Turning a spotlight on an actor who is sometimes eclipsed by his role in Gone with the Wind. The irony of Howard's involvement in the ultimate Hollywood blockbuster is that in his time, Leslie carved one of the most unique careers in 1930's Hollywood, taking control of his films in a way few of his contemporaries would dream of. A man of strong principals despite an outward appearance of vagueness, he took a stand for other actors, most famously Humphrey Bogart in The Petrified Forest, less famously William Gargan and Ilka Chase on The Animal Kingdom. Later he insisted on returning to England as World War 2 began, so he could contribute to the war effort - a role which made him an enemy and possible target of the Nazis. A compelling, intimate documentary, boasting much unseen footage of Howard and those he knew. Written by
It's a pretty sorry state of affairs that Leslie Howard is best remembered for Gone With the Wind, for I always think of it like remembering Max Von Sydow for The Greatest Story Ever Told. Howard was all wrong for Ashley Wilkes, and he knew it, only agreeing to it because David O.Selznick promised him producer reins on Intermezzo. In truth, Ashley was an unplayable part, the Edgar Linton of Civil War literature.
Howard's real greatness was on stage in Britain in the 1920s and on film in the 1930s. His roles As Henry Higgins in Pygmalion and the definitive The Scarlet Pimpernel immortalised him even before the tragic air crash in 1943 that ensured he'd never get old in the mind's eye.
When I saw Tom Hamilton's film it brought back many memories of Leslie, and the story of how he came to begin his film is almost as fantastic as Leslie's career and life. And then there's the wonderful touch of having it narrated by Derek Partridge - familiar face and voice on TV in his time - who just so happened to have been one of the people who were taken off the ill-fated Flight 777 to accommodate Leslie Howard (he was only a 7 year old boy at the time).
Essentially, this has been a labour of love for five or six years for Tom Hamilton and his other half Tracy and I only wish it could be made possible for the film to be seen by more people than have yet had the opportunity. (We sadly live in a world where even Kevin Brownlow is struggling to get new documentaries commissioned).
Only last month, Tom set up a Kickstarter campaign page to raise the necessary funds to clear all legal and clearance costs and this will remain open for another week. Anyone who is in a position to contribute will be helping to bring Leslie back to the state of remembrance he deserves.
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