Forty years before Harrison Ford starred in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Leslie Howard played a plain-named archeologist who fought the Nazis in 1941's Pimpernel Smith, now available on DVD.
Springfield, MO -- (ReleaseWire) -- 05/22/2008 -- The plot may sound familiar: a resourceful Professor of Archeology goes up against the growing might of pre-war Nazi Germany. In a thrilling adventure, with the fate of many on the line, our hero has a very common last name and is known for his daring bravado. But this isn't a big-budget production from Lucas and Spielberg – in fact, while it might have influenced the 1981 film you're probably thinking of, this movie came out forty years earlier!
In 1941, British actor Leslie Howard released a movie he had directed and produced with his own funds, earned from his appearance in the Hollywood blockbuster Gone With The Wind (1939). Howard had portrayed the honor-bound intellectual Southern gentleman, Ashley Wilkes. Howard was passionate about the British war effort, and especially wanted to alert a wider audience to the growing threat of Nazi Germany. Howard also wanted to produce a film which updated his famous role as Sir Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) from Revolutionary France to pre-World War II Europe. The result was an amazing feature film entitled Pimpernel Smith (1941), known as Mister V in the USA.
Howard played the title role of Professor Horatio Smith, who uses his cover as an absent-minded archeology professor to smuggle persecuted intellectuals out from under the watchful eyes of the Third Reich. During one daring rescue, Smith is wounded, which results in revealing his secret identity to his admiring students. They enthusiastically join him in his fight, but things are complicated when one of his students brings a mysterious woman into their inner circle. Smith engages in a game of cat-and-mouse with a ruthless Gestapo adversary who has been assigned to track him down.
This movie is even credited with inspiring Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who attended a private screening with his sister Nina in 1942. "On the way home," his sister recalled, "he told me this was the kind of thing he would like to do." Wallenberg went on to mount a rescue operation in Budapest that, conservatively estimated, saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazi gas chambers. It is doubtful whether any other film has ever inspired an act of heroism on quite this scale.
Now available for the first time on DVD, Pimpernel Smith serves as a reminder of the power of cinema to change opinion and influence society. A profoundly moving film about the struggle for good in the world, Pimpernel Smith deserves to be seen by today’s audience. The Pimpernel Smith DVD is available for purchase securely online at http://www.PimpernelSmith.com. No crystal skulls here, but true Indy fans will not be disappointed!