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A word about Leslie Howard (1893-1943)

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A couple of day ago, Olivia de Havilland celebrated # 101.   She is the only surviving star of “Gone with the wind”.  

What happened to the others?  Well, Clark Gable died in 1960 and Vivian Leigh in 1967.  

And then there is the story of Leslie Howard.

We remember Mr. Howard for his role as “Ashley Wilkes” in “Gone with the wind”, the movie released in 1939.  

However, there is another side to Mr. Howard’s career or his involvement in the war effort in the early 1940’s:       

In 1943 Howard was 50 and doing propaganda work of a more subtle kind, acting as a “British cultural ambassador” in Portugal.

On June 1 he boarded Flight 777 at Lisbon airport, a civilian DC-3 heading for Bristol.

A squadron of Junkers 88 fighter-bombers shadowed them and then, even though the airliner was known to be a civilian plane on a scheduled flight, shot it down over the Bay of Biscay.

Was it a mistake? Rumours soon began to circulate that the Luftwaffe had targeted the plane because they believed that Churchill was on it. The British prime minister was indeed supposed to be returning to the UK from Lisbon that day, on a later flight.

But it doesn’t seem likely that agents from the Abwehr, German military intelligence, could have confused the two flights – not least because Churchill would not have taken an unescorted scheduled flight at that stage in the war.

“There are many theories as to why my father was shot down,” Doodie says in the documentary. “One was that the Germans thought his manager, who was accompanying him, was Churchill – because he looked quite like him, a bald, pudgy man who smoked big cigars. But I don’t believe the German secret service would be taken in like that.”

We will never know the full story.    It could have been a tragic mistake, such as the case of Glenn Miller in December 1944.    Nevertheless, Leslie Howard was dead and a great actor was gone.


Written by scantojr

July 3, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Hollywood

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