Pick Your Pimpernel!

As I’ve discussed elsewhere before, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation had its immediate impetus in a post General Exams re-viewing of the Anthony Andrews version of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

I’d first read the book when I was ten. I can remember the very moment of beginning it, on the nubby carpet of a classroom floor, gulping down a chapter in those few minutes between classes. It wasn’t until three years later, in eighth grade, that the Anthony Andrews movie version burst into my life. It’s hard, now, to remember what my pre-Anthony Andrews vision of Sir Percy and Marguerite had been. After that, that was it: they were Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour forever after.

There have been many, many dramatizations of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Which is your favorite? Do you prefer:

— the classic: Merle Oberon and Leslie Howard in the 1934 Pimpernel?

— the over the top fun of Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour in the 1982 Pimpernel (with Ian McKellan as Chauvelin!)?

— the 1999 A&E miniseries with Richard Grant which I have to confess I’ve never seen?

— the Blackadder satire in Nob and Nobility? (“Yes, I shall certainly choose revolutionary France for my holiday again next year.”)

— or, of course, the musical? (Hello, dancing fops!)

Which Pimpernel would you choose? And are there others I’ve left out?

Because everything is more fun with a give away, one person will be chosen at random to receive a signed set of Pink Carnation comics. Winner to be announced on Wednesday!


  1. Kristen Allen-Vogel on February 17, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    My introduction to and permanent favorite version of The Scarlet Pimpernel was the musical, and as great as Douglas Sills who played Percy in the original cast was, I think my favorite musical Percy was Bryan Batt, now best known as Sal from the first three seasons of Mad Men. (And Terrence Mann, the original Broadway Chauvelin, is one of my all time greatest baritone loves.)

    Movie favorites are Leslie Howard for Percy but Ian McKellen for Chauvelin, so I can’t pick a favorite movie version.

    I watched the first episode of the A&E miniseries. It hurt.

  2. Jody on February 17, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Blackadder is hard to top. But I do have a sentimental fondness for Leslie Howard (“They seek him here, they seek him there/Those Frenchies seek him everywhere!”). Must I choose?

  3. Liz D. on February 17, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    I liked the 1999 version OK but my favorite is definitely the one with Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon! He was so good at playing the foppish Percy and then his alter ego, the dashing Pimpernel.

  4. Nikki B on February 17, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    I have to chose the 1982 version because I love it.. and perhaps because it is the only one on the list I have seen. But isn’t that the problem? Once you see one version, it becomes the “original” in your eyes and then everything else is just inferior and wrong. I just love Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour! Sigh.

  5. Sheila on February 17, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Like Nikki, the Andrews/Seymour version is the only one I know, and I love it. Hated seeing him play in any other role because he IS the Pimpernel.

  6. Miss Eliza on February 17, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    I will always always always choose Blackadder, because there is rarely that perfection of comedy as is season three of that show. Also, I think people are too hard on Richard E Grant, he’s a fine Percy. Yes, he’s no Anthony Andrews, but he did a good job. PLUS the US was only shown the first 3 episodes NOT all 6, so you get a different opinion if you actually see them all.

  7. Bev Fontaine on February 17, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    I saw the Andrews/Seymour version first and loved it immediately. However, when I subsequently was introduced to Leslie Howard as Sir Percy, I was completely enthralled and in love. “Is he in heaven or is he in (hmm), that demmed elusive Pimpernel.” And then there is Pimpernel Smith, which no one else has mentioned: a version updated to WWII, with the aforesaid Howard a Cambridge archaeologist rescuing scientists, writers, etc from the Nazis. There is only one very faded version available, but it is worth the watch nevertheless.

  8. Pat Dupuy on February 17, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Love Black Adder! However I’ll have to go with the Leslie Howard version. Anthony Andrews was too foppish for me. I kept cringing! Haven’t seen Richard E. Grant’s version.

  9. Aleen Davis on February 17, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    Blackadder all the way! “The Scarlet Pimpernel is not wonderful, Mrs Miggins. There is no reason whatsoever to admire someone for filling London with a bunch of garlic-chewing French toffs, crying “Oh-la-la” and looking for sympathy all the time just cos their fathers had their heads cut off! I’ll have a cup of coffee, and some shepherd’s pie.”
    I wish that show was still around.

