Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Leslie Howard, director

I mentioned yesterday that TCM had already scheduled Gone With the Wind for 8:00 PM tonight. What I didn't mention is that it was on the schedule to kick off Leslie Howard's turn as TCM's Star of the Month. Howard was one of the many Britons who came to Hollywood in the early 1930s and made a very successful career for himself. However, 1939, the year of Gone With the Wind, also saw the Nazi invasion of Poland and the start of World War II for Britain, and Howard devoted himself to the anti-Nazi cause, eventually dying in 1943 under mysterious circumstances when the plane in which he was flying was shot down off the coast of France. (I could swear I've read speculation that he was serving as a decoy for Churchill on at least one flight he took, and I've also read that the Nazis particularly wanted Howard dead.) Howard's work against the Nazis also included filmmaking. I've mentioned his role in the movie 49th Parallel (coming up at 11:15 PM on July 31); there's also an appearance in the short From the Four Corners where he reminds soldiers from various countries in the British Commonwealth just what it is that Britain is fighting for.

Howard also did some work for the cause as a director, by making films about the home front that were presumably meant to keep up Britain's morale. TCM is showing all of these tonight: I say "all" of them becuase Howard was in the middle of directing the third when he was killed. I don't think I've seen any of these before, so I can't really do a review of any of them. They are:
The First of the Few (aka Spitfire) at 1:45 AM, about the tribulations of an aircraft designer;
The Gentle Sex at 4:00 AM, in which seven British women join the British equivalent of the WAACs, the auxiliary army corps; and
The Lamp Still Burns at 5:45 PM, about nursing in wartime.

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