Classic Cinema #26 – Of Human Bondage (1934) – By Jason S. Lockard

This month on Classic Cinema we are uncovering a gem of a film; 1934’s Of Human Bondage. You may have never heard of it, but trust me you should check it out! This drama based in the 1915 novel of the same title co-stars Bette Davis and is regarded by many as the film that made Bette Davis a star, but the movie is really about the long-suffering Philip Carey played by Leslie Howard; our star of the month!

Born Leslie Howard Steiner on April 3, 1893 to a british mother Lilian and a Hungarian father Fredinand Steiner in Forest Hill, London, UK. Howard began his acting career on the London Stage in 1917, but it would be on Broadway where he would become a star. Than after his success as Peter Standish in Berkeley Square Hollywood called for him to repeat his role in the 1933 film version of the play.

In just under a decade Leslie Howard place his mark on such great classic films like The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), The Petrified Forest (1936), Pygmalion (1938), Intermezzo (1939), Gone with the Wind (1939), Pimpernel Smith (1941) and The First of the Few (1942), but in 1934 he would take the starring role in our film fo rthis month Of Human Bondage.

Of Human Bondage rovolves around a sensitive, club-footed English artist named Philip Carey [Howard] who has been studying painting in Paris for four years; when his art teacher breaks the news to him he lacks the talent to become great. Carey returns to London to become a doctor, but he can’t keep his mind on his studies because of his moodiness and self-doubt.

While in a resturant Philip falls in love with a vulgar illiterate waitress Mildred Roger [Davis], alas his love is not returned! Philp will not rest so he continues to persue the anemic, pale-faced Mildred even though she is manipulative and cruel towards him. When ever Philip asks her out she responds "I don’t mind." Philip is so blinded by his love for Mildred that he is distracted during his test. He daydreams about her and the skeleton in the classroom transforms into Mildred, and he fails his medical examination!

Philip realises that he has not shot in being a doctor so he proposes to Mildred, but she declaines, telling him she will be marrying a salesman named Emil Miller. Mildred vindictively berates Philip for his romantic interest in her. It’s time for Philip to move on, and he does to and begins to forget about Mildred and even falls in love with an atractive and considerate romance writer named Norah who works under a male pseudonym. Just when it appears Philip will live happily ever after, Mildred returns, pregnant and claiming that Emil has abandoned her. At this point old feelings flood back into his heart and Philip arranges to take care of her financially and breaks off his relationship with Norah.

In the midst of the breakup Norah and Philip admit how bondages exist between people. Philips intends to marry Mildred after her child is born! Has Mildred learned her lesson and will fall for Philip? Will Philip find happiness with Mildred? Will they live happily ever after? You’ll have to watch the film to find out!

After years in Hollywood Leslie Howard became dissatisfied and returned to England to help out in the World War II effort. He starred in several War films including 1941’s 49 Parellel, Pimpernel Smith and 1942’s The First and the few. Howard died in 1943 when flying from Lisbon, Portugal to Bristol, UK on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines/BOAC flight 777. The aircraft was shot down by Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6. Howard was among 17 fatalities in the tragedy.

We will never no how many classic performances we may have been blessed with from this trememdous actor. Howard was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981.

So until next month this is Jason Lockard reminding you if you want to see a good movie; check out a classic!

Moral Rating: Parental Guidance [for adult situations]
Audience: Teens and Adults
Genre: Drama
Length: 83 min.
Released: 1934
Our Rating: A