A blog I follow is participating in the Anthony Andrew’s Blog Hop this month, and after reading her post I decided to give it a go. The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) has long been one of my favorite films, ever since my mother shared it with my sister and I as children. As a reader, of course the next thing I did was look up the books, which are just as enjoyable as the film.
Sir Percy’s Background
The 1982 film is based on two books by Baroness Emmuska Orczy: The Scarlet Pimpernel and Eldorado. According the extremely reliable site that is Wikipedia, Orczy may or may not have been the first to write a “hero with a secret identity.” It is quite likely that she influenced, if not inspired, the creation of later nobleman-hero characters like Zorro and Batman. She released 16 books related to the Scarlet Pimpernel, including novels and two short story collections directly related to Sir Percy’s exploits as well as a few novels about his relatives.
The first book was published in 1905. It is set in 1792 in the midst of the French Revolution. Sir Percival Blakeney is one of the wealthiest and laziest men in England (he does, in fact, bear more than a passing resemblance to Johnston McCulley’s Don Diego Vega [aka Zorro], who debuted in 1919). The most ambitious thing he does is write poetry (see photo caption for a sample). At least, that’s what he wants people to think.
Behind this carefully cultivated facade, Sir Percival Blakeney is The Scarlet Pimpernel, a daring Englishman who leads a band of adventurers into France to rescue people from Madam la Guillotine’s blade. He usually meets with success, which earns him a dedicated adversary named Chauvelin (played by Ian McKellen).
Anthony Andrew’s Percy
Sine 1917, there have been several film and television adaptations of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I’ve not watched them all, or even most of them, but I doubt any of the actors could rival Anthony Andrew’s portrayal of Sir Percival Blakeney. He is the Scarlet Pimpernel — even when I read the books I can hear his voice in my head every time Percy has written dialogue. I hardly ever refer to the character without saying “Sir Percival Blakeney. Baronet” with the same affected pause that Anthony Andrew’s Sir Percy speaks with when introducing himself.
For my readers who are Myers-Briggs fans, one of the other writers participating in this blog hop typed Sir Percy as an ENFP. It makes sense — he is a visionary, a crusader, an idealistic champion who lives to right wrongs. The traits that are common to Champion/ENFP types serve him well as a hero with a secret identity. David Keirsey says people of this type
have outstanding intuitive powers and can tell what is going on inside of others, reading hidden emotions and giving special significance to words or actions. In fact, Champions are constantly scanning the social environment, and no intriguing character or silent motive is likely to escape their attention. Far more than the other Idealists, Champions are keen and probing observers of the people around them, and are capable of intense concentration on another individual. Their attention is rarely passive or casual. On the contrary, Champions tend to be extra sensitive and alert, always ready for emergencies, always on the lookout for what’s possible.
Sounds like the Scarlet Pimpernel to me, and Anthony Andrew’s portrays him perfectly. I’ve seen analysis written about certain actors’ eyebrows (yes, I have too much time on my hands for looking up weird things on the Internet), and we could certainly add the way Anthony Andrew’s raises his eyebrow when Percy is scanning a room to the list of analysis-worthy eyebrow-acting. You can tell in an instant, just by his posture and the look in his eyes, when he shifts from lazy Sir Percy to alert Scarlet Pimpernel.
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6 thoughts on “Sir Percival Blakeney. Baronet.”
I’m glad you’re joining us in the fun!
I was about… twelve, maybe? … when I first saw “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” A friend asked for it for her birthday and I had never seen it, so I sat down and watched it. We got to the point where Percy’s identity had come out and then had to stop and entertain company for several hours – so my mother and I were in anguish, wondering what would happen! It’s a great film.
The books are hard to find, but I did read the first two. And I’ve seen several other adaptations (the old Leslie Neilson version and the truly horrible A&E versions) and no one comes close to having the wit, charm, sarcasm, and style of Anthony’s Percy. He has the natural charisma and talent to pull it off – he can be cold but it never comes across as brutally so; his change in expression is subtle and profound. You can see the “real” Percy sneaking through now and again.
(Did you ever read the original Zorro serial? It is ADORABLE.)
Percy is… so ENFP it hurts. My dad reminds me a lot of him, actually – he’s also an ENFP. They have that same childish sense of humor and absolute dedication when they set out to do something. They also tend to hide a lot of their own emotions, like a lot of Fi-users. You have to read between the lines with him sometimes, just like you have to do with Percy.
That would be so horribly suspenseful! Even after watching it over and over again, I still don’t like to stop at that part of the film 🙂
The books are hard to find. I was able to interlibrary loan several, and I now own three (there’s usually some available on half.com or ebay). There was only one I read that I didn’t really care for (don’t remember the title now), but all the others I managed to locate were very good.
I have read the original Zorro story — and I love it! That’s one book I re-read frequently.
It was NOT FUN!! Even so, it’s one of my favorite films. So delightful — and innocent, too, for the most part which is nice. I can recommend it to people without the obligatory “but this and that is in it.”
Our library had the first one (which I now own) and I inner-library-loaned the second book. After that I gave up. Maybe I’ll track them down sometime.
The original Zorro is sooo cute! I should read it again, it’s been awhile!
Marissa, it’s delightful to meet you, and I’m so happy you’re participating in the blog hop. The more the merrier!
Seriously? Baroness Orczy wrote 16 books for The Scarlet Pimpernel!? I had absolutely no idea. I’ve got The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel and Eldorado at home when I get a chance to read them, but I’m stunned she wrote that many.
And yes, Anthony Andrews is by far, THE Pimpernel. I love that his personality type is known as the Champion. It fits him so well. And like most personality types, there are always parts of him that grieve the watcher a little bit, like his refusal to believe Marguerite. He knows that she’s guilty, and so he treats her that way. From what I understand, this is an aspect of Fi users sometimes, the assurance that they’re right and no one can sway them from it.
All this talk of TSP is making me want to rewatch it, and I only watched it a week ago! *laughs*
Nice to meet you too 🙂 I’ve been enjoying your Anthony Andrews posts this month (really liked today’s about Ivanhoe — it’s my favorite film adaptation of that book).
What a coincidence — The League and Eldorado are the two books I own (besides the first book). Both are well worth reading. I especially enjoyed reading Eldorado and seeing which elements of that story influenced the film.
I think I may need to rewatch The Scarlet Pimpernel, too. It’s been several months since I’ve seen it. Thanks for stopping by my blog!