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August Star of the Month

This month, our Movie Crush is:

Leslie Howard
1893 - 1943

London-born Leslie Howard was originally a bank clerk and then a soldier during the First World War. He took up acting as therapy for shell-shock and quickly became a hit on stage both in London and New York City.

Howard became known for playing the role of the quintessential English gentleman but is often best remembered for his role as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind (a role he reportedly hated playing).

When the Second World War broke out, Howard returned to England and began focusing his attention on making anti-Nazi propaganda films, such as 49th Parallel and Pimpernel Smith. He died in 1943 when the plane he was in was shot down by German fighters over the Bay of Biscay.

Literary Filmography:

  • Of Human Bondage (1934)

              Role: Philip

              Based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham,Of Human Bondage follows the story of 
              Philip Carey as he tries his hand at being an artist and eventually a doctor while dealing
              with his infatuation for waitress Mildred Rogers (Betty Davis). One thing of note is that this
              film was actress Betty Davis' breakthrough role.

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)

              Role: Sir Percy Blakeney

              The Scarlet Pimpernel was a novel by the Baroness Orczy about an English gentleman who
              risks his life to rescue nobles from the guillotine during the French Revolution and who 
              hides his escapades by pretending to be a foppish idiot. Howard's performance as the
              deceptively stupid Sir Percy is a classic. Interestingly, the role was originally to be played by
              Charles Laughton, but fans of the novel caused an uproar, claiming that Laughton was not
              "suave" enough. 

  • The Petrified Forest (1936)

              Role: Alan Squier

              Originally a play by Robert E. Sherwood, The Petrified Forest was adapted for film after a
              successful Broadway run starring Leslie Howard in the same role. Watch out for a fairly
              young Humphrey Bogart, who plays Duke Mantee. Bogart was also in the Broadway
              production but the studio was going to replace him with a more well-known actor when the
              switch to film was made. Howard argued for him to retain his role, the studio eventually
              relented, and this proved to be Humphrey Bogart's breakthrough. 

  • Romeo and Juliet (1936)

              Role: Romeo

              Yes, he played Romeo. I really feel like this one doesn't need much of an explanation
              beyond: Leslie Howard played Romeo in what is perhaps the oldest cast ever to portray
              Shakespeare's classic tragedy. Other actors to watch out for are Basil Rathbone as Tybalt
              and John Barrymore as Mercutio.

  • Pygmalion (1938)

              Role: Professor Henry Higgins

              Before it was turned into a musical and titled My Fair Lady, George Bernard Shaw's play
              about a language obsessed professor turning flower-girl Eliza Doolittle into a polished
              speaker was made into a film with Leslie Howard starring opposite Wendy Hiller. New
              sequences were written for the film by Shaw himself, most notably the ending.

  • Gone With the Wind (1939)

              Role: Ashley Wilkes

              The exceptionally famous adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's novel has Leslie Howard playing
              the man Scarlett O'Hara loves to the point of obsession, but who ultimately marries another
              woman (the plot is far too long to give a brief summary here, trust me). Supposedly, Howard
              disliked playing Ashley, claiming that he was too old and not handsome enough to play the
              gentlemanly Confederate officer. Despite his opinions, though, this is the role Howard is
              most associated with.

  • Pimpernel Smith (1941)

              Role: Professor Horatio Smith

              An incredibly loosely adapted movie, Pimpernel Smith is a war-era propaganda film based
              on (you guessed it) The Scarlet Pimpernel. Only this time Leslie Howard plays an
              archaeology professor who pretends to be absent minded and idiotic to cover up the fact
              that he is helping intellectuals escape the clutches of the Nazis.

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