Job Actor
Years active 1914-57
Top Roles Robert Conway, Anthony John, Charles Rainier, Beauregard Bottomley, Major Rudolf Rassendyll / The Prisoner of Zenda
Top GenresDrama, Romance, Comedy, Silent Films, Adventure, Historical
Top TopicsBook-Based, Romance (Comic), Romance (Drama)
Top Collaborators (Producer), (Director), , (Director)
Shares birthday with Brian Donlevy, Kathryn Grayson, Carmen Miranda  see more..

Ronald Colman Overview:

Legendary actor, Ronald Colman, was born Ronald Charles Colman on Feb 9, 1891 in Richmond, England. Colman died at the age of 67 on May 19, 1958 in Santa Barbara, CA and was laid to rest in Santa Barbara Cemetery in Santa Barbara, CA.

Early Life

Ronald Charles Colman was born on February 9th, 1891 in his parent's hometown of Richmond, Surrey, England. He was the penultimate child Charles Colman, a silk merchant and his wife, Marjory. Colman grew to be a bright child and went on to excel in academics at a boarding school in Littlehampton. It was there that Colman discovered his love of acting while performing in his school's staged productions. Despite enjoying the art of acting, he intended on going to Cambridge to study as an engineer. Unfortunately for Colman, however, his father's death in 1907 made that a financial impossibility. He immediately joined the workforce, gaining steady employment as a steamship clerk before being promoted to junior accountant. Despite being forced to go through he daily grind of a nine-to-five, Colman still pursued his love of acting. He joined the Bancroft Amateur Dramatic Society and quickly became one of the more popular amateur acting talents in England.

At the age of 18, Colman joined the London Scottish Regiment unit of the British Army as a territorial solider. With the outbreak of World War One the regiment became one of the first to join the Regular French Army in fighting on the Western Front. Colman's time on the front lines didn't last very when in 1914, at the Battle of Messines; he was struck in his ankle by shrapnel and seriously wounded. In 1915 he was discharged from the British Army due to his injury. Due to the horrors he saw and the injury he sustained, Colman becoming increasingly anti-war and anti-violence.

Early Career

After being released from the Army, Colman decided to return to acting and devoted himself to his career. His efforts proved fruitful when in 1916 he appeared on the stage of the London Coliseum in the playing a black-faced herald The Maharani of Arakan. He was then noticed by Gladys Cooper who helped the good-looking young actor join The Playhouse Company, where he began acting in the play The Misleading Lady. Slowly his stature as an actor began to rise and the next year he was playing Webber in Partnership at the Court Theatre. By 1918 he was performing at the Ambassadors Theatre, playing George Lubin in the play The Little Brother. The next year he would give his first stab at the movie business with small roles in films such as The Toilers, A Daughter of Eve and Snow in the Desert. Unfortunately for Colman, none of these attempts proved very fruitful and the London Casting Bureau noted that he did "screen well. Despite his growing success on the stage, however, Colman was worried the post-war depression England was suffering might be a strong hindrance to his career and headed across the pond to New York.

In 1920 Colman arrived at the Big Apple and his initial time there was not easy. For his first few months Colman took any menial job he could to support himself, while still working on his craft in his off time. He eventual found substantial work when he began touring with Robert Warwick with a small role in the play The Dauntless Three. This lead him to another touring production, this time in Fay Bainter's cross-country revival of her hit East Is West, traveling from New York all the way to California and back. Upon his return, his reputation as a stage actor had grown and in 1921 Colman made his Broadway debut in the Winthrop Ames produced The Green Goddess. He followed that up with the comedy-mystery The Nightcap. He continued his string of Broadway hits in 1922 with the Henry Miller staged production of La Tendresse. It was during a performance of that play that Colman was noticed by film director Henry King. The director was looking for leading to play opposite Lillian Gish in her next film The White Sister. Although Colman was initially reluctant to give film another chance, King convinced him and soon the two were headed west to Tinsel Town.

