You might best remember actor Leslie Howard in his iconic roll as Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind. But Howard has an interesting story that most of us haven’t heard.
Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about Howard:
1. While Howard is best known for his portrayals of upper-class gentlemanly characters, he was actually born to a Jewish Hungarian immigrant family in London in 1893.
2. He served as an officer in World War I but relinquished his commission due to severe shell shock.
3. Howard’s acting career began on the London stage and moved to Broadway before he began a successful film career in Hollywood, which included The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), Of Human Bondage (1934), and Pygmalion (1938).
4. With the onset of World War II, Howard relinquished his flourishing Hollywood career to return to Great Britain: “As both an Englishman and a Jew, Leslie wanted to use his talents to fight Hitler. He became the chief propagandist for the Allied Forces, directing himself in several flag-waving films about the need to fight the Nazis.”
5. On June 1, 1943, Howard was returning to England after lecturing in Spain on the threat of Hitler when his plane was shot down by the Germans. Many historians believe that Howard was the primary target, as he was particularly hated by master Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, who viewed him as a serious threat.
As a famous actor, WWI veteran, and at 50 years-old, Leslie Howard could have safely remained in Hollywood. Instead, he bravely chose to use his talents to fight with his countrymen and for his people. His heroic sacrifice is worth remembering the next time you watch Gone with the Wind.
Summarized and excerpted from “This Movie Star Fought Hitler in Real Life…” by The Accidental Talmudist.