Leslie Howard (actor): Actor (1893 - 1943) | Biography
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Leslie Howard (actor)

Leslie Howard (actor)

Leslie Howard (actor)
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Actor
Was Theater professional Actor Theatre director Film director Stage actor Film actor
From United Kingdom
Field Arts Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender male
Birth 3 April 1893, London
Death 1 June 1943, Bay of Biscay (aged 50 years)
Children: Ronald Howard
The details (from wikipedia)


Leslie Howard (born Leslie Howard Steiner, 3 April 1893 – 1 June 1943) was an English stage and film actor, director and producer. Howard also wrote many stories and articles for The New York Times, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. Howard was one of the biggest box-office draws and movie idols of the 1930s but is probably best remembered for playing Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (1939). Howard had movie roles in many other notable films, including: Berkeley Square (1933), Of Human Bondage (1934), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), The Petrified Forest (1936), Pygmalion (1938), Intermezzo (1939), "Pimpernel" Smith (1941) and The First of the Few (1942), receiving two nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Howard's Second World War activities included acting and filmmaking. He was active in anti-German propaganda and rumoured to have been involved with British or Allied Intelligence, sparking conspiracy theories regarding his death in 1943 at the hands of the German Luftwaffe when the British airliner on which he was a passenger was shot down over the Bay of Biscay.

Early life

Howard was born Leslie Howard Steiner to a British mother, Lilian (née Blumberg), and a Hungarian Jewish father, Ferdinand Steiner, in Forest Hill, London. Lilian had been brought up as a Christian, but she was of partial Jewish ancestry—her paternal grandfather Ludwig Blumberg, a Jewish merchant originally from East Prussia, had married into the English upper middle classes. Howard was educated at Alleyn's School, London. Like many others around the time of the First World War, the family Anglicised its name in this case to "Stainer," although Howard's legal name remained Steiner as evidenced by his military records and the public notice of his name change in 1920. He worked as a bank clerk before enlisting at the outbreak of the Great War. He served in the British Army as a subaltern in the Northamptonshire Yeomanry but suffered shell shock, which led to his relinquishing his commission in 1916.

Theatre career

Howard began his professional acting career in regional tours of Peg O' My Heart and Charley's Aunt in 1916-1917 and on the London stage in 1917 but had his greatest theatrical success in the United States in the Broadway theatre, in such plays as Aren't We All? (1923), Outward Bound (1924) and The Green Hat (1925). He became an undisputed Broadway star in Her Cardboard Lover (1927). After his success as time traveller Peter Standish in Berkeley Square (1929), Howard launched his Hollywood career in the film version of Outward Bound, but didn't like the experience and vowed never to return to Hollywood. Howard would return, however, many times—later repeating the Standish role in the 1933 film version of Berkeley Square.

The stage, however, continued to be an important part of his career. Howard frequently juggled acting, producing and directing duties in the Broadway productions in which he starred. Howard was also a dramatist and starred in the Broadway production of his play, Murray Hill (1927). He played Matt Denant in John Galsworthy's 1927 Broadway production Escape in which he first made his mark as a dramatic actor. His stage triumphs continued with The Animal Kingdom (1932) and The Petrified Forest (1935). He later repeated both roles in the film versions.

In the same period, he had the misfortune to open on Broadway in William Shakespeare's Hamlet (1936) just a few weeks after John Gielgud launched a rival production of the same play that was far more successful with both critics and audiences. Howard's production, his final stage role, lasted for only 39 performances before closing.

Howard was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981.

Film career

Scott Sunderland, Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion (1938), which Howard co-directed

In 1920 Howard suggested forming a film production company, British Comedy Films Ltd., to his friend Adrian Brunel. The two eventually settled on the name Minerva Flims Ltd. The Company's Board of Directors consisted of Howard, Brunel, C. Aubrey Smith, Nigel Playfair and A. A. Milne. One of the Company's investors was H. G. Wells. Although the films produced by Minerva—which were written by A. A. Milne—were well-received by critics, the Company was only offered £200 apiece for films it cost them £1,000 to produce and Minerva Films Ltd. was short-lived. Early films include four written by A. A. Milne, including The Bump, starring C. Aubrey Smith; Twice Two; Five Pounds Reward; and Bookworms, the latter two starring Howard. Some of these films survive in the archives of the British Film Institute.

