19 July, 2008

Ronald Colman


Ronald Colman was an English Oscar and Golden Globe-winning actor.

Born in Richmond, Surrey, England, he was educated at boarding school in Littlehampton, where he discovered his enjoyment in acting. He intended to attend Cambridge University to study engineering, but his father's sudden death from pneumonia put an end to this for financial reasons.

He became a well-known amateur actor, and was a member of the West Middlesex Dramatic Society in 1908-9. He made his first appearance on the professional stage in 1914.

After working as a clerk at the British Steamship Company in the City of London, he joined the London Scottish Regiment in 1909 and was among the first of the Territorial Army to fight in World War I. During the war, he served with fellow actors Claude Rains, Herbert Marshall and Basil Rathbone. He was seriously wounded by shrapnel in his leg at the Battle of Messines on October 31, 1914, which caused him to acquire a limp that he would attempt to hide throughout the rest of his acting career. He was invalided from the service in 1916.

He had sufficiently recovered to appear at the London Coliseum on June 19, 1916, as Rahmat Sheikh in The Maharani of Arakan, with Lena Ashwell; at the Playhouse in September that year as Stephen Weatherbee in Charles Goddard & Paul Dickey's play The Misleading Lady; at the Court Theatre in March 1917 he played Webber in Partnership and at that theatre the following year appeared in Eugene Brieux's play, adapted from the French, Damaged Goods; at the Ambassador Theatre in February 1918 he played George Lubin in The Little Brother, and during 1918 toured as David Goldsmith in The Bubble.

In 1920 Colman went to America and toured with Robert Warwick in The Dauntless Three, and subsequently toured with Fay Bainter in East is West; at the Booth Theatre, New York, in January 1921 he played the Temple Priest in William Archer's play The Green Goddess, with George Arliss; at the 39th Street Theatre in August 1921 he appeared as Charles in The Nightcap; and in September 1922 he made a great success as Alain Sergyll at the Empire Theatre, New York in the hit play La Tendresse.

Ronald Colman had first appeared in films in England in 1917 and 1919 under Cecil Hepworth, and subsequently with the old Broadwest Film Company in The Snow of the Desert. While appearing on stage in New York in La Tendress, Director Henry King saw him, and engaged him as the leading man in the 1923 film, The White Sister, opposite Lillian Gish, and was an immediate success. Thereafter Colman virtually abandoned the stage for film. He became a very popular silent film star in both romantic and adventure films, and successfully made the transition to "talkies" because of his elegant and sonorous speaking voice. His dark hair and eyes and his athletic and riding ability led reviewers to describe him as a "Valentino type".

His first major talkie success was in 1930, when he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for two roles — Condemned and Bulldog Drummond. He thereafter appeared in a number of notable films including Raffles, The Masquerader, Clive of India, A Tale of Two Cities in 1935, Under Two Flags, The Prisoner of Zenda and Lost Horizon in 1937, If I Were King in 1938, and The Talk of the Town in 1941. He won the Best Actor Oscar in 1948 for A Double Life.

Beginning in 1945, Colman made many guest appearances on The Jack Benny Program on radio, alongside his second wife, stage and screen actress Benita Hume. Their comedy work as Benny's next-door neighbors led to their own radio comedy The Halls of Ivy from 1950 to 1952, and then on television from 1954 to 1955.

Ronald Colman died on 19 May 1958, aged 67, from a lung infection in Santa Barbara, California and was interred in the Santa Barbara Cemetery.

No comments: