Leslie Howard






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Biography
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"Oh! I'm eternally right. But what good does it do to me?"
- Leslie Howard, The Petrified Forest (1936)


Leslie Howard
LESLIE HOWARD


BIOGRAPHY

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Leslie Howard (born Leslie Howard Stainer) was born on the 3 April 1893 to Hungarian parents in London and went to Dulwich College. After school, he worked as a bank clerk until the outbreak of World War I. In 1917, diagnosed as shell shocked, he was invalided out and advised to take up acting as therapy.

He made his feature-film debut in The Happy Warrior (1917) and took roles in a few other British-made silent movies. But he honed his ability with frequent stints on the London stage and eventually made it to Broadway, becoming a top stage star.

Many moviegoers now remember this blond leading man for his supporting role as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind (1939), but his cinematic legacy includes quite a number of fine starring performances as well. Slender and handsome, he generally played urbane, intuitive, introspective, and soft-spoken characters, but was equally effective in livelier roles - even in farce.

Howard's first talkie, Outward Bound (1930), established him as an able leading man for movies, and he spent the rest of the decade bouncing back and forth between the U.S. and England. Oscar nominated for his leading roles in Berkeley Square (1933, a delicate romantic fantasy) and Pygmalion (1938, as Professor Henry Higgins, in this Shaw adaptation he co-directed with Anthony Asquith and for which he won an Oscar), Howard also impressed in Of Human Bondage (1934, opposite Bette Davis, as tragic protagonist Philip Carey), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1935, as the Zorro-like title character), The Petrified Forest (1936, reprising his acclaimed Broadway characterization and, incidentally, insisting that the film's producers cast his stage nemesis, Humphrey Bogart), and Romeo and Juliet (also 1936, as Romeo to Norma Shearer's Juliet).

But most moviegoers now remember this blond leading man for his supporting role as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind (1939). He was chosen to play this undecided southern gentleman, and reluctantly took the part since like Clark Gable, Howard only played Ashley Wilkes if David O. Selznick, the Producer, would allow him to direct the romantic Intermezzo (1939, which he also coproduced).

He made Pimpernel Smith in 1941 (a Scarlet Pimpernel updating that he also produced and directed).

In 1941 he made the strangely beautiful 49th Parallel which also starred Eric Portman. The storyline was thus:

    Early in the war, a German submarine is sunk off the coast of Canada, and the fanatical Nazi commander (Eric Portman) tries to lead his crew across the border to neutral America. The German group are whittled down - when a gentle baker wishes to 'defect' to Anton Walbrook's religious community because he has developed an understandable crush on Glynis Johns, Portman has him shot - and run into a series of characters who represent the allies.

Howard perfectly encapsulated the diffident but indomitable Englishman, Laurence Olivier was absolutely atrocious as a moustachioed French trapper. He might as well have had a French cap on and onions around his neck for all the in depth insight we don't get into his character. Raymond Massey delivered a coup de grace as an American GI obviously keen on getting into the fight early by beating up the Nazi in a freight-car as he tries to escape into the then-neutral United States.

Shot on location in Canada, this was unique in its day for making the 'enemy' the central figures in the drama - there were a lot more movies about downed allies escaping through occupied Europe than there were like this - and trying to analyse just what it was we were supposed to be fighting for and against.

howard

For 2 weeks work on this movie Howard was paid 2,000.

First of the Few/Spitfire followed in 1942 (which he also produced and directed).

As well as directing films, he wrote articles and made radio broadcasts.

Howard returned to his native England after World War 2 began, and was shot down by Nazi Luftwaffe fighter planes while flying from Portugal on the 1st June 1943 in the Bay of Biscay.

He was married to Ruth Evelyn Martin from 1916 until his death. They had 2 children. His son was actor Ronald Howard, who played Sherlock Holmes on television.

He was 5' 10 feet (1.79 m) tall.

Other films include:
1931: Never the Twain Shall Meet
1931: A Free Soul
1931: Five and Ten
1931: Devotion
1932: Service for Ladies
1932: Smilin' Through
1932: The Animal Kingdom
1933: Secrets
1933: Captured
1934: The Lady Is Willing
1934: British Agent
1937: It's Love I'm After
1937: Stand-In.


Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave a Damn

If you can try and watch the superb Leslie Howard documentary, Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave a Damn. It has many great interviews but none more so than his indomitable daughter, Leslie Ruth Howard (1924-2013). I caught it in the UK on Talking Pictures TV IN July 2019 and they do repeat it from time to time.

Learned that he kept a country home near Dorking and had affairs with Merle Oberon and Violette Cunningham.


leslie howard


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