Following his move to Hollywood, Howard often played stiff upper lipped Englishmen. He appeared in the film version of Outward Bound (1930), though in a different role than the one he portrayed on Broadway. He had second billing under Norma Shearer in A Free Soul (1933), which also featured Lionel Barrymore and future Gone With the Wind rival Clark Gable six years prior to their Civil War masterpiece. He starred in the film version of Berkeley Square (1933), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. He played the title character in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934).

Howard co-starred with Bette Davis in The Petrified Forest (1936) and reportedly insisted that Humphrey Bogart play gangster Duke Mantee, repeating his role from the stage production. It re-launched Bogart's screen career, and the two men became lifelong friends; Bogart and Lauren Bacall later named their daughter "Leslie Howard Bogart" after him.

Howard had earlier co-starred with Davis in the film adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's book Of Human Bondage (1934) and later in the romantic comedy It's Love I'm After (1937) (also co-starring Olivia de Havilland). He played Professor Henry Higgins in the film version of George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion (1938), with Wendy Hiller as Eliza, which earned Howard another Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Howard starred with Ingrid Bergman in Intermezzo (1939) and Norma Shearer in a film version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1936).

Howard is perhaps best remembered for his role as Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (1939), his last American film, but he was uncomfortable with Hollywood and returned to Britain to help with the Second World War effort. He starred in a number of Second World War films including 49th Parallel (1941), "Pimpernel" Smith (1941), and The First of the Few (1942, known in the U.S. as Spitfire), the latter two of which he also directed and co-produced. His friend and The First of the Few co-star, David Niven said Howard was "...not what he seemed. He had the kind of distraught air that would make people want to mother him. Actually, he was about as naïve as General Motors. Busy little brain, always going."

In 1944, after his death, British exhibitors voted him the second most popular local star at the box office.

Personal life

Howard married Ruth Evelyn Martin in March, 1916, and they had two children, Ronald "Winkie" and Leslie Ruth "Doodie." His son Ronald Howard (1918–1996) became an actor and portrayed the title character in the television series Sherlock Holmes (1954).

Arthur, Howard's younger brother, was also an actor, primarily in British comedies. A sister, Irene, was a costume designer and later a casting director for MGM. Another sister, Doris (aka Dorice) Stainer, founded a small school, Hurst Lodge School, in Sunningdale, Berkshire, England, in 1945 and remained its headmistress until the 1970s.

Widely known as a ladies' man (he himself once said that he "didn't chase women but … couldn't always be bothered to run away"), Howard is reported to have had an affair with Tallulah Bankhead when they appeared on stage (in the UK) in Her Cardboard Lover (1927); Merle Oberon, while filming The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) and Conchita Montenegro, with whom he had appeared in the film Never the Twain Shall Meet (1931). There were also rumours of affairs with Norma Shearer and Myrna Loy (during filming of The Animal Kingdom).

Howard met and fell in love with Violette Cunnington in 1938 while working on the film Pygmalion. Cunnington was secretary to Gabriel Pascal who was producing the film. Cunnington became Howard's secretary and lover and the two traveled to the United States, living together while Howard was filming Gone With The Wind (1939) and Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939). Howard's wife and daughter joined him in Hollywood before production ended on the two films, making Howard's arrangement with Cunnington somewhat uncomfortable for everyone. Howard left the United States for the last time with his wife and daughter in August, 1939. Cunnington soon followed. She later appeared in two of Howard's films, "Pimpernel" Smith (1941) and The First of the Few (1942), in minor roles under the stage name of Suzanne Clair. Cunnington, in her early 30s, died in 1942 of pneumonia, just six months before Howard's death. Howard was distraught over her death. In his will, Howard had left her his Beverly Hills house.

The Howard's family home in Britain was Stowe Maries, a 16th century six-bedroom farmhouse on the edge of Westcott village near Dorking, Surrey.

