Ronald Colman - Thursdays in July
Jane Wyatt, Ronald Colman's costar in Lost Horizon (1937), described him as "a complete original, in personality, good looks, diversity and style. He [had] great self-discipline and an ability to be completely absorbed by a scene, to exclude all distractions while actually shooting, and to be able to relax between scenes." Frank Capra, the movie's director, added these words of praise for Colman: "Beautiful of face and soul, sensitive to the fragile and gentle, responsive both to poetic visions and hard intellect."
It's little wonder that the actor who inspired such adulation from his co-workers emerged as the outstanding matinee idol of his era. He was a heartthrob among female audiences for three decades--the 1920s, '30s and '40s--and was one of the few leading men of the silent screen to flourish in the talkie era. Readers of women's magazines of the time often voted him as their number 1 favorite. In addition to his handsome appearance and that gentle, caressing voice, Colman had an aristocratic air that could captivate without becoming off-putting. And he cut a figure that was lithe and dashing enough to impress the male audience and make him convincing in swashbuckling roles.
Born in 1891 in Richmond, Surrey, England, the son of a silk importer, Colman began his movie career in English silent films but found success in the U.S. in such vehicles as The White Sister (1923), in which he played opposite Lillian Gish. His breakthrough in sound films came with the pre-Code crime film Bulldog Drummond (1929), which brought an Oscar® nomination. In addition to Lost Horizon, his outstanding vehicles of the 1930s included A Tale of Two Cities (1935) and The Prisoner of Zenda (1937).
Even as he passed the age of 50, Colman retained his romantic image and his following among fans, who continued to respond to his polished manner and maturing talent. He was Oscar® nominated again for Random Harvest (1942), in which he played opposite Greer Garson in a story of true love threatened by amnesia. Director Mervyn LeRoy would later say that he felt the combination of Colman and Garson constituted "the two most beautiful speaking voices ever heard in a single motion picture."
Colman's Academy Award® for Best Actor finally came for A Double Life (1947), in which he plays an actor whose mind becomes so warped by playing Othello that he commits a real-life murder. In one of his film introductions on TCM, our late host Robert Osborne wryly noted that when Colman at last collected his award for A Double Life, "You have to believe movies such as Random Harvest, Lost Horizon, The Prisoner of Zenda and so many others had something to do with people making an 'x' beside Colman's name on the Oscar® ballot that year!"