The suave and sophisticated Ronald Colman was born 126 years ago today in Richmond, Surrey, England. Here are 10 RC Did-You-Knows:
- Colman was the youngest of four children. He attended boarding school in Littlehampton, where he was first exposed to acting, but he intended to study engineering at Cambridge until the family’s financial fortunes declined with the premature death of his father in 1907.
- As a member of the London Scottish Regiment, Colman served in World War I. At the Battle of Messines, he was wounded by shrapnel in his ankle, which gave him a limp he tried to hide for the rest of his life. He was discharged from service within weeks.
- By 1916, Colman was a busy actor, appearing in a variety of stage productions in London’s West End. In 1920, he toured the United States in a play called The Dauntless Three, which led to success on Broadway.
- Though he had appeared in a handful of British films, it was Colman’s work in his first American film, The White Sister (1923) opposite Lillian Gish, that proved to be his breakout role. He became very popular with the public in both romance and adventure pictures.
- For all his success in silent pictures, Colman’s star ascended even higher in talkies, which allowed him to use to his advantage one of his greater assets as an actor, what the Encyclopædia Britannica described as his “resonant, mellifluous speaking voice with a unique, pleasing timbre.”
- In 1930, Colman was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his work in two different pictures—Condemned and Bulldog Drummond. In total, he would be nominated as Best Actor for four films, winning once for A Double Life (1947).
- Christopher Walken, whose given name is Ronald, was named for Colman.
- Colman’s speaking voice was so widely admired that it became something of a cultural touchstone, mentioned in a number of motion pictures and novels, including Ralph Ellison‘s Invisible Man.
- Colman was also active in radio in the 1940s and ’50s, making frequent guests appearances on The Jack Benny Show, hosting a program called Favorite Story in the and starring on The Halls of Ivy, which later became a television program.
- Colman was contracted to star in the MGM picture Village of the Damned (1960), but following his death in 1958 from acute emphysema, George Sanders took over the role.
Happy birthday, Ronald Colman, wherever you may be!