A Review of "Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave a Damn"

On 1st June 1943, over the Bay of Biscay, eight German Junkers shot down a commercial aircraft flying from Lisbon to Bristol. All thirteen on board died. After what must have been just a few brief, but terrifying, moments of violent gunfire, flames and smoke, the swirling, inhospitable seas claimed one of its most famous and nobly heroic victims -- Leslie Howard.

The German pilots returned to base, their grim orders carried out to the letter. The only sign of their destruction, a plume of steam hovering over the waves. The worlds of cinema and theatre had lost one of its finest and most glamorous talents; England and her Allies had lost a patriotically committed voice, and two children had lost a loving and devoted father.

It is this latter, family element that shines through most brightly and touches one’s heart in Tom Hamilton’s masterly ninety minute documentary on the life of the film star. Of course, the actors glittering career is all here. From post-First World War stage successes in London and New York to his early roles in Hollywood in films such as ‘Outward Bound’ and ‘The Petrified Forest’ which would in due course lead on to classics such as ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ and ‘Pygmalion’.

But Hamilton’s documentary begins, as it surely must, with an in-depth analysis of the part and film for which Howard is most famous, but as we are entertainingly informed here, liked the least--Ashley Wilkes in ‘Gone With The Wind’.

There is much previously unseen film footage to be enjoyed in ‘The Man Who Gave A Damn’ which surprisingly manages to give the documentary an incredibly fresh and almost modern feel. The myriad interviews with former colleagues of the star, and others also with a professional interest, help to keep the story moving along with energy, humour and compassion.

But there are three strands to this biography that Hamilton weaves together that transport it to a different class of film star documentary altogether. Firstly, the use of generous helpings of home-movie footage, none of which I can remember ever having seen before. This is then linked skilfully with extensive interviews with Howard’s daughter, Doodie. Without question, it is she who provides the very special emotional core of the film. And finally, and this must be Hamilton’s greatest stroke of genius, there is Derek Partridge as narrator and interviewer. This is the same Derek Partridge who, as a young boy, was asked to give up his seat on Flight 777 from Lisbon to Bristol, so that Leslie Howard might take it in his place. Appropriately, Partridge, remains a shadowy presence. It is Howard’s story, and both Partridge and Hamilton never allow it to become anything else. Even at the very end, as Partridge recalls his innocent involvement in Howard’s final meeting with destiny, the overall tone is restrained, understated. Just as it should be when dealing with a man like Leslie Howard.

George Cukor once commented, ‘Leslie Howard was mysterious in a very odd way and his death was mysterious too. He sort of went off in a cloud and one never knew what happened to him’.

He was right. By disappearing in that dreadful cloud of fire and smoke, in death Leslie Howard ultimately managed to ‘out-Pimpernel’ even one of his most famous creations, Sir Percy Blakeney.

But even Blakeney’s heroics would not have been enough to bring Howard back from those deathly waters. But then, he hasn’t had to. Because now, almost seventy years later, Tom Hamilton has done just that. For ninety sublime, moving and compelling minutes, the Bay of Biscay’s inhospitable waves have parted, the steam and smoke subsided, and the enigmatic and mysterious Leslie Howard is with us once more.

 

MARK BURGESS 

Playwright -- Interviewee

Latest News

Wednesday
Oct022013

Tell Your Friends -- and Win Prizes!!

This is Tom, with news of a fantastic free new competition for everyone to enter.

Over the past 6 months some of you have very generously pledged toward my two campaigns to release the documentaries on Leslie Howard. You have all helped bring these projects closer to release, but there’s still a way to go. I don’t want to ask the same people to pledge more towards this -- those who already pledged have given enough (financially speaking) and, besides, this is not how campaigns like this are meant to work!

For this campaign to REALLY work, it needs to be viewed by AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE. The more who view it and talk about it, the more might pledge. If Indiegogo see lots of activity on a campaign they automatically upgrade it which means they will feature it on their Home Page. With that sort of attention, any campaign will win increased support and make the Gold Goal much easier to achieve.

So here’s something everyone can join in and share the excitement of: a competition for who can refer most people to my campaign!  Your contacts don’t HAVE to pledge money; they just have to watch the campaign video, check the updates and refer THEIR friends to the campaign as well.

 Q) WILL IT COST ME ANYTHING?

 A)  Absolutely not, just the time to register, plan who to contact and write emails.

 

Q) WHAT CAN I WIN?

 A) On October 16th if we’ve reached the Bronze goal, we’ll count your referrals (& funds raised) and whoever has most will win the following prizes:

 

3rd prize – Deluxe DVD* version of “The Man Who Gave A Damn" + "The Mystery of Flight 777," including additional interview material and out-takes, making of footage, commentaries, etc.

2nd Prize – Deluxe DVD* Version of “The Man Who Gave A Damn" + "The Mystery of Flight 777," including additional interview material and out-takes, making of footage, commentaries, etc., + YOUR NAME in a special "Thank you" credit at the end of each film.

1st Prize (for whoever generates the most verified referrals between now and October 15th) – a Deluxe DVD* version of "The Man Who Gave A Damn" + "The Mystery of Flight 777," including additional interview material and out-takes, making of footage, commentaries, etc., YOUR NAME in a special "Thank you" credit at the end of each film AND a bound and illustrated transcript of the final release version of "The Man Who Gave a Damn" with footnotes by Tom Hamilton) and with a personal inscription from the director.

