This storyline might sound somewhat familiar: a resourceful Professor of Archeology struggles against the growing might of pre-war Nazi Germany in a thrilling adventure with the future of the Western world on the line. He's got a very common last name, and is known for his daring bravado. But this isn't a blockbuster from Lucas and Spielberg - in fact, while it might have been the inspiration for the first Indiana Jones movie in 1981, this film came out in 1941! Forty years before the release of the Raiders of the Lost Ark, English actor Leslie Howard released a movie he had produced and directed with his own funds, generated from his role in the Hollywood blockbuster Gone With The Wind(1939), in which he played the character that will always be associated with him: honor-bound intellectual Southern gentleman Ashley Wilkes.
Howard was passionate about the war effort, and was concerned with alerting a wider audience to the growing threat of Nazi Germany. Howard also desired to produce a film that would update 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 professor of archeology to smuggle victims of persecution out of the Nazi state. During one such daring adventure, he is wounded, revealing his secret to his admiring students, who enthusiastically join him in his struggle. 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 his ruthless Nazi adversary who has been assigned to track him down. The film is even credited with inspiring Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish humanitarian, who in 1942 attended a private screening of Howard's latest film with his sister Nina. "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 15,000 Hungarian Jews from Hitler's gas chambers. It is doubtful whether any other movie has ever inspired an act of heroism on quite this scale.
Now available 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 a wider audience. The Pimpernel Smith DVD can be ordered securely online at http://www.PimpernelSmith.com Indiana Jones fans won't be disappointed!