A charmingly illustrated, alluring biography of the florid- and pocky-cheeked, intensely blue-eyed, chin-scarred, sandpaper-throated British actor who early on played romantic leads but quickly fell into more blustery character roles. The hell-raising, hard-drinking, outsized Howard of later years was born of a Lloyds of London underwriter of whom Howard saw little, and of a mother addicted to travel and globe-hopping and who thus exposed Howard and his sister Merla to such exotic places as Ceylon and Colorado. At a loss for a profession, Howard went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, found acting to be work that fit like a glove; and has remained a dedicated professional ever since. His first ten years were spent as a stage actor, playing Sheridan, Shaw, Shakespeare, and the moderns; his first film role was as a naval officer in The Way Ahead in 1944, for Carol Reed. In the 40's and 50's, he was a Carol Reed regular while being handed some of his greatest roles: as the crisp and seasoned Major Galloway in The Third Man, as the unsympathetic nonhero in Reed's compelling mishmash of Conrad's An Outcast of the Islands (1951), as a doomed lover in The Key (1958), for which he won Britain's Best Actor Award, and as Captain Bligh in the illfated Mutiny on the Bounty remake (1962). He is best remembered for his brilliant first starring role (in 1945) as the romantically beleaguered married doctor in the evergreen classic Brief Encounter. Howard's gifts have been squandered in dozens of feeble films, while some of his best work (as an octogenarian Cheyenne chief in The Windwalker, 1980) remains unsung. Childless, his marriage to Helen Cherry has lasted since they first played opposite each other onstage in 1943 in The Recruiting Officer. He is a determinedly private eccentric (and ex-hell-raiser) who never talks shop offstage. Among the better movie bios, although authorized and certainly keeping some skeletons in the closet.