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Leslie Howard (1) [1893–1943]

This page covers the author of Pygmalion [1938 film].

For other authors named Leslie Howard, see the disambiguation page.

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Leslie Howard was born Leslie Howard Steiner in a suburb of London to a British mother and a Hungarian Jewish father. He was painfully shy as a child and was diagnosed with "shell shock" after service in the British army in World War I. He turned to the theater as a form of therapy, and began appearing on the London stage within a few years. In 1923, he went to Broadway, where he achieved fame in a series of well-received productions over the following decade. He made his Hollywood debut in an adaptation of one of his successful plays, Outward Bound (1930). His performance opposite Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage (1933) helped make him one of the most popular film stars of the 1930s. He excelled at playing disillusioned intellectuals and gallant gentlemen and is remembered for three roles in particular: the swashbuckling Sir Percy Blakney in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), the arrogant Professor Henry Higgins in Pygmalion (1938), and the passive Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind (1939). By 1940, he had returned to England to support British efforts in World War II with a series of propaganda films, including 49th Parallel (1941). He was killed in 1943 when flying from Lisbon, Portugal, to Bristol, England, when the plane on which he was a passenger was shot down over the Bay of Biscay by the German Luftwaffe. He was reputedly involved with British or Allied Intelligence at the time.

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