Howard's will revealed an estate of £62,761 ($251,000) (the equivalent of £2.55 million as of 2015).

An English Heritage blue plaque commemorating Howard was placed at 45 Farquhar Road, Upper Norwood, London in 2013.


BOAC Flight 777 was shot down over the Bay of Biscay.

Howard died in 1943 when flying to Bristol, UK, from Lisbon, Portugal, on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines/BOAC Flight 777. The aircraft, "G-AGBB" a Douglas DC-3, was shot down by Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6 maritime fighter aircraft over the Bay of Biscay. Howard was among the 17 fatalities, including four ex-KLM flight crew.

The BOAC DC-3 Ibis had been operating on a scheduled Lisbon–Whitchurch route throughout 1942–43 that did not pass over what would commonly be referred to as a war zone. By 1942, however, the Germans considered the region an "extremely sensitive war zone." On two occasions, 15 November 1942, and 19 April 1943, the camouflaged airliner had been attacked by Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters (a single aircraft and six Bf 110s, respectively) while en route; each time, the pilots escaped via evasive tactics. On 1 June 1943, "G-AGBB" again came under attack by a schwarm of eight V/KG40 Ju 88C6 maritime fighters. The DC-3's last radio message indicated it was being fired upon at longitude 09.37 West, latitude 46.54 North.

According to German documents, the DC-3 was shot down at 46°07′N 10°15′W / 46.117°N 10.250°W / 46.117; -10.250, some 500 miles (800 km) from Bordeaux, France, and 200 miles (320 km) northwest of A Coruña, Spain. Luftwaffe records indicate that the Ju 88 maritime fighters were operating beyond their normal patrol area to intercept and shoot down the aircraft. Bloody Biscay: The Story of the Luftwaffe's Only Long Range Maritime Fighter Unit, V Gruppe/Kampfgeschwader 40, and Its Adversaries 1942–1944 (Chris Goss, 2001) quotes First Oberleutnant Herbert Hintze, Staffel Führer of 14 Staffeln and based in Bordeaux, that his Staffel shot down the DC-3 because it was recognised as an enemy aircraft. Hintze further states that his pilots were angry that the Luftwaffe leaders had not informed them of a scheduled flight between Lisbon and the UK, and that had they known, they could easily have escorted the DC-3 to Bordeaux and captured it and all aboard. The German pilots photographed the wreckage floating in the Bay of Biscay, and after the war copies of these captured photographs were sent to Howard's family.

The following day, a search of the Bay of Biscay was undertaken by "N/461", a Short Sunderland flying boat from No. 461 Squadron RAAF. Near the same coordinates where the DC-3 was shot down, the Sunderland was attacked by eight Ju 88s and after a furious battle, managed to shoot down three of the attackers, scoring an additional three "possibles", before crash-landing at Praa Sands, near Penzance. In the aftermath of these two actions, all BOAC flights from Lisbon were subsequently re-routed and operated only under the cover of darkness.

The news of Howard's death was published in the same issue of The Times that reported the "death" of Major William Martin, the red herring used for the ruse involved in Operation Mincemeat.

The tragedy rendered Howard the first leading cast member from Gone with the Wind to die.

Theories regarding the air attack

A long-standing hypothesis states that the Germans believed that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was on board the flight. Churchill, in his autobiography, expressed sorrow that a mistake about his activities might have cost Howard his life. The BBC television series "Churchill‘s Bodyguard" (original broadcast 2006) suggested that (Abwehr) German intelligence agents had learned of Churchill's proposed departure and route. Churchill's bodyguard, Detective Inspector Walter H. Thompson later wrote that Churchill, at times, seemed clairvoyant about threats to his safety, and, acting on a premonition, changed his departure to the following day.

