Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Scarlet Pimpernel Blog Party: An Introduction

Welcome to the party, fellow humans! The blog party, that is.  Online.  The internet kind.  Virtual, you know.  There aren't actually refreshments or anything like that.  Apologies.

This party, in case you weren't aware, is of purpose twofold.  The first is that any excuse to have a blog party is generally a good one. The second is that I and several friends (quite a lot of people, actually) have been working hard for the last year and a half on a new film adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel, which will premiere one week from today, and a blog party focused on TSP and all things related might be an excellent way to get people excited.  Because, y'know, shameless self-promotion and All That.

What is the Scarlet Pimpernel, exactly? If you're a newcomer to this blog or just a newcomer in general to that term I've been throwing around somewhat extravagantly, let's take just a moment to explain.  (If you already know who and what the Scarlet Pimpernel is, and are a fan, take this moment as an enjoyable refresher course.  If you already know and are NOT a fan... why are you reading this. :P  Well, perhaps I can convince you.  At any rate, please do stay and be comfortable.)

In 1903, a former Hungarian baroness (formerly a baroness, that is, not formerly Hungarian-- she stayed Hungarian all her life but had to leave her baronessy estate in Budapest because of peasant uprisings and the like) fallen on hard times wrote a play about a man who rescued French aristocrats from the guillotine during the Reign of Terror.  Emma Magdolna Rosalia Maria Jozefa Borbala Orczy (that is a MOUTHFUL right there-- she usually went by "Emmuska") had published a few short stories before her play about this dude calling himself the "Scarlet Pimpernel," but had achieved little success.  Overnight, however, the play became a hit, soon moved to London's famed West End, and in response to public demand, Baroness Orczy turned it into a novel.  The Scarlet Pimpernel, published in 1905, became an immediate success and spawned both an entire series of books about the mysterious title character and a genre of literature, film and other media known as-- you might have heard of them-- "superheroes."  (No, seriously. The idea of a masked crusader with a secret identity began with the Scarlet Pimpernel and carried over to Zorro and Batman and Superman and all those guys.  Look it up.)

What happened next? Well, several movie adaptations, for starters.  Of the two best-known, one was made in 1934 and is considered by old-movie buffs to be a true classic (starring Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon) and another was made in 1982, considered by most fans of TSP to be the best (hey, we're not biased) and stars Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour.

*insert le sigh*

(screencap by Ashley)

There have been a LOT of other movie and TV adaptations as well-- sixteen, if Wikipedia offers correct information-- along with several parodies, a Broadway musical and the aforementioned really extensive book series, and as of September 8th there will also be a modern-day web series adaptation. (I wish I could say that was my last plug.  But, um, it's not and won't be and I don't believe in lying to you. :))

If you're interested in reading the first novel in the series, The Scarlet Pimpernel, you probably need look no further than your local library. It's a classic and there are a ton of different editions.  You can also check out Blakeney Manor, the original Scarlet Pimpernel fan site, for e-texts of ALL the books!  Librivox.org also has several free audio recordings of Scarlet Pimpernel books-- I highly recommend those read by Karen Savage, as she "does all the voices" and reads all the French stuff quite Frenchily.  (I don't speak much French. Full disclosure. So I could be really wrong there.  But it sounds pretty authentic to my limited experience.)

For more discussion of the Scarlet Pimpernel in general, you might want to visit The Day Dream, a Scarlet Pimpernel fan blog.  Full disclosure again, I'm an author on that blog. :P It doesn't get a lot of buzz these days, as most of the authors have moved on to busier lives, but there are piles of archives to comb through if you're looking to learn more about this fandom.
ALSO. Do you know what else is cool?  Well, lots of things, but the one I was going to tell you about is the fact that there have been several people in real life who were directly inspired by the Scarlet Pimpernel to do some very dangerous rescue work during WWII.  Raoul Wallenberg is perhaps the most famous (my friend Maribeth can tell you more about him than I can), but you might also care to look up Donald Caskie, Hugh O'Flaherty and Varian Fry.  I think there have been others as well, but that's a start.  The movie Pimpernel Smith, starring Leslie Howard (again...) tells the story, too, of a man who rescued inmates of German concentration camps (and was the film that inspired Raoul Wallenberg to do similar work in Hungary).  Cool beans.

Okay, thus ends this very ramble-y post, and thus beginneth the blog party.

(Oh, and here is a preview for the pilot for Masked which is airing in one week.  And no, I am not going to shut up about that.)


Erudessa Aranduriel said...

YES!!!!!!!! I am SOOOOOO excited!!!!

I still find it funny that The Scarlet Pimpernel was the beginning of 'superheros'.

*sigh* That couple is SOOOOOO perfect!!! I ADORE looking at pictures of them in that movie!!!

Ah! yes! I LOVE the way Karen Savage reads!! I listen to her versions of not only TSP but also Austen.

I can hardly wait for next week!!! We are counting down the days!!!!

Maribeth said...

The entirety of "Pimpernel Smith" can be found on YouTube, by the way (it's not on DVD, otherwise I would tell everyone to "get thee to the nearest available copy"). Raoul Wallenberg saw this film in 1943 and, according to his sister, said afterward "I want to do something like that man." He got his chance in Budapest a year later. It's really a fun film, and Leslie Howard does a great job. I preferred him in this over the old Scarlet Pimpernel film.

And for anyone interested in the story of Hugh O'Flaherty, known as the "Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican," I will recommend "The Scarlet and the Black," starring Gregory Peck as O'Flaherty (*squeal*) and Christopher Plummer as his Nazi antagonist Whose Name I Do Not Recall At This Present Time.

(*end of historical addendum*)

Natalie said...

Yay!! :D Can't wait for more!

Emma said...

I can't wait!!!!

I also enjoy the voice of Karen Savage. She really gets into the character!

jessica prescott said...

The "Scarlet Pimpernel" is the ancestor of the modern superhero??? I never knew that!!!

(You just made this history buff's day, Miss Dashwood ;) )

Awdur said...

I'd never heard that about superheroes (real and cape-wearing) coming from TSP! That is so cool!!
So excited!!!

Anonymous said...

I did the tag!!! CAN'T WAIT!!!!