Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! Today’s entry is the first in a trilogy of posts in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Gone With The Wind (1939), which premiered in Atlanta on December 15, 1939. It is among my favorite films of all time — if not my VERY favorite film — and one of my first Wildcard posts was dedicated to the casting of Scarlett O’Hara. And since both Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable have had special tributes on past Film Friday blog series, I want to take these three posts to share great (little known) performances from three of the film’s most important supporting players: Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, and Hattie McDaniel. Each post will feature a forgotten artifact from these talented performers’ pre (or post) GWTW careers. First up…
Leslie Howard (1893-1943)
Though his life was tragically cut short several years after his iconic turn as Ashley Wilkes, history has not forgotten the remarkable talents of British actor, producer, director, and playwright Leslie Howard. Born in London as Leslie Howard Steiner, he began his career on the London stage in 1917, following a stint in the British army, which left him shell shock. He soon came to America, where he enjoyed many great successes on Broadway, including Aren’t We All? (1925), Her Cardboard Lover (1927), and Escape (1927). He first ventured out to Hollywood in 1930, where he starred in several films adapted from works he played on stage — among them Outward Bound (1930), The Animal Kingdom (1932), and Berkeley Square (1933). He enjoyed enormous success throughout the rest of the decade, starring in classics like The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), The Petrified Forrest (1936), and Intermezzo (1939). He returned to England following GWTW to help with the war effort, and starred in several propaganda shorts and features over the next few years. Howard was killed en route from England to Portugal when his plane was shot down by the Germans, who allegedly believed that Churchill was on board. Several excellent biographies have been written in the seven decades following his death, each reaffirming his status as one of the ’30s greatest actors. Even without the immortality in Gone With The Wind, Howard’s legacy continues to both inspire and entertain. He won’t ever be forgotten.
Below is a live performance of Much Ado About Nothing starring Howard and Rosalind Russell, broadcast on CBS in July of 1937. Howard was a master Shakespearian, and this is my favorite of his radio performances.
Come back next Wednesday for Olivia de Havilland! And tune in tomorrow for more Xena!