An intriguing adaptation of a noted novel, the English-made Pimpernel is distinguished by a splendid cast and productional mounting that rates with Hollywood’s best.
Leslie Howard’s performance in the title role is not only up to the Howard standard, but so fine that an extraordinary production job was required to prevent this from being a monolog film.
As the Scarlet Pimpernel, an English nobleman who seeks to rescue the aristocrats of France from Robespierre’s guillotine, Howard essays what amounts to a dual role. At home a foppish, affected clotheshorse; abroad, a gallant adventurer playing a dangerous game.
With the story in his favor, Howard has the acting edge all the way, so it was only by their own efforts that the supporting players could stand out. As Chauvelin, the villain of the piece, Raymond Massey turns in a gem of a performance.
Co-starred with Howard is Merle Oberon, the slant-eyed knockout. Portraying Lady Blakeley, a tragic young woman who nearly betrays her husband, Oberon is confined by script limitations to sad moments only.
Enough of Baroness Orczy’s novel is retained to make the picture plot recognizable to the book readers.