Speculation by historians also centred on whether British code breakers had decrypted top secret Enigma messages outlining the assassination plan, and Churchill may have wanted to protect the code breaking operation so the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht would not suspect that their Enigma machines were compromised. German spies (who commonly watched the airfields of neutral countries), may then have mistaken Howard and his manager, as they boarded their aircraft, for Churchill and his bodyguard, as Howard's manager Alfred Chenhalls physically resembled Churchill, while Howard was tall and thin, like Thompson. Although the overwhelming majority of published documentation of the case repudiates this theory, it remains a possibility. The timing of Howard's takeoff and the flight path were similar to Churchill's flight, making it easy for the Germans to have mistaken the two flights.

Two books focusing on the final flight, Flight 777 (Ian Colvin, 1957), and In Search of My Father: A Portrait of Leslie Howard (Ronald Howard, 1984), concluded that the Germans deliberately shot down Howard's DC-3 to assassinate him, and demoralise Britain. Howard had been travelling through Spain and Portugal lecturing on film, but also meeting with local propagandists and shoring up support for the Allies. The British Film Yearbook for 1945 described Leslie Howard's work as "one of the most valuable facets of British propaganda".

The Germans could have suspected even more surreptitious activities, since Portugal, like Switzerland, was a crossroads for internationals and spies from both sides. British historian James Oglethorpe, investigated Howard's connection to the secret services. Ronald Howard's book explores the written German orders to the Ju 88 squadron, in great detail, as well as British communiqués that verify intelligence reports indicating a deliberate attack on Howard. These accounts indicate that the Germans were aware of Churchill's real whereabouts at the time and were not so naive as to believe he would be travelling alone on board an unescorted, unarmed civilian aircraft, which Churchill also acknowledged as improbable. Ronald Howard was convinced the order to shoot down Howard's airliner came directly from Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in Nazi Germany, who had been ridiculed in one of Leslie Howard's films, and believed Howard to be the most dangerous British propagandist.

Most of the 13 passengers were either British executives with corporate ties to Portugal, or lower-ranking British government civil servants. There were also two or three children of British military personnel. The bumped passengers were the teenage sons of Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt: George and William Cecil, who had been recalled to London from their Swiss boarding school. Being bumped by Howard saved their lives. William Cecil is best associated with his ownership and preservation of his grandfather George Washington Vanderbilt's Biltmore estate in North Carolina. William Cecil described a story in which he met a woman, several months after his return to London, who said she had secret war information, and used his mother's phone to put in a call to the British Air Ministry. She told them that she had a message from Leslie Howard.

A 2008 book by Spanish writer José Rey Ximena claims that Howard was on a top-secret mission for Churchill to dissuade Francisco Franco, Spain's authoritarian dictator and head of state, from joining the Axis powers. Via an old girlfriend, Conchita Montenegro, Howard had contacts with Ricardo Giménez Arnau, a young diplomat in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Further circumstantial background evidence is revealed in Jimmy Burns's 2009 biography of his father, spymaster Tom Burns. According to author William Stevenson in A Man called Intrepid, his biography of Sir William Samuel Stephenson (no relation), the senior representative of British Intelligence for the western hemisphere during the Second World War, Stephenson postulated that the Germans knew about Howard's mission and ordered the aircraft shot down. Stephenson further claimed that Churchill knew in advance of the German intention to shoot down the aircraft, but allowed it to proceed to protect the fact that the British had broken the German Enigma code. Former CIA agent Joseph B. Smith recalled that, in 1957, he was briefed by the National Security Agency on the need for secrecy and that Leslie Howard's death had been brought up. The NSA claimed that Howard knew his aircraft was to be attacked by German fighters and sacrificed himself to protect the British code-breakers.

The 2010 biography by Estel Eforgan, Leslie Howard: The Lost Actor, examines currently available evidence and concludes that Howard was not a specific target, corroborating the claims by German sources that the shootdown was "an error in judgement". There is a monument in San Andrés de Teixido, Spain, dedicated to the victims of the crash. Howard's aircraft was shot down over the sea north of this village.


Howard did not publish an autobiography, although a compilation of his writings, Trivial Fond Records, edited and with occasional comments by his son Ronald, was published in 1982. This book includes insights on his family life, first impressions of America and Americans when he first moved to the United States to act on Broadway, and his views on democracy in the years prior to and during the Second World War.

