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Part of last night’s conversation was in response to Boy #2’s suggestion that we watch The Scarlet Pimpernel (Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellan, 1982). We finally bought a DVD version of this because our taped-from-my-parents’-TV VHS copy died. Hubby led off the discussion on “fictional gentlemen adventurers with secret identities”, with an eye to finding out if there was one older than Sir Percy Blakeney. I mean, the Baroness D’Orczy wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel back in 1903. There had to be somebody!

Well, we really couldn’t think of one! Zorro, whose pedigree is similar, wasn’t created until 1919 in “The Curse of Capistrano”. The Shadow, another “wealthy man about town” was 1930. Wikipedia suggests Sherlock Holmes to have or be a secret identity, but he was more a master of disguise – then again, so is Sir Percy! But, as Hubby put it, “he’s not going around under an assumed name in a more or less constant fashion”.

Tonight I brought up two old Disney favorites that I thought might be relevant. One was the Swamp Fox, who is a historical figure anyway and not at all fictional. The “old swamp fox” was a sobriquet the British gave him.

The other was the Scarecrow, or the Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn, who was a smuggler and pirate with a “secret identity” of a country vicar. Hubby brought out the fact that the man was not a hero, and a quick look at Wikipedia showed that his first appearance was 1915. Hubby mentioned a character in an operetta, that of an archeologist who had a secret identity of a freedom-fighter in Northern Africa. The operetta was The Desert Song, and was written in 1926. It was inspired both by tales of Lawrence of Arabia and a 1925 uprising in Morocco. The archeologist’s name was Pierre Birabeau and his heroic alter ego was The Red Shadow. (It had a really cool song: The Riffs.)

So, as far as I can tell, ol’ Percy is an original! Do any of my readers or friends have any candidates? (And don’t you just love our table talk?)

November 2016

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