  10. AngelB on February 17, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    I have yet to see the Jane Seymour version. I have only seen the mini series with Richard Grant and Elizabeth McGovern, which I liked a lot.

    But the first time I “saw” the story was Daffy Duck’s “The Scarlet Pumpernickel”. Classic. 🙂

  11. Laura on February 17, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    I love, love, love the musical! But if we are going with film versions I have to choose Leslie Howard

  12. bn100 on February 17, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    the classic

  13. Betty S. on February 17, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Anthony Andrews without a doubt!

  14. Carly on February 17, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Anthony Andrews, with the musical a close second. I have to admit I haven’t seen any of the others.

  15. ducky on February 17, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    The only version I know is the one with Andrews and Seymour – with Jane Seymour looking so beautiful in it.

  16. Joan on February 17, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    I love the musical and the Anthony Andrews version very much. There is also a Leslie Howard film called Pimpernel Smith that re-imagines the story in a ww2 setting.

  17. Susan Gorman on February 18, 2015 at 12:43 am

    I have only watched the Jane Seymour version.
    Will look for the classic verizon with Leslie Howard & Merle Oberon.

  18. Paige on February 18, 2015 at 3:13 am

    Anthony Andrews! And I might have to deny this later, but I saw this version before I read the book. When I did eventually read the book, it was Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour that I pictured as I read. I love the portrayals. LOVE.

  19. SuzanneH on February 18, 2015 at 6:15 am

    The Anthony Andrews version is my favourite. I saw it first and then when I later saw the Leslie Howard version I couldn’t get past the feeling that it started in the middle. I didn’t like the Richard E Grant version at all. For me, the Anthony Andrews version is the full package. Did anyone notice a young and slim Julian Fellowes doing a wonderfully camp Prince Of Wales in that one? He was really funny.

  20. Mary Lou on February 18, 2015 at 9:12 am

    YES to Daffy Duck!

  21. Cate on February 18, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Leslie Howard …. that is all .
    Everyone else tries & fails to match the unparalleled magnificence of his performance..
    & he got to do it all again in the wonderful Pimpernel Smith .

  22. Kelliey Chavez on February 18, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Scarlet Pimpernel – THE MUSICAL of ALL MUSICALS. Seen this show 4X in each inception. My husband proposed to me in NY after seeing the show. I know every song, every word by heart!!! But, I’ve seen ever Scarlet movie every made and read the book. I’m kind of obsessed.

    • Kristy Motz on February 19, 2015 at 8:48 pm

      Kelliey, I can relate totally. We should meet for coffee someday. 🙂

  23. Sue Luce on February 18, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Anthony Andrews for me. What ever happened to him?

    • Paula Scott on February 18, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      The last thing I saw him in was The King’s Speech.

    • SuzanneH on February 20, 2015 at 4:37 am

      He has done lots of British TV recently, my favourite being his portrayal of a middle aged Tommy Beresford in By The Pricking Of My Thumbs. He also appeared in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman In White in the West End. Yes, he sings!

  24. Jackie on February 18, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Douglas Sills in the musical! Though Andrews is a close second. Into the fire we go~~!

  25. Dara on February 18, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    I have to say, I am a horribly remiss fan in that I have not seen ANY of them. I will have to remedy that post haste. But I would imagine that the musical would be my favorite, as they usually are.

  26. Denise on February 18, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Anthony Andrews! His was the 1st one I saw, and I loved it. It then got me reading all the Pimpernel books, which led me to the Pink Carnation. I like the musical a lot too.

  27. Patrica on February 18, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    I LOVE the musical with Douglas Sills. I saw it 5 times (once with Ron Bohmer as Percy). And I’ve seen Anthony Andrews version and love it too (heck, Leslie Howard is wonderful as well). BUT hated the Richard E. Grant one with a passion.

  28. Isabel on February 18, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Richard Grant!!!

  29. Paula Scott on February 18, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour. It was truer to the book than Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon.

