This splendidly handsome man was born on February 9, 1891 – a long time before I was even a glint in my father’s eye. He was born in England and studied at a boarding school in Littlehampton. His intention was to go on to study engineering at Cambridge, but his father’s early passing made it financially impossible for him to do so. As a student in boarding school, he developed a love for acting. He was shy young man who found his confidence while hiding behind a mask.
Like the other men I’ve been highlighting this week, he was left to fend for himself at an early age. They all had fathers who died before they were sixty, leaving their sons to become famous in spite of it.
In 1909, Colman enlisted in the London Scottish Regiment as a territorial soldier. At the onset of World War I, he became mobilized and sent to France to fight on the western front. Wounded by shrapnel in his ankle, he managed to cover up the limp that resulted from his injury for most of his career.
Colman returned to the pursuit of his acting career after recovering from his wartime injuries. He was best known for his fluid, resonant, speaking voice and good looks. His dark hair and eyes and his ability to do his own stunts until he grew old, dubbed him as Valentino- like by the critics. While appearing in New York in a stage production, Director, Henry King saw him and engaged him as the leading man in the 1923 film, The White Sister, opposite Lillian Gish.
His career took him through three varied types of acting – stage performance, acting in silent films and the move into the golden age of talking movies. This shy little boy, used his voice, his good looks and obvious talent to make a living. So often I see young actors blossoming on stage – where they would simply hide from the world in other situations. Drama seems to have an effect on those of us who need to express ourselves in the shadow of another.
Ronald Colman obtained two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the acting industry. He was also nominated three times for the Academy Award but didn’t receive his Oscar until 1947 for his role in A Double Life.
He married twice in his life and left one daughter, Juliet Benita Colman, who wrote the story of her father’s life in 1975 – Ronald Colman: A Very Private Person. Colman died in 1958 from severe emphysema.
‘All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.’ William Shakespeare – As You Like It.