"Pimpernel" Smith

Last updated

"Pimpernel" Smith
PimpernelSmith1941Poster.jpg
Directed by Leslie Howard
Written by A. G. Macdonell
Screenplay by Anatole de Grunwald
Ian Dalrymple (uncredited)
Story by A. G. Macdonell
Wolfgang Wilhelm
Based on"Pimpernel" Smith (story)
by A. G. Macdonell The Scarlet Pimpernel (novel)
by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Produced by Leslie Howard
Harold Huth (associate)
Starring Leslie Howard
Francis L. Sullivan
Mary Morris
Cinematography Mutz Greenbaum
Edited by Sidney Cole
Douglas Myers
Music by John Greenwood
Production
company
Distributed byAnglo-American Film Corporation (UK)
Release date
  • 26 July 1941 (1941-07-26)(UK)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish

"Pimpernel" Smith (released in the USA as Mister V) is a 1941 British anti-Nazi thriller, [1] produced and directed by its star Leslie Howard, which updates his role in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) from Revolutionary France to pre-Second World War Europe. The British Film Yearbook for 1945 described his work as "one of the most valuable facets of British propaganda". [2]

Contents

The film helped to inspire the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg to lead a real-life rescue operation in Budapest that saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from Nazi concentration camps during the last months of the Second World War. [3]

Plot

In the spring of 1939, months before the outbreak of the war, eccentric Cambridge archaeologist Horatio Smith takes a group of British and American archaeology students to Nazi Germany to help in his excavations. His research is supported by the Nazis, since he professes to be looking for evidence of the Aryan origins of German civilisation.

However, he has a secret agenda: to free inmates of the concentration camps. During one such daring rescue, he hides disguised as a scarecrow in a field and is inadvertently shot in the arm by a German soldier idly engaging in a bit of target practice. Wounded, he still manages to free a celebrated pianist from a work gang. Later, his students guess his secret when they notice his injury and connect it to a newspaper story about the wounding of the latter-day Scarlet Pimpernel. They enthusiastically volunteer to assist him.

German Gestapo General von Graum is determined to find out the identity of the "Pimpernel" and eliminate him. Von Graum forces Ludmilla Koslowski to help him by threatening the life of her father, a leading Polish democrat held prisoner by the Nazis. When Smith finds out, he promises her he will free Koslowski.

Smith and his students, masquerading as American journalists, visit the camp in which Koslowski is being held. They overpower their escort, put on their uniforms, and leave with Koslowski and some other inmates. By now, von Graum is sure Smith is the man he is after, so he stops the train transporting the professor and various packing crates out of the country. However, when he has the crates opened, he is disappointed to find only ancient artefacts from Smith's excavations.

Von Graum still has Ludmilla, so Smith comes back for her. The general catches the couple at a border crossing. Smith tells Graum that the artefacts he has discovered disprove Nazi claims about the Aryan origins of the Germans. He predicts the Nazis will destroy themselves. In the end, Smith uses a distraction to escape into the fog, but promises to come back.

Cast

Production

Leslie Howard had been aware of the Nazis in Europe and had developed a film treatment in 1938 based on the rescue of an Austrian anti-Nazi leader. [4] The A. G. Macdonell story of "Pimpernel" Smith took the novel The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy into modern times. Having played the leading role in the film The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), Howard took on the updated project as the first film he directed and co-produced. [5] [Note 2] Production on "Pimpernel" Smith began in early 1941. [6]

Reception

Released in the United States as Mister V, the film review in The New York Times noted: "It is all absurd derring-do, of course, and it follows a routine pattern. It lacks the headlong course of the top-notch British thrillers. But "Mister V" becomes a tense excursion because of Mr. Howard's casual direction, and even more because of the consummate ease and the quiet irony of his performance." [7]

During the Second World War, films shown at Chequers were the only recreational activity available to Winston Churchill, who felt that "the cinema is a wonderful form of entertainment, and takes the mind away from other things." [8] "Pimpernel" Smith was the film which he chose to be shown in the wardroom of the battleship HMS Prince of Wales on 9 August 1941 to share with the ship's officers, as he travelled across the Atlantic for a secret conference with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Argentia in Newfoundland. [9]

Box office

According to Kinematograph Weekly it was the third most popular film of 1941 in Britain, after 49th Parallel and The Great Dictator . [10] [11]

Inspiration for Raoul Wallenberg

When "Pimpernel" Smith reached Sweden in November 1943, the Swedish Film Censorship Board decided to ban it from public viewing, as it was feared that such a critical portrayal of Nazi Germany could harm Sweden's relationship with Germany and thus jeopardise the country's neutrality in the Second World War. Raoul Wallenberg did, however, manage to see it at a private screening at the British Embassy in Stockholm, together with his half-sister, Nina Lagergren. [12]

She later recalled that on their way home after the screening, "he told me this was the kind of thing he would like to do." [13] Since 1941, Wallenberg had made frequent trips to Hungary, and knew how oppressed the Hungarian Jews were. He travelled as a representative and later joint owner of an export-import company that was trading with central Europe and was owned by a Hungarian Jew.

