Leslie Howard to Make a Bernard Shaw Classic (1938)

Leslie Howard to Make a Bernard Shaw Classic

Gossip by The Nomad

At a time when most people in the British film industry are walking about with worried frowns, muttering gloomily to themselves about Quota Acts, the bankruptcy court, crisis, and general ruin and desolation, there comes the most interesting and important news I have heard for months. Leslie Howard, fresh from his triumph as Romeo and in those brilliant comedies, Stand-in and It’s Love I’m After, to direct his first film at Pinewood studios.
And that isn’t all. Howard himself will be playing a leading role opposite Wendy Hiller, one of the best young actresses on the London stage, and the film is George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

Anthony Asquith as Co-Director

Although Howard will have as his co-director and guide that remarkable man, Anthony Asquith–his first directorial job, by the way, since Moscow Nights in 1935–I do admire his courage in selecting such a difficult subject to begin his new career. But he has never been the man to take the easy way, and it is high time we filmgoers were given a chance to enjoy the work of the greatest living humorous playwright.
Some of Shaw’s plays have already been filmed. But they were so obviously nothing but photographed plays, lacking the greatest essential of a film–movement. And they were not widely shown outside London. Then came the announcement that Bergner was to have the title role in a film version of St. Joan, and difficulties with certain narrow-minded religious bodies in America caused the project to be abandoned.

An Ideal Choice

Now, Howard seems determined to do justice to Shaw. The new venture is backed by Gabriel Pascal, a Hungarian (I seem to remember another Hungarian whose influence on British films has been–I won’t say always good, but great). Shaw himself has passed the script. Wendy Hiller seems to mean ideal choice for the role of Eliza Doolittle. She has made only one film, Lancashire Luck, but her stage work in Love On the Dole and St. Joan is a guarantee of quality. The other players signed include Wilfrid Lawson, Marie Lohr, Joyce Barbour and David Tree.

The Famous “Naughty Word”

And finally, those of you who have read or seen the play, may remember the famous line at the end of Act III, which as spoken by Mrs. Patrick Campbell in the original production, caused a sensation which almost shook the British Empire. I’m told that unless something unexpected happens, Wendy Hiller will still say: “Not bloody likely” in the film version!
Pygmalion is to be made before Howard plays in Lawrence of Arabia, which is still in the preparation stage.
Mr. Howard, I salute you. If you are half as good a director as you are an actor, audiences will have the laughing treat of their lives.

(Film Pictorial, January 8, 1938)