  30. Kaitlyn on February 18, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Absolutely, hands down Douglas Sills in the OBC Musical Version of the Pimpernel. My heart holds so much love for the Anthony Andrews version, but when I read the books, it’s Douglas Sills who I see. He is absolutely hysterical as the over the top fop, yet in his more serious moments, he still manages to portray a very real, vulnerable,and relatable Percy; his hurt and sense of betrayal are palpable. He was, is, and always will be, Sir Percival Blakeney Baronet in my book.

  31. Mary D. on February 18, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    The Anthony Andrews version was the first one I saw and will always be my favorite. But they are all fabulous fops!

  32. Kristy on February 18, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Douglas Sills in The Scarlet Pimpernel musical with Ron Bohmer a very close second. Hands down. (Kelliey, I can relate totally. We should meet for coffee someday. :)) For those of you who haven’t seen it, we can only say you don’t know the dramatic impact of meeting Percy live with the incredible music pouring into your soul. Onward Ho. SP took me to New York and then on tours across the country. Anthony Andrews was great, but imagine the love triangle heated up times ten with a live duel on stage. Not to mention two live guillotinings. Cannot be topped. Two thumbs down to Richard Grant. I cannot even watch Volume 2 and 3. ~*

  33. Clara on February 18, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Richard Grant is fantastic, but I must admit I am a fan of the musical. Ron Bohmer and his men are captivating with their “soft” and masculine sides. His relationship with his wife really comes through on the stage. Haven’t seen it in afew years so I hope it is back touring.

  34. Anne Smittle on February 18, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    I have always really only known the Leslie Howard Pimpernel. But he resonates with me because he is also Ashley, and Merle Oberon is also Queenie. I love his little song, “they seek him here, they seek him there….” My youngest daughter is mad for the Richard Grant version. (We have both versions on dvd and its always a fight which we will watch when in the mood). Sigh.
    She also stole my pretty copy of P&P!

  35. Kayse on February 18, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Anthony Andrews + Jane Seynour 4-eva!

    Although I am rather partial to Douglas Sills’s singing voice on my musical soundtrack.

  36. Angie on February 18, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    I have a deep, abiding love for musical Percy (Douglas Sills) and book Percy – but Anthony Andrews will always be THE Percy in my mind (first exposure to TSP was the Anthony Andrews/Jane Seymour movie version when I was 12, and of course I had to find the book after that!)…and I will love him forever <3

  37. SarahC. on February 18, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Anthony Andrews, definitely! The Richard Grant version was a terrible disappointment, in my view, and almost scared me off of Pimpernel adaptations forever– but then I found the Anthony Andrews one and I thought he was perfect in both the fop version and the master-of-disguise version of the Pimpernel.

  38. Pam on February 18, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Oh, sink me, Anthony Andrews forever.

  39. Debbie on February 19, 2015 at 3:36 am

    Leslie Howard, I came across it on late night tv when I was 8 or 9 and fell in love! I do love the A&E miniseries as well and think that Richard Grant did a fine job of it,, but you never forget your first Pimpernel.

  40. Sue K. on February 19, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Definitely Douglas Sills. I laughed my butt off watching him simpler around. Plus, the music was a great addition to the story. I actually went back and saw it a second time.

    • Sue K. on February 19, 2015 at 10:33 am

      Make that SIMPER around!

  41. Suzanne B. on February 19, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Interesting about Richard Grant and Elizabeth McGovern, because she’s now playing Lady Grantham on Downton Abbey, and Richard Grant recently played her obnoxious would be lover! Luckily Lord Grantham gave him the boot!
    Okay, I’m completely partial to Douglas Sills as the Pimpernel. I saw the musical TWICE and I don’t live in NY, so that should tell you something! Sills was wonderful as the ridiculous fop, and even better as the very vulnerable and very real Sir Percy who is heartbroken by his wife’s betrayal. Sills will soon be on Broadway again in a new play called “Living on Love,” or something like that. It’s a comedy, and he plays Renee Fleming’s husband. Anyway, to me he will always be the ultimate Pimpernel!

  42. Vicky on February 21, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    My favorite is the Anthony Andrews/Jane Seymour version. To me it can’t be topped.

Leave a Comment