Following the mass deportations that had started in April 1944, Wallenberg was sent to Budapest in August 1944, as First Secretary to the Swedish legation, assigned under secret agreement between the US and Swedish governments to organise a rescue programme for the Jews. By issuing fake "protective passports" which identified the bearers as Swedish, he and others working with him managed to rescue tens of thousands from being sent to German death camps. He rented 32 buildings and declared them to be Swedish territory; eventually, almost 10,000 people were sheltered there.

In May 1945, "Pimpernel" Smith was released in Sweden without any age restrictions. [12]

Aftermath

This film may have been one of the reasons why Howard was killed in 1943 when the Dutch airliner he was travelling in was shot down by the Luftwaffe.

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>The Scarlet Pimpernel</i> Novel by Emma Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel is the first novel in a series of historical fiction by Baroness Orczy, published in 1905. It was written after her stage play of the same title enjoyed a long run in London, having opened in Nottingham in 1903.

Raoul Wallenberg 20th-century Swedish architect, businessman, diplomat and humanitarian

Raoul Gustaf Wallenberg was a Swedish architect, businessman, diplomat, and humanitarian. He saved thousands of Jews in German-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust from German Nazis and Hungarian fascists during the later stages of World War II. While serving as Sweden's special envoy in Budapest between July and December 1944, Wallenberg issued protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory.

Rescue of Jews during the Holocaust Help offered to Jews to escape the Holocaust

During World War II, some individuals and groups helped Jews and others escape the Holocaust conducted by Nazi Germany. Since 1953, Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, has recognized 26,973 persons as Righteous among the Nations. Yad Vashem's Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, headed by an Israeli Supreme Court justice, recognizes rescuers of Jews as Righteous among the Nations to honor non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazi Germany.

Giorgio Perlasca

Giorgio Perlasca was an Italian businessman and former fascist who, with the collaboration of official diplomats, posed as the Spanish consul-general to Hungary in the winter of 1944, and saved 5,218 Jews from deportation to Nazi extermination camps in eastern Europe. In 1989 Perlasca was designated by Israel as a Righteous Among the Nations.

Budapest Ghetto

The Budapest Ghetto was a Nazi ghetto set up in Budapest, Hungary, where Jews were forced to relocate by a decree of the Government of National Unity led by the fascist Arrow cross party during the final stages of World War II. The ghetto existed only from November 29, 1944 to January 17, 1945.

Mary Morris British actress (1915–1988)

Mary Lilian Agnes Morris was a Fijian-British actress.

Per Anger

Per Johan Valentin Anger was a Swedish diplomat. Anger was Raoul Wallenberg's co-worker at the Swedish legation in Budapest during World War II when many Jews were saved because they were supplied with Swedish passports. After the war, he spent a lot of time trying to clarify Wallenberg's fate.

Harald Edelstam Swedish diplomat

Gustav Harald Edelstam was a Swedish diplomat. During World War II he earned the nickname Svarta nejlikan for helping hundreds of Norwegian Jews, SOE agents, and saboteurs escape from the Germans. During the early 1970s he was stationed in Santiago, Chile, and became known as the "Raoul Wallenberg of the 1970s" when he helped over 1,200 Chileans, hundreds of Cuban diplomats and civilians, and 67 Uruguayan and Bolivian refugees escape persecution by dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941–1945 is a 1984 nonfiction book by David S. Wyman, former Josiah DuBois professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Wyman was the chairman of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. The Abandonment of the Jews has been well received by most historians, and has won numerous prizes and widespread recognition, including a National Jewish Book Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Award, the Present Tense Literary Award, the Stuart Bernath Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and the Theodore Saloutos Award of the Immigration History Society, and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award."

Shoes on the Danube Bank

The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial erected on 16 April 2005, in Budapest, Hungary. Conceived by film director Can Togay, he created it on the east bank of the Danube River with sculptor Gyula Pauer to honour the Jews who were massacred by Fascist Hungarian militia belonging to the Arrow Cross Party in Budapest during the Second World War. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. The memorial represents their shoes left behind on the bank.

Pál Szalai

Pál Szalai also spelled Pál Szalay and later anglicized as Paul Sterling was a high-ranking Hungarian police officer and reinstated member of the Arrow Cross Party after 1944. In 1945, together with Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, Szalai helped save hundreds of Hungarian Jews in the Budapest ghetto.

Raoul Wallenberg Award

The Raoul Wallenberg Award is bestowed by The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States on "individuals, organizations, and communities whose courage, selflessness and success against great odds personified those of Raoul Wallenberg himself." It has been awarded periodically since 1985, when the inaugural award was given to Wallenberg himself.

