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Leslie Howard as SOTM June 2018

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STAR OF THE MONTH

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LESLIE HOWARD

Monday 4th of June 2018

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Monday 11th of June 2018

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Monday 18th of June 2018

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Monday 25th of June 2018

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 You know no one ever talks about Leslie Howard in A Free Soul.

This 1931 MGM classic has gone down in film history for a number of reasons.

I believe Lionel Barrymore won the Oscar for his role as the hopelessly alcoholic lawyer who comes through in the end. And Clark Gable became a Bonafide star when he slapped down Norma Shearer. Reportedly, Gable was very nervous about doing this because Norma's husband was head of production at MGM, the Boy Genius Irving G. Thalberg.

At the time of the film's release, there was much talk about how Lionel Barrymore's character was based on Adela Rogers St. Johns' own father, as she wrote the novel the film is based on.

Throughout all the discussion of the film, that I've seen, there's very little mention of Leslie Howard. With all the excitement around Gable and the other two meaty roles, people almost ignore the fact that Leslie was even in this movie. In fact, over the years I've read more about the dress designs and negligees that Adrian created for this movie than I've read about Leslie's participation.

So this might be a good time for everyone, when they view this movie again, To take a good look at just how great Leslie is in this movie --with a performance that is controlled, targeted, but still intense.

This is the kind of melodramatic film,  still close to the silent era, where people are chewing up the scenery all over the place.

After nearly 90 years maybe now people will have a chance to calm down about this film and  act more rationally and give Leslie Howard's performance the recognition that it has always deserved.

 

BTW-- MGM Workhorse Cinematographer William Daniels does such a beautiful job in this film, it has to be noted.

He was the  MGM cinematographer of choice for the Greta Garbo movies: 

Queen Christina, Anna Karenina, Grand Hotel, Mata Hari, Susan Lenox, Anna Christie and the extraordinarily beautiful Camille.

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I agree that Howard is overlooked in A FREE SOUL, but when I think of the movie I actually think of him ahead of the other stars. Not because of his performance per se, but more because he's such a great contrast to Gable. It's perfect casting.

Howard is also overshadowed in the Marion Davies film he made at Metro around the same time. Maybe MGM just wasn't the right studio for him.

My favorite Leslie Howard films are not included in this tribute. I think he's marvelous with Ingrid Bergman in the remake of INTERMEZZO. And I also love THE GENTLE SEX, a British war film told from the point of view of the women, which he directed and narrates. It was released about six weeks before his death in 1943. TCM did air THE GENTLE SEX when he was honored six years ago. It's a shame they didn't choose to rebroadcast it.

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

I agree that Howard is overlooked in A FREE SOUL, but when I think of the movie I actually think of him ahead of the other stars. Not because of his performance per se, but more because he's such a great contrast to Gable. It's perfect casting.

Howard is also overshadowed in the Marion Davies film he made at Metro around the same time. Maybe MGM just wasn't the right studio for him.

My favorite Leslie Howard films are not included in this tribute. I think he's marvelous with Ingrid Bergman in the remake of INTERMEZZO. And I also love THE GENTLE SEX, a British war film told from the point of view of the women, which he directed and narrates. It was released about six weeks before his death in 1943. TCM did air THE GENTLE SEX when he was honored six years ago. It's a shame they didn't choose to rebroadcast it.

I got to see some of Ingrid Bergman's Swedish films when I was in France. I think she was more beautiful without the Hollywood makeup. Leslie's Intermezzo was a general improvement over the Swedish version, but Ingrid was superb in both.

I think if the American audience had seen more of her Swedish work, she wouldn't have had so much trouble with her screen image adversely affecting her private and professional lives.

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

I agree that Howard is overlooked in A FREE SOUL, but when I think of the movie I actually think of him ahead of the other stars. Not because of his performance per se, but more because he's such a great contrast to Gable. It's perfect casting.

Howard is also overshadowed in the Marion Davies film he made at Metro around the same time. Maybe MGM just wasn't the right studio for him.

My favorite Leslie Howard films are not included in this tribute. I think he's marvelous with Ingrid Bergman in the remake of INTERMEZZO. And I also love THE GENTLE SEX, a British war film told from the point of view of the women, which he directed and narrates. It was released about six weeks before his death in 1943. TCM did air THE GENTLE SEX when he was honored six years ago. It's a shame they didn't choose to rebroadcast it.

Both stars are great in this film (Bergman's US debut as I'm sure you know),  as well as Edna Best,  as the wife.   My wife typically doesn't like the male character that plays an adultery (I wonder why,  ha ha),  but the way Howard handles the role,  as well as the two women,   this very sensitive topic is covered with a degree of class.

Fine film that also contains some nice music with Bergman playing the actual music herself (not on the recording but on film so those are her hands)  and Howard with a stand-in. 

Also a fan of The Gentle Sex.

