Bringing Literature to the Screen (1934)

Bringing Literature to the Screen

Leslie Howard, Who Is Soon to Appear in ‘A Tale of Two Cities,’ Prefers to Interpret a Least the Minor Classics

Leslie Howard seems to be the choice of literature for its transcription to the screen. His next three vehicles come under the head of “classics,” in a manner of speaking. The first of them is “Of Human Bondage,” the famous, widely-read novel by W. Somerset Maugham, which Howard chose himself as his first starring film on his recent return from his stay in London. He has just completed it at the RKO studios, where Bette Davis appeared with him, and now he has moved back to First National for “British Agent,” a more recent “classic,” which went into production a few days ago. After that he returns to an older work, “A Tale of Two Cities,” probably more loved by generations of readers than almost any other of the Dickens works.
Howard’s three classics, completed or in prospect, cover a wide range of time and characterization. As Sidney Carton, he will bring the French Revolution to the screen. In “Of Human Bondage” he is a man of this century. The same is true of “British Agent,” which retails the Russian memoirs of R.H. Lockhart, friend of the highest and the lowest in international diplomacy, society and literature.

Met Bruce Lockhart

Howard and Lockhart became acquainted in London a few months ago and their meeting clinched the actor’s decision to do “British Agent.” Each was familiar with the other’s work before that time, but had never met. When they did, they made a day of it, filming a talking picture of the two of them talking about “British Agent,” having lunch, posing for still pictures, having tea and a good deal of conversation in between. Howard then went on with his London stage engagement and Lockhart came to America for a lecture tour.
Back in Hollywood, Howard again found himself in demand, sought for more pictures than he could make or even cared to make. He has always proceeded with extreme caution in his choice of screen vehicles. As a matter of fact, his contract with First National was the first he had made with any company for more than one picture. Previously he had worked only where he could get the stories and characterizations which pleased him. Three pictures a year is the maximum for Howard and his two for First National and one for RKO will complete his 1934 schedule.
That Howard is one of the consummate actors of this age, on stage and screen, has been demonstrated in a variety of vehicles on numerous occasions. His characterizations have not yet “typed” him in his fans’ minds. Each is different from its predecessor and is a new part into which he steps as a new person each time. His three forthcoming films are ample testimony of his versatility. It has, furthermore, yet to be said of Leslie Howard that his portrayal of a character was the star playing himself. He has always been the man he was playing.

Not an ‘Arty’ Star

Although he is a finished artist in his performances, Howard is fortunate in not being regarded as an “arty” or “artistic” star. The cult of his appreciation embraces all classes of audiences. He does not belong to one circle, but is universally regarded as a fine actor. No clique can claim that it is the only group which can understand his finesse. Howard is another, but rare, proof that art in his chosen medium is universal, understandable and appreciated by any group or a mixture of groups.
Howard will probably complete “British Agent” within the next month, after which he will spend a vacation on work on the stage in either New York or London before returning to the First National Studios for “A Tale of Two Cities” and his characterization of Sydney Carton.

(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 27, 1934)