Birthday: April 3, 1893
Died At Age: 50
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Leslie Howard Steiner
Born in: Forest Hill, London, United Kingdom
Famous as: Actor
Height: 5'10" (178 cm), 5'10" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Ruth Evelyn Martin
father: Ferdinand Steiner
mother: Lilian Blumberg
siblings: Arthur Howard, Dorice Howard, Irene Howard, Jimmy Howard
children: Leslie Ruth Dale-Harris, Ronald Howard
Died on: June 1, 1943
place of death: Bay of Biscay
City: London, England
education: Dulwich College, Alleyn's School
Who was Leslie Howard?
Leslie Howard was an English actor, director, and producer best known for playing Ashley Wilkes in ‘Gone With the Wind.’ Known for his quintessential Englishness which made him the perfect choice to play sophisticated and suave gentlemen, he began his career as a stage actor. Born in London into a family of mixed ancestry, he developed an early interest in show business due to his mother’s love for dramatics. His father wanted him to pursue a more stable profession so the young Leslie took up a job as a bank clerk. However this job did not satisfy the ambitious soul and he embarked on an acting career on the London stage. After serving in the World War I, he began his film career and soon moved to Hollywood in search of better prospects. His polished good looks and genteel mannerism earned him much popularity in the US as well. His appearances in films like ‘Gone with the Wind’, ‘“Pimpernel" Smith’, and ‘Intermezzo’ further cemented his stardom. He was active as an actor and filmmaker during the World War II and was also involved in anti-German propaganda and reputedly involved with British or Allied Intelligence. The great star of Hollywood met an untimely end when the plane he was travelling in was shot down by German fighters over the Bay of Biscay in 1943.
Childhood & Early Life
Leslie Howard Steiner was born on 3 April 1893 to a British mother, Lilian, and a Hungarian-Jewish father, Ferdinand Steiner, in London. He had four younger siblings.
He received his education from Dulwich College. He loved acting from a young age owing to his mother’s interest in dramatics and wanted to become an actor. But he took up a job as a bank clerk on his father’s behest.
At the outbreak of the World War I, he enlisted in the army and served as a subaltern in the Northamptonshire Yeomanry. He suffered shell shock during the Somme disaster of 1916 and was invalidated out of the army.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Having made his first film appearance in 1914 in the film ‘The Heroine of Mons’, directed by his uncle Wilfred Noy, Leslie Howard now took up acting in earnest. He became a stage actor in London where he found considerable success with his refined good looks and gentlemanly demeanor.
He moved to the US to further his acting prospects and became popular on Broadway in New York City. He gained much acclaim for his roles in plays like ‘Aren’t We All?’ (1923), ‘Outward Bound’ (1924), and ‘The Green Hat’ (1925) and ‘Her Cardboard Lover’ (1927).
Howard made his American film debut in 1930, when he appeared in ‘Outward Bound’ as Tom Prior, a role different from the one he had portrayed in the stage version. This effectively launched his Hollywood career.
He appeared in several prominent films over the ensuing years, often sharing the screen space with some of the most popular Hollywood stars. His movies from this era include ‘A Free Soul, (1933), ‘Berkeley Square’ (1933), and ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ (1934).
After becoming a much sought-after star, he was flooded with film offers. But he chose to carefully select his roles and appeared in only about two films a year. In 1936, he co-starred with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart in ‘The Petrified Forest.’ It was Howard who suggested that Bogart also be cast in the film and it helped re-launch Bogart’s failing career.
In 1939 he starred along with Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, and Olivia de Havilland in the film ‘Gone with the Wind’ where he played the character of Ashley Wilkes, an intellectual Southern gentleman. This would be his last American film, and also his most popular.
With the World War II looming large, Leslie Howard returned to England to help with the war effort. He remained active as an actor and filmmaker throughout the war period, starring in a number of war films including ‘49th Parallel’ (1941), ‘"Pimpernel" Smith’ (1941), and ‘The First of the Few’ (1942) the latter two of which he also directed and co-produced.
In addition to filmmaking, he also participated in anti-German propaganda and it was believed that he was involved with British or Allied Intelligence. In 1943 he was working on the movie ‘The Lamp Still Burns’, a study on the pressures faced by nurses in pre-NHS British hospitals, a project he did not live to complete.
Leslie Howard is best known for his role as Ashley Wilkes, the man with whom the character of Scarlett O'Hara is obsessed, in the epic film ‘Gone with the Wind’. The historical romance, set in the 19th-century American South, was a critical as well as commercial success, the highest-earning film made up to that point.
Awards & Achievements
He was twice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor: ‘Berkeley Square’ (1933) and ‘Pygmalion’ (1938).
Personal Life & Legacy
Howard married Ruth Evelyn Martin in 1916 and had two children. His son too became an actor on growing up.
Famous for his sex appeal, he reportedly had affairs with Tallulah Bankhead, Merle Oberon, and Conchita Montenegro while married to Ruth. There were also rumors of affairs with Norma Shearer and Myrna Loy. In addition, he openly had a mistress, Violette Cunnington, who acted as his secretary.
He died on 1 June 1943 when the KLM plane he was a passenger on was shot down by German fighters over the Bay of Biscay. He was 50. This shocking incident gave rise to several conspiracy theories.
In 1944, after his death, British exhibitors voted him the second most popular local star at the box office.
This English actor was good friends with Humphrey Bogart who named his daughter after him.