This month, our Movie Crush is:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.