The Scarlet Pimpernel Book Review

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The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy, is one of my favorite classic adventure novels. It gets off to a rather slow start, but ratchets up the tension beautifully as the story progresses until it’s practically impossible to put down. I also like that Marguerite, while forced into the role of damsel-in-distress at several points, is nevertheless allowed to be quite clever and resourceful in her own right. For a novel originally published in 1905, she’s an unusually spunky and likable heroine!

My rating: (4.5 / 5)

It seems like a book that would make a fantastic movie, but I’ve been disappointed with the attempts so far. The 1934 version with Leslie Howard was just awful. I liked the 1982 film with Jane Seymour and Ian McKellan a lot more, but still feel like it could be done better. Here’s the trailer for that version:

The Broadway musical soundtrack is enjoyable, but I’ve never seen it on stage.

The Scarlet Pimpernel Original Broadway Cast Recording

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I’ve never seen this musical live, but the soundtrack is very enjoyable and I’m surprised The Scarlet Pimpernel never became a bigger hit. As a huge fan of Terrence Mann, who played the villain Chauvelin, I have to say that his songs are my favorite, particularly the swoon-worthy “Where’s the Girl?” and the viciously cynical trio “The Riddle.”

There’s also some excellent comedy songs and I’m impressed by Douglas Sills’s ability to transition seamlessly between the roles of clownish buffoon and dashing hero.

My rating: (4 / 5)

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