Portrait of Leslie Howard (1934)
by Martin Dickstein
In Which Leslie Howard, Who Returns to a Brooklyn Screen Tomorrow, Sits for His Portrait
With Leslie Howard’s brilliant performance in “Of Human Bondage” still fresh in the memory of moviegoers and with the announcement that Mr. Howard will return to a Brooklyn screen (the Albee’s) tomorrow in “The Lady Is Willing,” a few interesting items concerning this ace English stage and screen actor would not be amiss.
Leslie Howard is 41 now. He as been an actor since he returned from the war in 1918 and decided that he would do better on the stage than as a bank clerk. He found his first chance in a provincial company, playing in “Peg o’ My Heart.” Since then he has never taken a backward step in the course of his 16 years in the theater.
Now, an outstanding success in his chosen profession, he can afford to spurn offers of as much as $ 75,000 for a single picture if he doesn’t like the role or the leading lady.
Howard’s whole career has been the product of planning, calculation and the exercise of a high intelligence in the choice of parts, plays and producers. That accounts for his apparent flippancy in rejecting at least two roles within the last year, each of which would have paid him a small fortune. In one case he didn’t like the story and felt that the characterization required would not help his future. In the second case, he liked neither the story nor the lieading lady. Long ago he decided on “Nothing but the best for Howard.” By maintaining his trict standards, this matinee idol who doesn’t look like a matinee idol has insured his future to the point where he can do pretty much as he pleases.
Yet, while he will shrug his shoulders at genuinely tremendous offers he does not like, he will become unnerved at the loss of a gold sovereign he abitually wears on a chain around his neck as a good luck amulet.
For all the time he has been on the screen, Leslie Howard has refused to sign a contract which would commit him to one producer for more than one picture. Recently, however, because he was given the privilege of taking a big hand in his own pictures, he did sing with Warner Bros First National. At these studios he is permitted to have his say on stories, director and cast. His next picture will be “British Agent.”
Howard’s relations with Hollywood have been normal, with the exception that he has not changed in any particular nor gone what is known as Hollywood. He has, in the film colony, the things whiche are less readily provided on Manhattan Island– polo ponies, dogs, grounds and room to roam in. His domestic life has not been touched by reports of infelicity. He goes his quiet-manner way. Occasionally, however, he amuses Hollywood with a bon mot, a quip, a joke of a peculiarly characteristic Howardian nature. He plays practical jokes. His wife calls him “Imp.”
(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 23, 1934)