Quotes by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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Baroness Emmuska Orczy's Biography
Hungarian-British novelist‚ best remembered as the author of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL (1905). Baroness Orczy's sequels to the novel were less successful. A man with a double identity‚ the Scarlet Pimpernel can be regarded as one of the forefathers of Superman‚ Batman‚ and other comic book superheroes. Orczy was also an artist‚ and her works were exhibited at the Royal Academy‚ London. Orczy's first venture into fiction was with crime stories. In this genre‚ her most popular characters was The Old Man in the Corner‚ who was featured in a series of twelve British movies from 1924‚ starring Rolf Leslie.

Baroness Emmuska Orczy was born in Tarna-Örs‚ Hungary‚ the only daughter of Baron Felix Orczy‚ a noted composer and conductor‚ and his wife‚ Countess Emma Wass. Her father was a friend of such composers as Wagner‚ Liszt‚ and Gounod; the family was connected to Franz Josef of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. After rebellious peasants had destroyed their farm on the river Tarna‚ Orczy moved with her parents from Budapest to Brussels and then to London‚ learning to speak English at the age of fifteen. She was educated in convent schools in Brussels and Paris. For a period in her youth she studied music‚ but her talent did not lie in that direction. In London Orczy attended the West London School of Art.

While studying at the Heatherby School of Art‚ Orczy met Montague MacLean Barstow‚ a young illustrator; they married in 1894. Their marriage was a happy union of two two talented people. Together the couple began to produce book and magazine illustrations and published an edition of Hungarian folktales. Orczy's first detective stories were published in The Royal Magazine and collected in THE CASE OF MISS ELLIOT (1905). Her interest in crime stories was prompted by suspense dramas and a real-life crime: the body of a dead woman was found in front of their house. The victim was purpoted to have been killed by "Jack the Ripper"‚ who had terrorized London in the Whitechapel area in 1888.

Orczy became famous in 1903 with the stage version of the Scarlet Pimpernel‚ which ran for four years. It was written with her husband – he co-authored two other plays‚ THE SIN OF WILLIAM JACKSON (1906)‚ produced in London‚ and BEAU BROCADE (prod. in 1908)‚ which was based on Orczy's novel. The dramatized version of Pimpernel‚ starring Fred Terry and Julia Neilson‚ premiered at Nottingham's Theatre Royal‚ and was given a London run in 1905 at the New Theatre.

More than a dozen publishers rejected the book adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Orczy's novel had as its background the French Revolution‚ as in Dickens's novel A Tale of Two Cities. Sir Percy Blakeney is a mysterious hero‚ who saves the lives the French aristocrats and helps them to escape the guillotine. He falls in love with a beautiful actress‚ Marguerite St Just. To conceal from Marguerite and others his secret identity as the master of disguise‚ Sir Percy assumes the role of a clumsy English aristocrat. As a spy Percy can be seen as a forefather of James Bond and other espionage agents. The persecutor of the Scarlet Pimpernel is Citizen Chauvelin‚ an agent of Robespierre. Orczy's sympathies were shown clearly: she was suspicious of the "lower orders"‚ especially revolutionaries‚ and their ideals‚ as exemplified in the famous phrase‚ "Liberté‚ Egalite‚ Fratenité". Pimpernel rescued the French nobility – sometimes others – only because he admired the nobility of all countries. Once Percy disguises himself as a Jew‚ thinking that the French despise Jews and do not ask questions. He also formed a band of helpers‚ Sir Andrew Ffoulkes‚ Lord Anthony Dewhurst‚ Lord Hastings‚ etc. Later Marguerite Blakeney and Lauren willing wrote the Pink Carnation series about the associates.

