his [Nazi] nemesis, played by Francis L. Sullivan, and are the stuff of legend.

And the scene where Howard, playing a die-hard bachelor, shows a photo of his lifelong love (the statue Aphrodite) to the character played by Mary Morris and then tears it up in front of her ... remains one of the most romantic scenes ever films. 
A declaration of love with no words spoken.

And so to the final speech:

#  The closing of the movie was a memorable speech by Howard, about how Germany's entrance into war was not the start of it's road to glory but to it's destruction.

I've seen the speech and the ending - well worth waiting for, and the message is just as poignant today.

One more thing:

#  "Pimpernel Smith" may have inspired Sweden's Raoul Wallenberg, whose efforts in 1944 saved many thousand Hungarian Jews from Nazi death camps. Wallenberg's story has been told in several documentaries and two movies. "Wallenberg: A Hero's Story" was a 1985 Paramount movie made for TV. "Good Morning, Mr. Wallenberg" is a Swedish film from 1990.

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