Friday, May 1, 2009

The Scarlet Pimpernel: The Complete Movie

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a classic tale of adventure, intrigue and espionage set against the French Revolution. Baroness Emmuska Orczy tells the tale from the point of the view of the 'Aristocrats' who had attacked displaced during the French revolution, specifically, the Reign of Terror following the start of the French Revolution. The story has been said to have inspired generations of 'disguised superhero" tales like Superman, Zorro, Batman et al.

In this classic black and white film, London is home base for the fashionable fop Percy Blakeney (Leslie Howard) who is secretly the Scarlet Pimpernel. With many ingenious disguises, Blakeney repeatedly enters France to save aristocrats from the Guillotine. The plot is complicated and the stakes are raised when Blakeney's wife (Merle Oberon) who is French, learns that her brother (Walter Rilla) has been arrested by the 'Republic. An agent of the republic --Chauvelin --tries to exploit the 'leverage' that he hopes will prove the identity of the Pimpernel and lead to the capture of that 'damned elusive Pimpernel'.

Leslie Howard, the British actor best remembered for his role as Scarlett O'Hara's love interest in Gone with the Wind, was a secret agent who was killed when returning from a secret mission to keep Spain out of the Second World War, a Spanish author has claimed. Leslie Howard was nominated for an Oscar in The Scarlet Pimpernel

The actor, 50, was returning to Britain after a trip through Spain and Portugal when his passenger aircraft was shot down by the Luftwaffe in 1943.

A Spanish author has claimed that the actor had secretly met with General Franco to convey a message to the fascist dictator in a bid to prevent him from joining forces with Hitler and Mussolini.

José Rey-Ximena claims that Howard used a former lover to get close to the dictator after being given the special mission by Winston Churchill.

"Thanks to him, at least in theory, Spain was persuaded to stay out of the war," Mr Rey-Ximena claimed of the actor famous for his portrayal of Ashley Wilkes, in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind.

The author, who has written a book on the subject, said he learnt of the British actor's wartime intervention after interviewing Spanish actress Conchita Montenegro before her death last year at the age of 96.

She claimed she had an affair with Howard after the pair starred together in the 1931 film Never the Twain Shall Meet.

She later married a senior member of the far-right Falangist party and, using his influence, was able to secure a meeting between the British actor and the Spanish dictator.

Howard, who won Oscar nominations for his roles in Berkeley Square, 1933, and as the Scarlet Pimpernel in 1934, was unable to report back on his meeting because his plane was intercepted by German bombers as he flew to London.

"He has never been recognised as either a spy or as a hero," said Mr Rey-Ximena.

--Actor Leslie Howard kept Spain out of WWII, claims author

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