The Schmooze

Quintessential British Actor's Jewishness Not 'Gone With the Wind'

In Portugal in 1943, shortly before his plane was shot down during a wartime propaganda mission, the actor Leslie Howard replied smilingly when he was described as a quintessential Englishman (he even seemed British in “Gone With the Wind”): “I suppose we do not have to tell them that I began as a Hungarian.”

Born Leslie Howard Steiner in London to Ferdinand Steiner, a Hungarian Jewish financier, and Lillian Blumberg, of East Prussian Jewish origin, little Leslie moved with his family at age five to Vienna, where he spent five formative years. Ambient anti-Semitism made the Steiners return definitively to England in 1903. A new biography, “Leslie Howard: The Lost Actor” by Estel Eforgan from Vallentine Mitchell Publishers, explains that Leslie was ordered to forget Teutonic culture, even punished if he dared speak German by being forced to “eat a piece of toast spread with mustard.”

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Quintessential British Actor's Jewishness Not 'Gone With the Wind'

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