Birthday: February 9, 1891
Died At Age: 67
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Ronald Charles Colman
Born in: Richmond, London
Famous as: Actor
Spouse/Ex-: Benita Hume, Thelma Raye
father: Charles Colman
mother: Marjory Read Fraser
siblings: Edith Colman, Eric Colman, Marjorie Colman
children: Juliet Colman
Died on: May 19, 1958
place of death: Santa Barbara
City: London, England
Ronald Colman was an Academy Award-winning British actor, known for his roles in movies like ‘A Double Life’, ‘Random Harvest’, ‘Bulldog Drummond’, and ‘Condemned.’ Blessed with refined good looks and sophisticated mannerisms, he embodied the archetypal English gentleman in Hollywood films as he stood out from the rugged onscreen images of the American actors of his time. Born in England, he developed interest in acting at a young age but planned to pursue engineering as a profession. He wanted to study engineering at Cambridge but destiny had other plans in store for him. Ronald lost his father at the age of 16, and he had to ditch his engineering dreams due to financial constraints. He ventured into acting and soon gained popularity. But the outbreak of the World War I stalled his acting career for a few years before he could gain a firm foothold in the theater. He resumed his acting career after the war and eventually moved to Hollywood where his suave Englishness, refined demeanor, and his characteristic charming voice made him one of the most popular actors in the 1930s. His string of successes continued well into the 1940s and 1950s as he gained much recognition for his impeccable acting skills which also earned him the prestigious Academy award.
Childhood & Early Life
Ronald Charles Colman was born on 9 February 1891, in Richmond, Surrey, England, United Kingdom, to Charles Colman, a silk merchant, and his wife, Marjory Read Fraser. He had four siblings.
He was educated at a boarding-school in Littlehampton, Sussex, where he discovered that he enjoyed acting. However, pursuing acting as a career did not occur to him and he planned to study engineering at Cambridge.
A family tragedy forced him to change his plans. His father died of an illness in 1907 making it impossible for Ronald to pursue a higher education.
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Ronald Colman took up acting and soon became a well-known amateur actor. He joined the West Middlesex Dramatic Society as a member and made his professional stage appearance in 1914.
He had to sideline his budding acting career at the outbreak of the World War I. He joined the London Scottish Regiment and was sent to France in September 1914 to take part in the fighting on the Western Front. He got seriously injured by shrapnel at the Battle of Messines due to which he was invalidated out of the British Army in 1915. Even though he eventually recovered, the injury gave him a permanent limp.
He resumed his acting career in 1916 and played the role of Rahmat Sheikh in the drama ‘The Maharani of Arakan’ and that of Stephen Weatherbee in the play ‘The Misleading Lady.’ His stage roles got him noticed by a film producer and by 1919 he had appeared in three short silent dramas.
Ronald Colman went to America in 1920 along with Robert Warwick and performed in ‘The Dauntless Three’ and appeared in ‘East is West’ with Fay Bainter. He gained a following in the US owing to his good looks and acting skills, and enjoyed great success playing Alain Sergyll at the Empire Theatre (New York City) in ‘La Tendresse.’
His stage appearances led to film offers and director Henry King cast him as the leading man in the film ‘The White Sister’ in 1923. The movie was a success and effectively launched Colman’s Hollywood career. Before long he became a star of the silent cinema and was cast opposite some of the most glamorous ladies of the era like Vilma Banky.
Already a huge success in silent films, his career touched greater heights with the advent of the talkies. Blessed with a bewitching, resonant voice that greatly added to his sex appeal as a sophisticated and handsome Englishman, he found immense popularity with his initial talkies ‘Condemned’ and ‘Bulldog Drummond’, both released in 1929.
Continuing his streak of successes in the 1930s, he appeared in movies such as ‘The Masquerader’ in 1933, ‘Clive of India’ and ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ in 1935, ‘Under Two Flags’ and ‘Lost Horizon’ in 1937.
His film career was affected by the World War II following which he focused more on radio and television. During the 1940s he made many guest appearances on ‘The Jack Benny Program’ on radio and appeared as William Todhunter Hall, the president of small, Midwestern Ivy College, on the radio comedy ‘The Halls of Ivy’ from 1950 to 1952.
Ronald Colman played the titular character in the film ‘Bulldog Drummond’ which was based on a play by Herman C. McNeile. His character of a demobilized British captain who helps a beautiful young woman in distress became one of the actor’s much beloved roles and earned him an Academy Award nomination.
His portrayal of Anthony John, a fictional actor who becomes a ruthless murderer, is probably Colman’s best known role. With his stellar performance of a mentally unstable man, he proved that he could play both positive and negative characters with the same élan.
Awards & Achievements
Thrice nominated for the coveted Academy Awards, he won an Academy Award for Best Actor for ‘A Double Life’ (1947). He also won the Golden Globe award for Best Actor for the same film.
He was a recipient of the George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.
Personal Life & Legacy
Ronald Colman was twice married. His first marriage to Thelma Raye lasted from 1920 to 1934. His second marriage was to Benita Hume in 1938. He had one daughter.
He died on 19 May 1958, aged 67, from acute emphysema.
His daughter Juliet Benita Colman wrote his biography titled ‘Ronald Colman: A Very Private Person’ in 1975.