Silent Film Career

Upon his arrival in Hollywood, King immediately arranged for Colman to take a screen test. Soon after, Colman began filming for The White Sister, his Hollywood feature debut. The film was a success and so was Colman. King was so impressed with the young English Gentleman that he casted him in his next feature, also a Lillian Gish vehicle, 1924' s Romala.  The film was yet another success and soon after Colman all but abandoned the stage and dedicated himself to movies. He soon proved himself a great screen lover, whose dark looks and athleticism helped him to become one of the most popular silent screen actors of the mid-to-late 1920s. He starred in a myriad of pictures, including comedies such as His Sister from Paris and Lady Windermere's Fan to great romances like The Sporting Venus and The Dark Angel. His most popular films, however, were those that mixed his romantic tendencies with his sense of adventure in pictures such as Beau Geste and The Winning of Barbara Worth. By end the decade, however, the industry began to change. Soon silent films would fall completely out of vogue and sound would take its place

Successful Transition

As the silent era came to end and talkies became all the rage, many actors were unable to make the transition and found themselves out a job. For Colman, however, the transition had the opposite effect. With a voice sometimes compared to crushed velvet; smooth, bewitching and resonant, Colman's career was only enhance by the coming of sound. In 1929, he signed a contract with Samuel Goldwyn, who cast him in his first talking picture The Rescue. Although the film was actually the first of Colman's to lose money at the box-office he quickly recovered with two successful films: Bulldog Drummond and Condemned, both films would bring him an Academy Awards for Best Lead Actor.


Now with the ability to use his extraordinarily beautiful speaking voice, Colman was able to evolve his on-screen person from a silent latin-esque lover to a sophisticated, English gentleman, both thoughtful, witty and full of integrity. Through out the 1930's, he was a constant marquee matinee idol, appearing in films such as The Masquerader, Clive of India, and, The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo. In 1935 he played on his best-remembered role as the alcoholic English lawyer, Sidney Carton, in the Jack Conway Big Screen adaption of The Tale of Two Cities. The next year would prove to be a particularly fruitful year for Colman. First he starred in the underrated Frank Capra fantasy film Lost Horizon as the British diplomat, Robert Conway, who crashes his plane on the secluded utopia of Shangri-La. He then showed his fencing chops in the hit swashbuckling adventure film The Prisoner of Zenda. He rounded out the 1930s with more hit films, including If I Were King and The Light That Failed

Colman's popularity would continue into the 1940s. He starred with Ginger Rogers in the comedy Lucky Partners in 1940 and followed that up with another comedy, My Life with Caroline. In 1942 Colman starred in two hit film. The first was the political romantic comedy The Talk of the Town. In the film Colman theory minded law professor Michael Lightcap who shacks up with action-minded political activist Leopold Dilg, played by Cary Grant. Although the two devolve a strong repartee with one another, they nonetheless end up vying for the affections of their landlord, played by Jean Arthur. The film was major hit and would gain seven Academy Award nominations. Later that year Colman would star opposite Greer Garson in the World War I era romance, Random Harvest. The film was major hit, making double its budget back at the box-office and gaining seven Oscar nominations, including a Best Actor nomination for Colman. He would get his final Academy Award nomination five years later for his role as Anthony John in A Double Life.

Later Career and Life

By the time 1950's rolled around, Colman's career began to slow. In 1950 he appeared in the film Champagne for Caesar opposite Vincent Price and Chester Holm. After that, Colman mainly acted in the medium of television for the rest of the decade. From 1953-1953 he made frequent appearances on the Four Star Playhouse. The next year he starred in his own series, the half-hour comedy shows The Halls of Ivy. In 1956 he made a return to the big screen, making a cameo appearance in the big-budget adventure film Around the World in Eighty Days as a Grand Indian Peninsular Railway Official. The next year he made his final performance in the Irwin Allen fantasy, The Story of Mankind. By this time, Colman's health was failing. He was slated to star in the MGM film Village of the Dammed but the project became was shelved. Colman would pass-away before shooting ever began. Ronald Colman died on May 19th, 1958 of acute emphysema in Santa Barbara, California. He was 67 years old. 

