All Is Told to 300 by Leslie Howard, 1935

All Is Told to 300 by Leslie Howard

Matinee Idol Gives Interview to End Interviews and Few Questions Go Unasked

He balks at autographs

Hunting Them Bad Manners, He Tells School Journalists, Without Much Success

Leslie Howard, a Broadway matinee idol, a film hero and a patient man, stood at one end of the stage of the Broadhurst Theatre for an hour and a half yesterday afternoon and turned in a performance that was not a matinee of “The Petrified Forest.”
Before him on the stage, and filling the first few rows of the orchestra, were some 300 high school and college journalists, on hand for a mass interview to end all interviews.
At the invitation of the management, which hoped that its star might now enjoy some peace, they were to ask Mr. Howard all the questions they could think of. There were also photographers present.

All Eyes have One Focus.

At 4:05 o’clock a photographer asked the 300 to “look at Mr. Howard.” The audience, preponderantly feminine, was already looking at Mr. Howard. The picture was taken. Mr. Howard adjusted his glasses, pulled at a pipe and leaned on a small reading stand. Amid a rustle of waiting notebooks he said, “The fight is no.”
The queries, popping like a small chain of firecrakers, began at once and continued undeterred by the ruling out of biographical questions.
What, for instance, did he think of autograph hunters?
“They belong to the movies,” said Mr. Howard, “and the typical movie fan is a sort of freak.” Mr. Howard has frequently been annoyed by them. “Autograph hunting is bad manners, apart from everything else,” he continued.
The pencils flew, and there where more questions about his life in the films. What screen role had he enjoyed the most? He had never enjoyed film acting much, but his role in “Berkeley Square” would answer that question, he said. It was also his favorite vehicle in the legitimate theatre.
And did he prefer the stage or screen? He pulled out at his pipe and shied away from that one. He likes them both, but for different reasons.

What About Filming Plays?

He was not to escape so easily, though. What did he think about making films from stage plays? He said he thought they should have nothing to do with each other. “To tell a whole story in speech on the screen is a mistake,” he declared.
The photographers were now sitting on the rail of an upper box and carrying on their bombardment from there.
One school of questioners consisted of persons interested in technical problems. They wanted to know if he was opposed, on artistic grounds, to long-run engagements, and he said that he was. Repeating his recent statement that he was making his last appearance under the commercial Broadway system, he spoke of “the appalling stagnation” which affects a player after a certain number of performances.
What, he was asked, are the chances of young people trying to get started in the theatre?
“Just as precarious as ever,” said Mr. Howard. “It’s a pure gamble.”
There was something like a sigh from the audience at this.
He doubted the extent to which acting could be taught in dramatic schools, declared that it “doesn’t matter a damn” if an actor feels emotion on the stage as long as the audience feels it, and declined to be lured into a specific comparison of the Yew York and London theatres.
He circled a discussion of propaganda by declaring the theatre essentially a place “for entertainment and relaxation” and took occasion to register one vote against Sunday performances.
To the prize question of the afternoon, “Do you expect to be always an actor or to do something better?” Mr. Howard replied gravely and affably: “I always wanted to better myself in life. I will leave when I can do something equally well or better.”
To the inevitable query, “Do you want to play Hamlet?” he supplied the inevitable answer, “Every actor wants to play Hamlet.”
A representative of the management, looking forward to the fact that Mr. Howard had to give a performance last night, called a halt at 5:45 p.m. and warned the mass interviewers that there was to be no autograph-hunting. Mr. Howard and his pipe took refuge in his dressing room.
But outside the stage door, fifteen minutes later, a matinee idol’s audience was standing patiently. They seemed to be waiting for autographs.

(The New York Times, April 6, 1935)