JANE AUSTEN MOVIE CLUB: Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)

Welcome to the Jane Austen Movie Club!

Here at Risky Regencies, we get together the first Tuesday of every month to discuss a Regency-interest movie or TV show.

This month: the 1982 SCARLET PIMPERNEL, starring Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellen!

To aid the discussion, here are the major credits, including a few “you’ve seen him here (you’ve seen him there)” tidbits in italics.

DIRECTOR: Clive Donner

SCREENPLAY: William Bast, based on the novels by Baroness Orczy


Anthony Andrews: Sir Percy Blakeney

Jane Seymour: Marguerite Blakeney

Ian McKellen: Chauvelin

James Villiers: Baron de Batz

Eleanor David: Louise

Malcolm Jamieson: Armand St. Just

Jamieson played Colonel de L’Eclin in SHARPE’S RIFLES.

Denis Lill: Count de Tournay

Ann Firbank: Countess de Tournay

Firbank played Anne Elliot in the 1971 BBC PERSUASION.

Richard Morant: Robespierre

Julian Fellowes: The Prince Regent

Fellowes also played the Prince Regent in SHARPE’S REGIMENT, and played Major Dunnett in SHARPE’S RIFLES.

Gordon Gostelow: Duval

Carol MacReady: Mme. Duval

Tracey Childs: Suzanne

Childs played Marianne in the 1981 adaptation of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.

Dominic Jephcott: Sir Andrew Ffoulkes

Christopher Villiers: Lord Anthony Dewhurst

Villiers played Colonel Horace Bampfylde in SHARPE’S SIEGE, and Tom Bertram in the 1983 MANSFIELD PARK.

Geoffrey Toone: Marquis de St. Cyr

Mark Drewry: Lord Timothy Hastings

Richard Charles: The Dauphin

So: what did you think?

Do you love this version, hate it, admire the costumes, want to recast it?

All answers welcome!

And be sure to stop back the first Tuesday of April, when we’ll be discussing THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE, and the first Tuesday of May, when we’ll be discussing SHARPE’S RIFLES.

Cara King, who seeks those french fries everywhere

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Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
13 years ago

Cara, I love this version of the Scarlet Pimpernel. I thought Anthony Andrews caught Sir Percy and his alter ego perfectly compared to Richard E. Grant in the remake who played both characters the same. I also thought that Jane Seymour was beautiful as Marguerite and Ian McKellen was amazing as Chauvelin. I haven’t seen the Leslie Howard version, but I can’t imagine it is better than this TV version.

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

It’s been a long time since I saw this one, but I really loved it! Great costumes, natch.

Wow, I had forgotten Ian McKellen was in it…

13 years ago

Like Elizabeth, I thought Anthony Andrews did a brilliant job of portraying the fop and the hero. My favorite scene is of Percy kissing each step where Marguerite’s foot touched. It simply spoke so clearly what Percy could not reveal, at least not yet.

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

I haven’t seen this one, but thanks for the pic of Ian McKellen! He looks so incredibly young here.

I’m putting this on the Netflix queue, too.

Cara King
13 years ago

I’m rushing out the door to take Todd for a super-secret way-early birthday surprise, so I’ll be quick and say more later!

I rewatched this last night, and now I think:


— the costumes
— the houses and rooms
— the carriages (they weren’t all glass coaches! yay!)
— the cast
— especially Ian McKellen

— the pace (I think it could have lost a good
— the occasional overplaying and overly serious grand passion

And as the screenwriter stole several of the best bits straight from the Leslie Howard version, I think the screenwriter from the earlier version should have received credit!

Got to run…back later…


Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Okay. I just finished watching it. For the first time, I think Georgian men look sexy. Even in the hats.
I loved the costumes! The colors were so beautiful and such a contrast to the black costume of the “citizens” especially in the dance scene.

Anthony Andrews did such a good job of slipping in and out of his alter ego, especially with Marguerite at the beginning.

In the setting, I thought all the way through that all the scenes were filmed in England, not France. From the credits, I think I was right!

I’ve never read The Scarlet Pimpernel. Now I want to!!

13 years ago

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this version but I do like most of the actors in it.

I have to get Netflix.

I feel so behing, lol.

13 years ago

I enjoyed this version very much (though I like the Howard one as well, and the Richard E. Grant one also!). One thing that I liked in this version is that it actually gave the backstory of Sir Percy wooing and winning Marguerite. In the book, this is never really made credible, and I thought this version did a good job. Like everyone, I also liked the costumes a lot; and it had more of the Pimpernel and his men smuggling people out of London and tricking the French soldiery, which was fun. And Jane Seymour was a babe and a half. 🙂

I agree with Cara that it was a bit slow; and when the Pimpernel was being Sir Percy he was almost too affected. I’m not sure anyone would believe it, which would actually weaken it as a disguise! 🙂

I note that every film version I’ve ever seen has changed the ending from the original in the book. I think understandably, since that ending is weak. But it’s odd how much they steal from each other!


13 years ago

And, BTW, I loved my super-secret way-early birthday surprise!


Keira Soleore
13 years ago

French fries are particularly tasty on the Chunnel Train, just as French spies were plentiful across the Channel.

I’m late. Was off at the courthouse doing my civic duty. Have one more day today.

I love, love, love this movie. Chauvelin is fabulous, as is Anthony Andrews. This is where I first realized what a fantastic actor McKellen.

I liked the pacing of this movie. I felt it fit the gravitas and seriousness of the tale as well as the desperate romance very well.

Todd, wishing you a special very early happy birthday!! Cara, clever of you to come up with a gift that surprises and delights.

Cara King
13 years ago

Elizabeth, I agree with you about Jane Seymour being a beautiful Marguerite — I just kept thinking “she had perfect skin! A perfect face! She’s *so* beautiful!”

I’ve never read The Scarlet Pimpernel. Now I want to!!

Diane, you can even download it off Gutenberg if you like! 🙂 IMHO, Orczy was great at coming up with concepts and ideas — but her plotting wasn’t great, and her writing style was strongly of its time. FWIW. 🙂

Todd, I agree that it was great to get Percy and Marguerite’s backstory — and it made the whole Armand thing make more sense, too. However, I didn’t entirely believe that all those English aristos were happily hanging out in Paris during the Terror. 🙂

Keira & Elizabeth, I totally agree with you on Chauvelin. McKellen played him as young, impetuous, twitchy, and very passionate — such an interesting performance!

I think one plot problem in this version is that there’s the Big Misunderstanding, where all Percy had to do is ask his wife “did you really do that?” but for some reason he never does. (They handled that a bit more daringly in the Leslie Howard version, I think!)

Keira wrote:
Cara, clever of you to come up with a gift that surprises and delights.

BTW, what I did was take him to a taping of the TV show The Big Bang Theory — and he certainly was surprised! And he claims to have enjoyed it very much. 🙂


Keira Soleore
13 years ago

…a taping of the TV show The Big Bang Theory…

This has got to be one of the coolest gifts. Next year, perhaps ’twill be at the movie premiere of The Sub-Atomic Duking It Out With The Sub-Sub-Atomic Particles.

Cara King
13 years ago

LOL, Keira!

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