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9 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Both stars are great in this film (Bergman's US debut as I'm sure you know),  as well as Edna Best,  as the wife.   My wife typically doesn't like the male character that plays an adultery (I wonder why,  ha ha),  but the way Howard handles the role,  as well as the two women,   this very sensitive topic is covered with a degree of class.

Fine film that also contains some nice music with Bergman playing the actual music herself (not on the recording but on film so those are her hands)  and Howard with a stand-in. 

Also a fan of The Gentle Sex.

Your use of the word "stand-in" reminds me of the 1937 picture STAND-IN...another Leslie Howard film missing from this tribute. It's in the public domain so I'm surprised TCM did not include it. He plays an east coast man sent to Hollywood by a board of directors to run a movie studio.

Humphrey Bogart has a supporting role. It's a rare comedy for Bogart, and a different sort of follow-up for these two after THE PETRIFIED FOREST. Walter Wanger produced and it was distributed through United Artists. Supposedly it was Bogart's then wife Mayo Methot who pushed for him to do it, because she didn't like how he was getting typecast in gangster pictures at Warner Brothers. In 1952 when Bogart had a daughter with Bacall they named her Leslie in honor of his late friend.

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11 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Your use of the word "stand-in" reminds me of the 1937 picture STAND-IN...another Leslie Howard film missing from this tribute. It's in the public domain so I'm surprised TCM did not include it. He plays an east coast man sent to Hollywood by a board of directors to run a movie studio.

Humphrey Bogart has a supporting role. It's a rare comedy for Bogart, and a different sort of follow-up for these two after THE PETRIFIED FOREST. Walter Wanger produced and it was distributed through United Artists. Supposedly it was Bogart's then wife Mayo Methot who pushed for him to do it, because she didn't like how he was getting typecast in gangster pictures at Warner Brothers. In 1952 when Bogart had a daughter with Bacall they named her Leslie in honor of his late friend.

I wondered if anyone would catch that and you did!   I like Stand-In.   Joan Blondell is great in the film and Howard and her have some very funny senses together.    Bogart as a director was a much different role for him and he does some very funny things like how he carries around his pet dog (like of like Paris Hilton,  ha ha).

This is yet another WB for-the-working-man film,  with Howard starting out as a corporate man who, thanks to Blondell,  see the side of the workers and their plight. 

There are only 17 films in this tribute which is on the low side.   

 

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3 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I wondered if anyone would catch that and you did!   I like Stand-In.   Joan Blondell is great in the film and Howard and her have some very funny senses together.    Bogart as a director was a much different role for him and he does some very funny things like how he carries around his pet dog (like of like Paris Hilton,  ha ha).

This is yet another WB for-the-working-man film,  with Howard starting out as a corporate man who, thanks to Blondell,  see the side of the workers and their plight. 

There are only 17 films in this tribute which is on the low side.   

 

Actually it was a UA release, produced independently by Walter Wagner. But Wanger borrowed Bogart & Blondell from Warners.

I agree that 17 films doesn't feel like enough. Some of Howard's other work aired last time, like THE LAMP STILL BURNS which he produced before his death. Looking at his filmography on wiki, he made his first screen appearance in 1914. He was in five silent films. Not sure if those are available. But there are two sound films he did in the 30s that TCM's never aired, SERVICE FOR LADIES and THE LADY IS WILLING (not to be confused with a similarly titled effort starring Marlene Dietrich).

TCM could have done a fifth night. But I get the feeling the main purpose of this tribute is to showcase the recent documentary which is scheduled multiple times. 

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On ‎3‎/‎28‎/‎2018 at 12:11 PM, Princess of Tap said:

 You know no one ever talks about Leslie Howard in A Free Soul.

This 1931 MGM classic has gone down in film history for a number of reasons.

I believe Lionel Barrymore won the Oscar for his role as the hopelessly alcoholic lawyer who comes through in the end. And Clark Gable became a Bonafide star when he slapped down Norma Shearer. Reportedly, Gable was very nervous about doing this because Norma's husband was head of production at MGM, the Boy Genius Irving G. Thalberg.

At the time of the film's release, there was much talk about how Lionel Barrymore's character was based on Adela Rogers St. Johns' own father, as she wrote the novel the film is based on.

Throughout all the discussion of the film, that I've seen, there's very little mention of Leslie Howard. With all the excitement around Gable and the other two meaty roles, people almost ignore the fact that Leslie was even in this movie. In fact, over the years I've read more about the dress designs and negligees that Adrian created for this movie than I've read about Leslie's participation.

So this might be a good time for everyone, when they view this movie again, To take a good look at just how great Leslie is in this movie --with a performance that is controlled, targeted, but still intense.

This is the kind of melodramatic film,  still close to the silent era, where people are chewing up the scenery all over the place.

After nearly 90 years maybe now people will have a chance to calm down about this film and  act more rationally and give Leslie Howard's performance the recognition that it has always deserved.

 

BTW-- MGM Workhorse Cinematographer William Daniels does such a beautiful job in this film, it has to be noted.

