The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)
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Despite its lack of swordplay, 1934's The Scarlet Pimpernel has the right swashbuckling spirit, pitting a dashing master of disguise against the tyrannical forces of Robespierre's French Republic, while affecting an amusingly foppish secret identity in his everyday life as a British dandy. Leslie Howard has the proper edge AND sparkle to manage both. Now sure, the film (and the original source material) is asking a lot from me to care for French aristocrats bound for the guillotine, but it at least addresses the evils that some blue bloods committed. The most interesting part of the film for me is the Pimpernel's marriage to Merle Oberon's Lady Blakeney. She's not aware of her husband's dual identity, but that's not really what's putting pressure on their relationship. Rather, he believes she informed on certain nobles and thus betrayed his secret ideals. So while there's the satisfying play or move and countermove between our hero and the sly Chauvelin, it's how the missus figures in these intrigues that keeps the story humming.
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