Howard's son and daughter each published memoirs of their father: In Search of My Father: A Portrait of Leslie Howard (1984) by Ronald Howard, and A Quite Remarkable Father: A Biography of Leslie Howard (1959) by Leslie Ruth Howard.

Estel Eforgan's Leslie Howard: The Lost Actor is a full-length book biography published in 2010.

Leslie Howard: A Quite Remarkable Life, a film documentary biography produced by Thomas Hamilton of Repo Films, was shown privately at the NFB Mediatheque, Toronto, Canada in September 2009 for contributors and supporters of the film. Subsequently, re-edited and retitled "Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave a Damn", the documentary was officially launched on 2 September 2011 in an event held at Leslie Howard's former home "Stowe Maries" in Dorking, and reported on BBC South News the same day. Lengthy rights negotiations with Warners then delayed further screenings until May 2012, although the situation now appears to have been resolved and Repo Films now intends to enter the film into various International Film Festivals.


Year Country Title Credited as
Director Producer Actor Role
1914 UK The Heroine of Mons Yes cast member
1917 UK The Happy Warrior Yes Rollo
1919 UK The Lackey and the Lady Yes Tony Dunciman
1920 UK Twice Two Yes
UK The Temporary Lady Yes
UK The Bump Yes
UK Bookworms Yes Yes Richard
UK Five Pounds Reward Yes Yes Tony Marchmont
1921 UK Too Many Crooks Yes
1930 US Outward Bound Yes Tom Prior
1931 US Five and Ten Yes Bertram "Berry" Rhodes
US Devotion Yes David Trent
US A Free Soul Yes Dwight Winthrop
US Never the Twain Shall Meet Yes Dan Pritchard
1932 UK Service for Ladies Yes Max Tracey
US Smilin' Through Yes Sir John Carteret
US The Animal Kingdom Yes Tom Collier
1933 US Berkeley Square Yes Peter Standish
US Captured! Yes Captain Fred Allison
US Secrets Yes John Carlton
1934 US British Agent Yes Stephen "Steve" Locke
UK The Lady Is Willing Yes Albert Latour
US Of Human Bondage Yes Philip Carey
1935 UK The Scarlet Pimpernel Yes Sir Percy Blakeney
1936 US The Petrified Forest Yes Alan Squier
US Romeo and Juliet Yes Romeo
1937 US Stand-In Yes Atterbury Dodd
US It's Love I'm After Yes Basil Underwood
1938 UK Pygmalion Yes Yes Yes Professor Henry Higgins
1939 US Intermezzo Yes Yes Holger Brandt
US Gone with the Wind Yes Ashley Wilkes
1941 UK "Pimpernel" Smith Yes Yes Yes Professor Horatio Smith
UK Common Heritage Yes Himself
UK 49th Parallel Yes Philip Armstrong Scott
UK From the Four Corners Yes A passer-by
UK The White Eagle Yes narrator
1942 UK In Which We Serve Yes voice
UK The First of the Few Yes Yes Yes R.J. Mitchell
UK National Savings Trailer: Noel Coward and Leslie Howard Yes on-screen participant
UK Mr. Leslie Howard "by request" Yes presenter
1943 UK War in the Mediterranean Yes voice
UK The Gentle Sex Yes Yes Yes "Observations of a mere man" (voice)
UK The Lamp Still Burns Yes