He was the  MGM cinematographer of choice for the Greta Garbo movies: 

Queen Christina, Anna Karenina, Grand Hotel, Mata Hari, Susan Lenox, Anna Christie and the extraordinarily beautiful Camille.

IMHO, Norma has her sexiest moment in cinema -  lying on that couch and telling Clark, "C'mon, put 'em around me."   Ah, pre code greatness.

Sorry to get away from Leslie.  Very fine actor who is worthy of SOTM.  I think THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL is his best (that I've seen)  but I hope to catch some of his other, lesser known movies that I haven't seen yet. 

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If AFI updates it's 100 movies list again, I've got to wonder how far GONE WITH THE WIND is going to fall. I remember growing up (born 1987) and it was so heavily acclaimed, and remained so circa 2007, but I think the advent of social media  age and entering the more woke age probably will do a number of this movie because many parts of it are unavoidably political and problematic. 

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44 minutes ago, BrianBlake said:

If AFI updates it's 100 movies list again, I've got to wonder how far GONE WITH THE WIND is going to fall. I remember growing up (born 1987) and it was so heavily acclaimed, and remained so circa 2007, but I think the advent of social media  age and entering the more woke age probably will do a number of this movie because many parts of it are unavoidably political and problematic. 

Yes I see it as a film that will lose much of its prestige, due to the politically incorrect way it glorifies slavery. It just won't hold up. Some will still try to defend it on historical grounds. But you can only go so far with that rationale.

The movie will certainly be in the news when Olivia de Havilland passes away. The publicity will cause new generations to look at GWTW for the first time, but they'll probably shun it once they realize its themes. So I do see it not maintaining its popularity.

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24 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Yes I see it as a film that will lose much of its prestige, due to the politically incorrect way it glorifies slavery. It just won't hold up. Some will still try to defend it on historical grounds. But you can only go so far with that rationale.

 The movie will certainly be in the news when Olivia de Havilland passes away. The publicity will cause new generations to look at GWTW for the first time, but they'll probably shun it once they realize its themes. So I do see it not maintaining its popularity.

As a history major, focusing on American history, I can tell you that you really can't get very far with that rationale. And even that aside things like the character Priscilla...it's practically indefensible on the race relations front. Nevermind how many people are now more cognizant of the whole lost cause hagiography and how this movie fed into that, not as explicitly as Birth of a Nation, but nevertheless clearly is sympathetic to that idea.

I wonder how the sexual politics play to people as well. I'd also go out on a limb and say in 2007 with people loving the Lord of The Rings movies, long epic movies were more in vogue. Today with our shorter attentions ,I think while people still like many longer movies, there's even more focus on pacing and things not being too long.

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8 hours ago, BrianBlake said:

As a history major, focusing on American history, I can tell you that you really can't get very far with that rationale. And even that aside things like the character Priscilla...it's practically indefensible on the race relations front. Nevermind how many people are now more cognizant of the whole lost cause hagiography and how this movie fed into that, not as explicitly as Birth of a Nation, but nevertheless clearly is sympathetic to that idea.

I wonder how the sexual politics play to people as well. I'd also go out on a limb and say in 2007 with people loving the Lord of The Rings movies, long epic movies were more in vogue. Today with our shorter attentions ,I think while people still like many longer movies, there's even more focus on pacing and things not being too long.

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The one part of the film that I find progressive is the part where Scarlett shoots the soldier on the stairs. That's a very defining feminist moment in the story, where we see the strength of a woman protecting herself from a home invader. Also we do see her having become self-sufficient at the end, proving she does not need a man to survive. So she's an ironic feminist role model. Though the sequel by Alexandra Ripley once again has her pining for Rhett.

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4 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

The one part of the film that I find progressive is the part where Scarlett shoots the soldier on the stairs. That's a very defining feminist moment in the story, where we see the strength of a woman protecting herself from a home invader. Also we do see her having become self-sufficient at the end, proving she does not need a man to survive. So she's an ironic feminist role model. Though the sequel by Alexandra Ripley once again has her pining for Rhett.

Very ironic feminist role model, considering how they later film the Rhett/Scarlett love/rape scene. (But she's happy after! She got what she needed!) And that scene is progressive, but again pro-lost cause and confederacy since the yankees are rapists and carpetbaggers.  But you're right. It's complicated and I still enjoy the movie for those elements, the performances, and other things it's epic scale is impossible to overlook. But I do find it ridiculous, aside from it's undeniable importance, iconography, and cultural significance and popularity that it's so often listed and listed high as one of the greatest movies ever.

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I just noticed looking at the schedule for tomorrow (11th of June) there is a Leslie Howard title airing right before PYGMALION. It's NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET.

Also on the 18th, DEVOTION (1931) airs before BERKELEY SQUARE. And on the 25th, OUTWARD BOUND (1930) airs right before THE 49TH PARALLEL.

I wonder why these were not made part of the primetime lineups.

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