Leslie Howard’s career as a Hollywood star and his ambitions for the British film industry were well known. He contributed substantially to cinema history, having been featured in Gone With the Wind, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Pygmalion, and others. But, behind his charm was a perceptive and determined man. An ambivalent identity and a penetrating intelligence gave him the confidence to try to influence world opinion at the time of the Second World War. His work at that time is now almost unknown and startlingly unexpected.
Howard made efforts to discover exactly what was happening in Nazi Germany and Austria, and what was intended. He struggled with the establishment back in England to get the British film industry restarted in 1940, and he aimed to use it to promote democratic values and unity. Howard worked secretly and alone to develop British propaganda in the US, and to help the SOE and the Free French in Britain. He became a well-loved figurehead in Britain’s darkest days, and Churchill made effective use of his charismatic personality to sway neutral countries at crucial times during the battle.
This book – now available in paperback – follows Leslie Howard’s life by using original material from archives and libraries, personal narratives, newspaper and magazine accounts of the time, and, most of all, Howard’s own voice to tell his story through his own humorous and pointed articles in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, as well as his autobiographical war time radio broadcasts at the BBC.
*** “The book is an impressive tribute to Leslie Howard as an actor, as an advocate for the British film industry and as a British patriot.” – Morton I. Teicher, Palm Beach Jewish Journal – Central, March 27, 2013; The Buffalo Jewish Review, April 5, 2013