Leslie Snaps Out Of It (1938)
Leslie Snaps Out Of It
The arrival in town of It’s Love I’m After brings to the notice of filmgoers another fine comedy performance by Leslie Howard.
Just before Christmas we were delighted by his excellent characterisation, richly human and slyly satiric, in Stand-in.
Taken together, the two have a significance far beyond that of uncommonly good acting. They indicate that Leslie Howard has snapped out of it.
The “it” to which we refer is a peculiar sickness which tends to afflict film stars who, being genuinely idealistic about acting, periodically take their jobs and themselves very seriously. It seized Howard acutely.
Pictures like The Petrified Forest and Romeo and Juliet brought on the bout. They were sincerely aspiring, they were out-of-the-rut.
Understandably perhaps, they aroused in Leslie, who has always been more than commonly keen to provide different, highly interesting performances, a distaste for the ordinary star vehicle.
He began to feel that he would rather not work than appear in films which did not satisfy his high standard. Even Romeo and Juliet, ambitious experiment though it was, did not entirely please him.
After this came a lean period; and Howard returned to the stage.
He did “Hamlet” in New York. It failed, but Howard had had his holiday from films and had done what he wanted to do.
It may have been that the Hollywood satire theme in Stand-in, appealing to his rebellious mood, tempted him back. Whatever it was, he returned–and brilliantly.
The refreshment which some other stars have found, in the past year, in crazy fooling, he has drawn from high comedy, with its incisive wit and its ironic commentary on human weaknesses.
His performances in Stand-in and It’s Love I’m After are almost his best work since Berkeley Square. They are alive; vital as well as subtle, thoroughly human as well as amusing.
They have guts, which was something the intermediate Howard performances lacked. The dreamy idealism which he used so perfectly in Berkeley Square had become something close to an obsession with him. It was robbing his work of vigour.
But now it looks as though all that is over; as though Howard is going to place his dreams under control and get down to honest work.
The next two pictures on his list are Pygmalion and Lawrence of Arabia. There is idealism in each, but of a very positive kind.
If they are to be successful, they will require from Howard fighting performances full of all the skill, force and imagination he can give to them.
These qualities he has in plenty; and with the self-discipline he has acquired by working his boredom out of his system, he should produce finer work than ever.
At all events, a crisis has been safely passed; and Leslie is to be congratulated, not only on a couple of excellent performances, but on the acquisition of a new vitality. We wish him well.
(Film Weekly, January 8, 1938)