<i>The Scarlet Pimpernel</i> (1934 film) 1934 British adventure film directed by Harold Young

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a 1934 British adventure film directed by Harold Young and starring Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon, and Raymond Massey. Based on the 1905 play by Baroness Orczy and Montagu Barstow and the classic 1905 adventure novel by Orczy, the film is about an eighteenth-century English aristocrat (Howard) who leads a double life, passing himself off as an effete aristocrat while engaged in a secret effort to rescue French nobles from Robespierre's Reign of Terror. The film was produced by Alexander Korda. Howard's portrayal of the title character is often considered the definitive portrayal of the role. In 1941, he played a similar role in "'Pimpernel' Smith" but this time set in pre-WWII Germany.

Gustav Richter was an aide to Adolf Eichmann, an adviser on Jewish affairs (Judenberater), during Nazism era. He was a member of the Nazi Party and of the SS, the paramilitary organization of the Nazi party.

George Mantello Romanian-born diplomat, saved Jews during the Holocaust

George Mantello, a businessman with various diplomatic activities, born into a Jewish family from Transylvania, helped save thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust while working for the Salvadoran consulate in Geneva, Switzerland from 1942 to 1945 under the protection of consul Castellanos Contreras, by providing them with fictive Salvadoran citizenship papers. He publicized in mid-1944 the deportation of Hungarian Jews to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, which had great impact on rescue and was a major contributing factor to Hungary's regent Miklós Horthy stopping the transports to Auschwitz.

Wallenberg is an opera by the Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür to a libretto by Lutz Hübner. The plot is developed from events in Raoul Wallenberg's personal life. The opera premiered at the Opernhaus Dortmund on May 5, 2001. It premiered at the Estonian National Opera on June 1, 2007, directed by Dmitry Bertman.

Otto Fleischmann was a Hungarian-born Freudian psychoanalyst.

The Holocaust in Hungary Extermination of Hungarian Jewry at the end of WWII, between May and July 1944

The Holocaust in Hungary was the dispossession, deportation, and murder of more than half of the Hungarian Jews, primarily after the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944.

Nina Lagergren Swedish businesswoman

Nina Viveka Maria Lagergren was a Swedish businesswoman and the half-sister of Raoul Wallenberg, and the leading force to find out what happened to him after his disappearance. She was the founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Academy. She also presented Sommar i P1 in 2014 on Swedish Radio. She was the mother-in-law of Kofi Annan.

Sweden was a neutral state during World War II and was not directly involved in the Holocaust in German-occupied Europe. Nonetheless, the Swedish government maintained important economic links with Nazi Germany and there was widespread awareness within the country of its policy of persecution and, from 1942, mass extermination of Jews.

References

Notes

  1. Professor Smith is also addressed as "Horace" Smith in the film.
  2. Howard also directed and co-produced The First of the Few (known in the U.S. as Spitfire) (1942). [5]

Citations

  1. "'Pimpernel' Smith (1940)." The Monthly Film Bulletin, Volume 8, No.91, July 1941.
  2. Noble 1945, p. 74.
  3. Linnéa 1993, p. 27.
  4. Howard 1984, p. 64.
  5. 1 2 Costanzi, Karen. "Leslie Howard: Actor & Patriot." things-and-other-stuff.com. Retrieved: 2 January 2015.
  6. Howard 1984, p. 99.
  7. Strauss, Theodore (T.S.). "Pimpernel Smith (1941); 'Mr. V,' a British melodrama with Leslie Howard, opens at Rivoli." The New York Times, 13 February 1942.
  8. Lavery 2007, p. 32.
  9. Rohwer 2005, p. 91.
  10. La7= Antonia (1991). Blackout : reinventing women for wartime British cinema. Princeton University Press. p. 231.
  11. Robert Murphy (2003). Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48. Routledge. p. 204. ISBN   978-1-134-90150-0.
  12. 1 2 "Pimpernel Smith." Svensk Filmdatabas. Retrieved: 1 January 2015.
  13. Furlong, Ray. "Wallenberg family mark centenary with plea for truth." BBC News, 8 August 2012. Retrieved: 31 January 2012.

Bibliography

  • Howard, Ronald. In Search of My Father: A Portrait of Leslie Howard. London: St. Martin's Press, 1984. ISBN   0-312-41161-8.
  • Lavery, Brian. Churchill Goes to War: Winston's Wartime Journeys. London: Conway Publishing, 2007. ISBN   978-1-59114-103-7.
  • Linnéa, Sharon. Raoul Wallenberg: The Man Who Stopped Death. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1993. ISBN   978-0-82760-448-3.
  • Noble, Peter (ed.) British Film Yearbook for 1945. London: Skelton Robinson, 1945.
  • Rohwer, Jürgen. Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two (Third Revised ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2005. ISBN   1-59114-119-2.