The bestselling book inspired several film versions‚ the best of which was The Scarler Pimpernel (1934). It was directed by the American Harold Young‚ starring Leslie Howard (Sir Percy)‚ and Merle Oberon (Marguerite)‚ his wife. Raymond Massey played the villainous Frenchman Chauvelin‚ who tries to trap Pimpernel. The original director Roland V. Brown was fired on his first day at work‚ for one of many times in his odd career. Howard and Oberon became lovers while filming‚ causing her to break off her engagement to Joseph Schenk‚ the head of United Artists. She was later to marry the producer‚ Alexander Korda. Most probably both Korda and Howard saw the film as a commentary on Nazi Germany. After directing this film‚ Young went back to the United States and continued his career in B pictures. Korda produced two further Scarlet Pimpernel features. Although Howard was considered ideally suited for the role‚ Orczy considred him too short (height 5' 10½)‚ and he did not look strong enough to stand against Massey‚ who was a tall man (height 6' 1).

Orczy's best known detective character was the Old Man in the Corner‚ who solved mysteries in thirty-eight stories‚ without leaving his chair‚ like professor Van Dusen or later Nero Wolfe. His name‚ Chris Owen‚ was suggested in 'The Mysterious Death in Percy Street'‚ but in later stories his name is not mentioned. This nondescript armchair detective spends much of his life in the corner of a London teashop‚ drinking milk and eating cheesecake. Occiasionally he visits the crime scenes and takes photographs. A young reporter‚ Polly Burton‚ brings him details of crimes which baffle the police. Although The Old Man does not hide his upper class attitudes‚ he sometimes feels sympathy for the criminals‚ perhaps because in the final story of the first series he is revealed as a murdered himself. In the 1970s the character was portrayed in the Thames TV series The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes‚ when the case of 'The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway' was dramatized. Judy Geeson was casted in the role of Polly Burton‚ a journalist for The Echo.

The Irish lawyer Patrick Mulligan was the hero of 12 stories in SKIN O' MY TOOTH (1928); it was also his nickname. M. Hector Ratichon‚ a highly unscrupulous "volunteer police agent" in the Paris of 1813‚ fearured in seven cases in CASTLES IN THE AIR (1921). In the short story 'The Great Pearl Mystery' Major Gilroy Straker is arrested for the murder of Madame Hypnos. Moreover‚ the Countess Zakrevski's stolen pearls are found in his room at the Dominions Club. Straker's explanation is not very good‚ and her sister Mary hires Patrick Mulligan to defend him. "He did not do it‚ Mr Mulligan. God knows he did not do it‚ but human justice does err at times‚ and – well! it's no use saying anything more – is it?" Mulligan finds out that a gang of malefactors are behind the crimes. Pincetti‚ the proprietor of a Continental restaurant‚ is the head of the organization. Again Orczy's characters use disguises‚ and a socially respected person is wrongly suspected of a crime. The culprits are found among people who are distant relatives. Bacco‚ one of the criminals‚ is a waitress. "'An innocent man's only hope of safety hanging on a glove button‚ with a scrap of yellow washing kid still attached to it!' Skin o' My Tooth remarked to me when we were back at the office. 'Give me the evening paper‚ Muggins‚ and let's think of something else.'" (from 'The Great Pearl Mystery'‚ in The Shadows of Sherlock Holmes‚ 1998)

Orczy's attempt to create a female aristocratic hero‚ Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk‚ from the 'Female Department of Scotland Yard'‚ was not so successful. She solved 12 cases in LADY MOLLY OF SCOTLAND YARD (1910). Lady Molly's methods included disguises. Once she helped the release of her spouse from unjust imprisonment. Between the years 1905 and 1928 Orczy published 13 collections of short stories about the Old Man in the Corner and Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk of Scotland Yard. Elvi Hale played Lady Molly in the episode 'The Woman in the Big Hat' (1971) of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes.

In the late 1910s Baroness Orczy and her husband moved to Monte Carlo‚ where they stayed during the Nazi occupation. Their son‚ John Montague Orczy-Barstow‚ published under the name John Blakeney the novel The Life and Exploits of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1935)‚ with a foreword by the Baroness Orczy. Montague Barstow died in 1942. After World War II Orczy spent her remaining years in England. A prolific writer‚ she worked actively until her eighties‚ and finished her autobiography‚ LINKS IN THE CHAIN OF LIFE (1947) before her death. Baroness Orczy died in London‚ on November 12‚ 1947.
Some rights reserved Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto 2008