Theatre credits

Date Title Role Notes
20 December 1913 Deception Wilson Smith Author
Stanley Hall, Upper Norwood, London
(Amateur Production)
20 December 1913 The Perplexed Husband Stanley Hall, Upper Norwood, London
(Amateur Production)
October/November Tour
Peg O' My Heart Jerry England Tour
Winter-Spring Tour
Charley's Aunt Jack Chesney England Tour
10 June 1917 The Tidings Brought to Mary the Apprentice Strand Theatre, London
Summer-Fall Tour
Under Cover Monty Vaughan England Tour
14 February - 30 March 1918 The Freaks Ronald Herrick New Theatre, London
19 March 1918 Romanticismo Marquis Giacomino d'Arfo Comedy Theatre, London
14 April 1918 Romanticismo Marquis Giacomino d'Arfo King's Hall, London
1 April 1918 The Morals of Vanda Leonard Mortimer Grand Theatre, Croydon, London
6 May 1918 Box B Capt. Robert Stroud London Coliseum, London
3 June 1918 Sinners Robert Ransom Prince of Wales Theatre, Birmingham, England
20 July 1918 - Spring 1919 The Title John Culver Royalty Theatre, London
3 April 1919 Our Mr. Hepplewhite Lord Bagley Criterion Theatre, London
24 November 1919 Just A Wife Or Two Victor Hamilton West Pier, Brighton, England
5 January 1920 Mr. Pim Passes By Brian Strange New Theatre, London and The Garrick Theatre, London
10 February 1920 The Young Person in Pink Lord Stevenage Prince of Wales Theatre, London
16 February 1920 Kitty Breaks Loose Jack Wilson/Sir John Wilde Duke of York's Theatre, London
9 June 1920 East Is West Billy Benson Lyric Theatre, London
July 1920 Rosalind of the Farmyard Captain L'Estrange Shaftesbury Theatre, London
1 November 1920 - January 1921 Just Suppose Hon. Sir Calverton Shipley Henry Miller's Theatre, New York
10 December 1920 P's and Q's Charley Stark Morosco Theatre, New York
10 October 1921 - October 1921 The Wren Roddy Gaiety Theatre, New York
22 December 1921 - February 1922 Danger Percy Sturgess 39th Street Theatre, New York
14 March 1922 - June 1922 The Truth About Blayds Oliver Blayds Booth Theatre, New York
24 August - September 1922 A Serpent's Tooth Jerry Middleton Little Theatre, New York
14 November - December 1922 The Romantic Age Gervase Mallory Comedy Theatre, New York
25 December 1922 - January 1923 The Lady Cristilinda Martini Broadhurst Theatre, New York
20 February - April 1923 Anything Might Happen Hal Turner Comedy Theatre, New York
21 May - June 1923 Aren't We All? The Hon. William Tatham Gaiety Theatre, New York
7 January - May 1924 Outward Bound Henry Ritz Theatre, New York
25 August - December 1924 The Werewolf Paolo Moreira 49th Street Theatre, New York
13 January - February 1925 Shall We Join the Ladies? Mr. Preen Empire Theatre, New York
13 January - February 1925 Isabel Peter Graham Empire Theatre, New York
15 September 1925 - February 1926 The Green Hat Napier Harpenden Broadhurst Theatre, New York
27 July 1926 The Way You Look At It Bobby Rendon Queen's Theatre, London
20 December 1926 Mayfair Broad Street Theatre,
Newark (Out-of-Town Tryout)
21 March - August 1927 Her Cardboard Lover Andre Sallicel Empire Theatre, New York
29 September - October 1927 Murray Hill Wrigley Author
Bijou Theatre, New York
26 October 1927 - March 1928 Escape Matt Denant Booth Theatre, New York
June 1928 Tell Me the Truth (A Bit of Tomfoolery) Author
Ambassadors Theatre, London
21 August 1928 Her Cardboard Lover Andre Sallicel Lyric Theatre, London
6 March 1929 Berkeley Square Peter Standish Lyric Theatre, London
1929 Candle Light Josef Southampton, England
30 September 1929 - January 1930 Candle Light Josef Empire Theatre, New York
4 November 1929 - May 1930 Berkeley Square Peter Standish Co-producer, Co-director
Lyceum Theatre, New York
8 February - February 1930 Out of a Blue Sky Author, Director
Booth Theatre, New York
12 January - June 1932 The Animal Kingdom Tom Collier Co-producer
Broadhurst Theatre, New York
31 March - April 1932 We Are No Longer Children Co-director
Booth Theatre, New York
19–28 October 1933 This Side Idolatry William Shakespeare Producer
Lyric Theatre, London
July 1934 Elizabeth Sleeps Out Author
Whitehall Theatre, London
7 January - June 1935 The Petrified Forest Alan Squier Co-producer
Broadhurst Theatre, New York
20 April - May 1936 Elizabeth Sleeps Out Author
Comedy Theatre, New York
10 November - December 1936 Hamlet Hamlet Director, Producer
Imperial Theatre, New York
27 September 1937 Alias Mrs. Jones Author, Director
Little Theatre, Bristol, England
May 1938 Here's to Our Enterprise Lyceum Theatre, London
25 September 1942 Cathedral Steps Horatio Nelson St. Paul's Cathedral, London

