Leslie Howard and some “urban legends”
I am always surprised when I realize how easily silly legends become popular on the Internet, even on “credited” sites.
The first time I read about Leslie starting his acting career as a “therapy” after the First World War, I wondered who could have possibly invented such a fantastic story. I mean, if you do not believe his daughter and son to be attentive biographers, Leslie himself often talked in his interviews of how he had stepped into acting just because he searched his place in the world and did not feel fit for a “regular” job. He had always fancied himself as a writer, he wished he could follow his inclination and devote himself to writing. But life had been a bit harder with him than he expected. He had married when he was very young, one of the countless wartime marriages of the first World War, and when he had found himself in the situation of earning some money, theatre had come out as a possibility.
When he was still at school and during the following years, before the war began, he had written plays and also played and directed them on stage, in his amateur company in Upper Norwood. Theatre was familiar to him, as it was to his brother Arthur and sister Irene. Their mother had always backed their theatrical efforts with enthusiasm.
Therefore, when the war was over for him, and he had to earn his livelihoods, he started seeking second-rate rôles in touring companies, the only rôles a young man with no professional experience on stage could find. The rest is history.