 

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL!!  If we reach the GOLD GOAL (the top tier mentioned at the end of the video), I’ll organise a screening of the film in YOUR HOME TOWN AT WHICH YOU’LL BE THE GUEST OF HONOUR.  We’ll film the event and include it in the bonus features of the DVD!!

 

Q) WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?

A) Step 1 – Email me to say you want to become A “LESLIE CAMPAIGNER.”

Step 2 – I’ll invite you through Indiegogo to join my campaign team. This will require you to register yourself with Indiegogo – but please note there is absolutely no cost, nor future financial commitment in doing this – and you can always close your Indiegogo account when the campaign is all done. 

Step 3 - When you complete your registration you’ll give yourself the title of “Leslie Campaigner”. 

Step 4 – Go onto the Leslie Howard campaign and you can forward links to it to your friends. The more you refer, the better the chance of getting pledges, and the higher your score will be. However please don’t spam your friends OR complete strangers – talk to them first – make sure they understand it’s something you’re personally involved in. And tell them about the competition – anyone can become a Leslie Campaigner and the more THEY refer, the higher YOUR score. 

Step 5 – Watch for updates!! I’ve posted 5 so far, including this one and I’ll post more. Think up new ways of reaching people. Keep your friends engaged. Organise Leslie Howard nights: First of the Few, Pimpernel Smith, It’s Love that I’m After and Pygmalion are particularly good. 

Step 6 – On the campaign “Dashboard” you can see your referral score and also how the other “Leslie Campaigners” are doing. IT’S A REAL RACE. 

Step 7 – It’s free, exciting, with great prizes and you’ll be able to say “I helped get these films released”. 

Leslie Howard never took no for an answer – let’s be like Leslie on this. 

Thanks for your time.

Tom Hamilton

Repo Films Ltd

 

 * Expected release date – April 2014.

Monday
Sep162013

Indiegogo Campaign to Complete Both Leslie Howard Projects

"Leslie Howard: The Man who Gave a Damn" AND 
"Leslie Howard: The Mystery of Flight 777"

This has been a long journey for all of us, but thanks to the loyalty and commitment of Derek Partridge and others involved, these two films are almost ready for release. We plan to market these extensively through festivals as well as at special events – for fan clubs, World War II devotees, Universities, as well as at events for other interested parties.  I will be attending an event in Portugal later this year where we will present a screening.

And of course we want to be able to release these films on DVD and market them to the widest audience possible.

But there are still clearances, archive material and music to license, legalities and post-production elements which must be finalised—and financed—before this can occur. For this we are asking for the help of people like yourself – through pledging small (or large) amounts of funds –and through telling your friends. We are offering some fantastic rewards as "thanks” to those of you who do pledge.

Please watch this latest video from producer and director, Tom Hamilton:

 

 

WHAT WE NEED AND WHAT YOU GET

As stated in our Campaign video the costs of Post production and carrying out the necessary clearances on a documentary of this nature, which relies on archival material to a considerable degree, is expensive.

 However these costs can be broken down a bit to what is absolutely necessary to give a basic as is “legal to show” status (which would essentially mean a fairly Spartan project purely featuring the interviews and footage we shot, with minimal production music, visual finishing etc.)  However, a higher level of funds would enable the productions to be completed to the standard I originally envisaged.

 

In order to make this clear I’ve broken the funds we need down to three tiers:

Bronze level goals, Silver Level Goals & Gold Level Goals.

 PLEASE GO TO THE INDIEGOGO SITE TO READ DETAILS OF THE GOALS:

 

 

THE IMPACT

I think Leslie Howard is an unfairly neglected figure -- a wonderful actor and a great human being who managed to carve out a very unique career across a variety of media.

I have dreamt of finishing and releasing these documentaries, and I'm sure they will revive interest in Leslie and his career. 

 

OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP

Even if you are unable to contribute directly, you can still help with this campaign.  Tell your friends, post links to the video on your facebook pages, tell your parents, tell your grandparents! 

Leslie has a really special appeal to people and his films constantly win him new fans. 

Why not organize a Leslie Howard night?  If you're based in the UK, I might even be able to come along and treat you and your guests to a sneak preview (provided you can cover my transport and basic accomodiation, I'm happy to do this). 

AND REMEMBER TO USE INDIEGOGO'S SHARE TOOLS!

 

Friday
Sep062013

More News Coming Soon!!!

Wednesday
Jan092013

Leslie Ruth Howard Passes Away

 

January 9th 2013: A sad day indeed. Early this morning I received an email from Fenella Howard telling me of the passing of her beloved Aunt Doodie - yesterday afternoon, peacefully in her sleep. Whilst the news was not unexpected - Doodie had been ill for some time - it was still a truly saddening piece of news. 
As much as Leslie, her father, was unique amongst movie stars - so Doodie was one unique lady - funny, irreverent, kindly, occasionally scathing and a true Brit. No one who met her or got to know this remarkable lady will ever forget her - for myself and Tracy meeting Doodie proved to be life changing. I treasure the friendship that developed between us and my heartfelt condolences go to her many family members.

Tom Hamilton, Repo Films

Friday
Sep092011

BBC News Report on "Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave a Damn" Premiere