Thursday, 14 July 2011

Best Actor 1933: Leslie Howard in Berkeley Square

Leslie Howard received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Peter Standish in Berkeley Square.

Berkeley Square tells of an American living in than modern London who travels back into the period around the American Revolution, this sounds possibly interesting but in actuality it is quite dull.

Leslie Howard's performance here is quite strange actually. For a good time of his performance his character acts with almost an uncaring attitude to the fact that he traveled through time. Partially due to this reason Howard is quite dull, and really feels like he is just going through the motions of a performance, than a real performance.

Leslie Howard does very little more than just sort of read his lines that feel rather unspectacular throughout the film. There is not a single moment that seems special in his entire performance, it is just one rather conventional moment than another. Howard does not have any special charm or wit in this performance, that frankly most of the time just felt rather boring to watch.

Howard is required a little more to do when he falls in love with one of his ancestors. The problem is the way he barely seemed to care about his whole situation really off sets this part of his performance poorly, since suddenly he wants to act like he does care. There is not a moment that I bought this romance, because they are very dull together.

Leslie Howard certainly could be quite good, like he was as Henry Higgins in Pygmalion, but none of that sardonic wit can be found in this part. Howard instead just gives a incredibly uninteresting performance. It fails to ever have a convincing, or effective scene throughout his performance, this is simply a bad performance just like the film itself.


Anonymous said...

To say I disagree with your review would be an understatement :) but
all of this is subjective anyway so I'll just give my opinion.
I actually feel Howard was excellent and this is an extremely underrated oscar nominated performance (or maybe underseen is the correct term). In the beginning of the movie he clearly brought passion into his role by showing his discontent with the present and romantasizing the past.

I also think you need to realize as is shown at the beginning of the film that Howard had traveled into the past before as Peter Standish, but a scene depicting his first travel into the past was not in the movie which is more the fault of the screenwriter than Howard. So since it is implied that he had traveled back in time before he is not going to show as much awe as his first time. Also he was inhabiting the body of Peter Standish and in many scenes where is around other people he has to "put up a front" so to speak and actually conciously act as another person.

Leslie Howard still shows his fascination with the past and as he spends more time in it his disillusionment with it also comes across as authentic. His romance with Heather Angel is also very convincing and the scene where Howard realizes the people around him all catch on to the fact there is something different about him and tell there suspicions out loud and feel Howard is an evil force of some kind. Howard then says to Angel that now she is afraid of him as well, but she tells him she is not and convinces Howard that she loves and trusts him. This scene is wonderfully played by both leads.

Even the final scene where he goes back to the present and learns that Heather Angel died shortly after he returned to the present and makes the decision to live in the house until he dies could have come across as ridiculous and corny in a lessy actors hands by filling it with a pathos that would have been out of place for Howard's character. Howard plays the scene in an emotional and realistic way clearly showing the hurt and pain and hope at the same time. The movie ends with Howard believing that in death he will be reuinited with his love.

I honestly can't say I'm a fan of Leslie Howard in general, but in this performance he did more than just "hit the right notes". He delivered an effective and engaging characterization that helped me keep watching the film through some of it's duller moments and it's a performance I won't soon forget.

Louis Morgan said...

Well thank you for the long response, but I really could not disagree with you more, especially about Heather Angel's performance who I felt was even more lacking than Howard's.

Also I must disagree because the lack original trip makes his performance lacking as well. It is true it technically was out of Howard's hands to have this scene, but than he needed to compensate. Also if it was filmed but cut, the performance still would be lacking due to the director, and most performances is a product of both the director, the actor, and possibly even a third party.

Anonymous said...

That's okay that you still feel that way about this performance.
Like I said it's subjective anyway so we'll have to agree to disagree :)