Captured! is a World War I melodrama in which Leslie Howard plays the unusual role of the war hero, sacrificing his life for the success of his comrades’ escape. Leslie was not very interested in the story itself; as his daughter Leslie Ruth wrote in her book, A Quite Remarkable Father, it was “just another in a long line that helped to pay for the English house, and this was a very important reason for anything.” Nevertheless, his performance was praised by critics. The film was also an occasion for the reunion of Leslie Howard and Douglas Fairbanks jr., who had already co-starred in Outward Bound. It was the beginning of a short, intense friendship, who led to the heartfelt article about Douglas Fairbanks written by Leslie in April 1934 on Movie Mirror, and to the unmerciful portrait of Leslie Douglas Fairbanks made, many years later, in his autobiography The Salad Days.
The scene is a German prison camp where Leslie Howard, as Captain Allison, longs for his bride of six days in England. Cheered by the unexpected appearance among the prisoners of a fellow Englishman, Digby, he discovers that his wife is in love with his friend. His overcome his desire for vengeance and enables his rival to escape a firing squad and return to the woman they both love. Among this conflict are unusual scenes of torture and the degradation of men by their captors.
[Captured] is a screen conception of Sir Philip Gibbs’ book “Fellow Prisoners,” but with all its adequate staging, it is a trifle too melodramatic to be credible. […]
Notwithstanding the lurid nature of this vehicle, Mr. Howard gives a painstaking performance. Mr. Fairbanks is believable as Digby and Paul Lukas is quite satisfactory as the more humane German commandant.
(Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times, August 18, 1933)
The picture, highly melodramatic, has yet such a ring of honesty about writing and acting that even last-minute confessions and reprieves are believable.
“Captured!” has also Leslie Howard, whose characteristic combination of casualness and intentness has a way of making the most blood and thunder situations appear perfectly natural. […]
Somewhere in the writing of the role, or in the acting of Douglas Fairbanks jr., the friend emerges as a charming but thoroughly untrustworthy cad. Mr. Fairbank’s efforts to make him sympathetic are only occasionally successful. Mr. Howard’s role remains one of those gallant, gayly self-sacrificing ones against which the disloyalties of hi cohero have little chance.[…]
“Captured!” is real melodrama, melodrama at its best, perhaps, with one of Mr. Howard’s usual fine performances and some grand war stuff.
(the New York Sun, August 18, 1933)
Mr. Howard, as a result of this picture, is just about where he was before he made it; he does not suffer greatly in prestige (although in the film he is called upon to provide a great deal of self-immolation), nor could he be said to have gained. It is, so far as Mr. Howard and his admirers are concerned, that kind of picture.[…]
(Edward Cushing, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 19, 1933)
based on “Fellow Prisoners,” a novel by Philips Gibbs
Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Leslie Howard (Captain Fred Allison)
Douglas Fairbanks jr. (Lieutenant Fred Digby)
Paul Lukas (Colonel Carl Ehrlich)
Margaret Lindsay (Monica Allison)
Arthur Hohl (Cocky)
Robert Barrat (The Commandant)
Philip Faversham (Lieutenant Haversham)
Frank Reicher (The Adjutant)
William Le Maire (Joe Tex Martin)
Carroll Naish (Corporal Guerand)
Clip from Captured!