Radio career

Howard was not only an accomplished actor on stage and screen, he appeared many times on radio as well. Howard began his career on radio in the early 1930s when he performed dramatic readings for The Yardley Program. Not much is known about the programme because the recordings have been lost, but references to the show can be found in fan magazines of the time and the show is listed in The New York Times radio programme guide. Howard was also a guest performer on such shows as The Rudy Vallee Show/Fleischmann's Yeast Hour, Lux Radio Theatre, The Silver Theatre, The Magic Key of RCA, Your Hit Parade and Kraft Music Hall with Bing Crosby.

In May, 1935, Leslie Howard and his daughter, Leslie Ruth Howard, aged 10, appeared on The Rudy Vallee Show/Fleischmann's Yeast Hour in "The Enchanted Forest" scene from James M. Barrie's Dear Brutus. The show was so popular with audiences that for the first time in the show's history an encore was performed six weeks later on 27 June 1935. That show survives and can be heard on the Old Time Radio Library's website.

At the end of 1936 Howard began appearing as a guest on Eddie Cantor's Texaco Town. It took six months and three appearances before he and Cantor finally delivered the punch line in the skit "Three Pairs of Rubbers." Howard's appearances were not limited to guest spots. Beginning in October 1935 and into the spring of 1936 Howard had his own show on CBS. It was a serial titled The Amateur Gentleman. The show eventually became Leslie Howard's Matinee with each week bringing a new adapted play popular at the time to radio listeners. Howard also appeared in Columbia Presents Shakespeare as Benedick in the play Much Ado About Nothing with Rosalind Russell in the summer of 1937. Howard produced two shows for Lux Radio Theatre: Lady for A Day, starring May Robson and Guy Kibbee, and The Life of Emile Zola, starring Paul Muni and Josephine Hutchinson. His last known radio appearance in the United States before returning to Britain to help with the war effort was the Radio Tribute to the King and Queen in which dozens of British stars performed skits while King George VI and Queen Elizabeth listened with President Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt from Hyde Park. Howard's appearances on the BBC's Britain Speaks were broadcast to the United States from 16 July 1940, after the onset of the Second World War urging America to enter the war in support of Britain. By January 1941 Howard had completed 27 broadcasts of Britain Speaks. Howard also appeared on a panel programme for the BBC called The Brains Trust.

Unfortunately, most of Howard's radio broadcasts have been lost but a few have survived for the enjoyment of audiences today.

