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Submitted by Nicky Smith

They've Shot the Elusive Pimpernel By John Bretton

David Niven is "trapped" by The Archers after nearly two years

Picturegoer's Studio Round-up
Picturegoer - May 6, 1950

David Niven lets Margaret Leighton into the secret of the hold-up on "The Elusive Pimpernel"
It was certainly an occasion for brow-wiping at Shepperton Studios. For just on two years that English M'lord who played a cat-and-mouse game with the French revolutionaries, had been almost as elusive for the movie camera.
     But now they had him securely packed away in cans. Yes, after nearly twenty-four months of on-off shooting, David Niven's The Elusive Pimpernel was finished. "Phew!" chorused the front-office boys, "did he have to be so elusive?"

The makers, the Archers, blame David Niven - or, to be precise, the arrangement under which he was borrowed from Goldwyn for the film - for the delay. After working over here for two months in the summer of 1948, David was recalled to Hollywood for A Kiss for Corpses, leaving Pimpernel well and truly in the air.
     If that's the only reason for the delay - and I'm assured that it is - all I can say is that the original arrangement is one of the oddest I've ever heard of. How any company could allow itself to be left high and dry without its leading man beats me. But there it is.
     It's the sort of things that could only happen in the film world.

And such a hold-up is hardly fair to the artists - especially for those trying to make names for themselves.
     There's Margaret Leighton, for instance - she's thought of quite highly nowadays. But when The Elusive Pimpernel goes out on release later this year, she'll be judged on a performance which was given two years ago.
     However, the film has now, at last, been completed, and I heard a whisper that it may be entered as a nominee for this year's Royal Command Performance.

As I walked on to the set at Shepperton the other day to watch the round-up shooting on Pimpernel, I came face to face with a white cart horse, harnessed to a farm cart. Sitting on the shafts in front was a toothless, long-nosed hag, dressed in rags and sporting straggly ginger hair.
     It was our friend David Niven portraying the Pimpernel in one of his many disguises. He was still as keen as mustard over film despite the break.

Sharp contrast to David's lightheartedness was Margaret Leighton's seriousness. She always takes her parts like that - studies the script at every available opportunity, even during make-up time which is usually set for 7 a.m.

Name they tell me you'll soon have on the tip of your tongue: Ex-Abbey Theatre (Dublin) man Cyril Cusack. You'll be seeing him as Chauvelin in Pimpernel, also as Jennifer Jones's husband in Gone to Earth.
     Friends on the screen, David Niven and David Hutcheson, who portrays Lord Dewhurst, the Pimpernel's aide, are friends off the screen too. David N-----, who has been staying in a West End hotel, has been calling for David H----, who lives in Kensington, in his car on the way to the studios every morning.
     P.S. to The Elusive Pimpernel: Cracks about being as lively as two-year-olds are not appreciated down at Shepperton.

What was Marius Goring doing on The Elusive Pimpernel set chatting with producer Emeric Pressburger - fixing up a part in The Tales of Hoffmann, Pressburger's next?

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