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Ronald Colman was nominated for three Academy Awards, winning one for Best Actor for A Double Life (as Anthony John) in 1947.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1929/30Best ActorBulldog Drummond (1929)Hugh 'Bulldog' DrummondNominated
1942Best ActorRandom Harvest (1942)Charles RanierNominated
1947Best ActorA Double Life (1947)Anthony JohnWon

He was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the categories of Television and Motion Pictures.

BlogHub Articles:

Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and are "The Talk of the Town"

By Stephen Reginald on Aug 28, 2023 From Classic Movie Man

Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and are "The Talk of the Town" The Talk of the Town (1942) is an American comedy-drama film directed by George Stevens and starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and Ronald Colman. The supporting cast features Edgar Buchanan, Glenda Farrell, Lloyd Bridges, Leon... Read full article

has trouble with reality in “A Double Life”

By Stephen Reginald on Jul 31, 2020 From Classic Movie Man

has trouble with reality in “A Double Life” A Double Life (1947) is a film noir directed by George Cukor, starring and Signe Hasso. The husband and wife team of Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin wrote the screenplay. Milton R. Krasner did ... Read full article

Under Two Flags (1936)? Happy Birthday, !

By Clayton on Feb 9, 2016 From Phantom Empires

Under Two Flags (1936)? Happy Birthday, ! 2/9/2016 0 Comments I did a review of the fantastic Foreign Legion film WE'RE IN THE LEGION NOW (HERE) a while back, and it was so fun that I thought I'd do another one. Today being... Read full article

Under Two Flags (1936)? Happy Birthday, !

By Clayton on Feb 9, 2016 From Phantom Empires

Under Two Flags (1936)? Happy Birthday, ! 2/9/2016 2 Comments I did a review of the fantastic Foreign Legion film WE'RE IN THE LEGION NOW (HERE) a while back, and it was so fun that I thought I'd do another one. Today being... Read full article

Silent Movie Rule #12: cannot be held responsible for his actions

By Fritzi Kramer on Dec 29, 2014 From Movies Silently

By Fritzi Kramer on December 29, 2014 in Blog, Humor, Silent Movie Rules Before sound movies revealed that, that, that voice*, was a steady, likable (if unremarkable) lead in romantic comedies and dramas. In Her Night of Romance, Mr. Colman gets a snoot full and ends up returning to th... Read full article

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Ronald Colman Quotes:

Jarvis Lorry Jr.: My boy, never for a moment did I doubt your innocence.
Sydney Carton: So, Mr. Lorry, respectable men of business may speak to Mr. Darnay in public, now he's acquitted.
Jarvis Lorry Jr.: You have mentioned that before, sir. We men of business must think of the house we serve more than ourselves.
Sydney Carton: Yes, yes. Banking, of course, imposes its own restrictions and silences.
Jarvis Lorry Jr.: And, indeed, sir, I don't know that it is any of your business.
Sydney Carton: Oh, bless you, I have no business.
Jarvis Lorry Jr.: And if you had, sir, perhaps you would attend to it.
Sydney Carton: Lord love you, no I wouldn't!

Sydney Carton: It's a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It's a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.

Colette: Epitaph? What's that?
François Villon: Oh, usually something good about somebody bad... after they're dead.

read more quotes from Ronald Colman...

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Best Actor Oscar 1947

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Ronald Colman Facts
He made his film debut in an unreleased two-reel short made in 1919. Its title is unknown, and references to it as 'Live Wire, The (1917)' apparently erroneously connect it to a play of that title in which Colman appeared around the same time.

His recording of "A Christmas Carol", originally released in a Decca 78-RPM set in 1941, was the first recorded version to win wide acclaim. It appeared several times on LP, and has recently (October 2005) been released on CD by Deutsche Grammophon, along with its frequent companion piece on LP, "Mr. Pickwick's Christmas".

Christopher Walken (whose given name is Ronald) was named for him.

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