Radio credits

Date Network Show Title Episode Title Episode Number Appearing Listen (Shows filed under show title)
27 March 1932 to 8 May 1932 NBC Networks Yardley Program Yardley Program Leslie Howard Reading, London String Quartet
1933 or 1934 NBC Rudy Vallee - Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour Leslie Howard,
Margaret Sullavan
23 May 1934 NBC Sketch: Without the Benefit of Clergy Without the Benefit of Clergy Leslie Howard
9 December 1934 NBC Lux Radio Theatre Berkeley Square 9 Leslie Howard,
Helen Chandler
14 February 1935 NBC Rudy Vallee - Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour A Minuet 278 Leslie Howard,
Merle Oberon
Old Time Radio Library
31 March 1935 NBC Lux Radio Theatre The Romantic Age 25 Leslie Howard,
Sidney Fox
16 May 1935 NBC Rudy Vallee - Fleischmann's Yeast Hour Dear Brutus 291 Leslie Howard,
Leslie Ruth Howard
27 June 1935 NBC Rudy Vallee - Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour Dear Brutus 297 Leslie Howard,
Leslie Ruth Howard
Old Time Radio Library
6 October 1935 to 1 December 1935 CBS The Amateur Gentleman The Amateur Gentleman Leslie Howard,
Elizabeth Love
8 December 1935 CBS Play: Dear Brutus Dear Brutus Leslie Howard,
Leslie Ruth Howard
22 December 1935 CBS Play: Purple and Fine Linen Purple and Fine Linen Leslie Howard
29 December 1935 CBS Play: An Unfinished Story An Unfinished Story Leslie Howard,
Paula Winslowe
5 January 1936 CBS Play: Her Cardboard Lover Her Cardboard Lover Leslie Howard
12 January 1936 CBS Play: The Admirable Crichton The Admirable Crichton Leslie Howard
26 January 1936 CBS Leslie Howard's Matinee There's Always Juliet Leslie Howard
2 February 1936 CBS Leslie Howard's Matinee The Guardsman Leslie Howard
9 February 1936 CBS Leslie Howard's Matinee Murray Hill Leslie Howard
16 February 1936 CBS Leslie Howard's Matinee Journey's End Leslie Howard
23 February 1936 CBS Leslie Howard's Matinee Springtime for Henry Leslie Howard
8 March 1936 CBS Leslie Howard's Matinee The Scarlet Pimpernel Leslie Howard
15 March 1936 CBS Leslie Howard's Matinee Raffles Leslie Howard
22 March 1936 CBS Leslie Howard's Matinee Just Suppose Leslie Howard
29 March 1936 CBS Leslie Howard's Matinee The Second Man Leslie Howard
5 April 1936 CBS Magic Key of RCA, The Galsworthy’s Justice 026 Leslie Howard Old Time Radio Library
17 September 1936 NBC Rudy Vallee - Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour The Miraculous Visitor 7 Leslie Howard,
Beatrice Barrett,
Carl Hubble
6 December 1936 CBS Eddie Cantor’s Texaco Town Three Pairs of Rubbers 12 Leslie Howard Old Time Radio Library
14 February 1937 CBS Eddie Cantor’s Texaco Town Hamlet 22 Leslie Howard Old Time Radio Library
19 May 1937 CBS Your Hit Parade Interview and Lucky Strike Ad Leslie Howard Transcript Variety Radio Directory
30 May 1937 CBS Eddie Cantor’s Texaco Town Aired In England 37 Leslie Howard Old Time Radio Library
21 June 1937 CBS Lux Radio Theatre Monsieur Beaucaire 138 Leslie Howard,
Elissa Landi
Old Time Radio Library - Lux
19 July 1937 CBS Columbia Presents Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing 2nd show in series Leslie Howard,
Rosalind Russell
Old Time Radio Library
2 January 1938 BBC Hamlet Leslie Howard
28 November 1938 CBS Lux Radio Theatre Interference 195 Leslie Howard,
Mary Astor,
Herbert Marshall
12 December 1938 CBS Lux Radio Theatre The Scarlet Pimpernel 197 Leslie Howard,
Olivia de Havilland
Old Time Radio Library - Lux
15 December 1938 NBC The Kraft Music Hall Leslie Howard,
Jane Bryan
8 January 1939 CBS Silver Theatre, The A Study in Triangles 028 Leslie Howard,
Rita Johnson
Old Time Radio Library
26 March 1939 CBS The Gulf Screen Guild Theater Never In This World 012 Leslie Howard,
Kay Francis,
Mary Nash,
Irving Pichel,
Virginia Weidler,
Morgan Wallace
Screen Guild Theater
1 May 1939 CBS Lux Radio Theatre Lady For A Day 217 May Robson,
Guy Kibbee,
Warren William,
Jean Parker
Old Time Radio Library - Lux
8 May 1939 CBS Lux Radio Theatre The Life of Emile Zola 218 Paul Muni,
Josephine Hutchinson
Old Time Radio Library - Lux
11 June 1939 NBC Radio Tribute to the King and Queen Goodbye, Mr. Chips Segment Leslie Howard,
Greer Garson
Tribute To Their Majesties

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