Property from the Estate of Ronald Colman
Ronald Colman achieved stardom in silent movies, talkies, radio and television in a career that spanned over thirty years until his death in 1958.
Born in England in 1891, he worked there in theatre and film from 1915, later going to New York and finally being 'discovered' in 1923, and his career launched, as Lillian Gish's leading man in "The White Sister." Shortly afterwards, he was contracted by mogul Samuel Goldwyn in Hollywood and throughout the Silent Era of the 1920s was one of Tinsletown's biggest box-office stars.
In 1929, unlike some of his less fortunate colleages, he made a smooth transition into 'talkies' due in part to his extraordinary voice, which continued to bring him fame on the radio throughout the 1940s and early 1950s in plays, as a regular guest on the Jack Benny Show playing himself as Jack's neighbor, and (1950-52) playing a college professor in his own series called "Halls of Ivy" with his wife, Benita Hume. Lastly, he embraced television where he starred in a variety of plays and again, "Halls of Ivy" (1955-1956). Nominated three times, he was finally awarded the 'Best Actor in a Leading Role' Academy Award for his performance in "A Double Life."
Among the first to enlist in World War I, he was invalided out the same year. Shrapnel hit his leg during the battle of Messines in 1914; he painstakingly hauled himself off the battlefield on his back, pulling with his elbows, pushing with the good leg, so that in case he was killed (a strong possibility), his body would be found facing enemy lines, and not with his back to them.
In looking back on many of the film roles he played, one can recognize this same spirit of a man who stuck to his ideals with resolve - ("'tis a far, far better thing I do...!") In similar vein, at the very height of his career, he refused to make any more films for Goldwyn in defiance to lies the studio publicity department was fabricating about him, fully expecting to be out of work for two years while sitting out his contract. This rather daunting side of his character was mellowed (both on screen and off) by the all-encompassing warmth of his smile and voice, the latter ever the epitome of kindness and courtesy. His laugh kicked his head back, his mouth curving his moustache upwards into a second smile.
There was never an iota, not a possibility, of coarseness or vulgarity in him; he was a gentleman to the core. He was passionate about literature and the English language and very keen on photography and on magic, perhaps a serendipitous combination considering his career. He was private and reserved and ensured that his life, friendships and family remain that way as well.
His times were different, so too were the faces of the actors then. Perhaps the expression "they don't make them like that any more" befits each and every generation of stars. Looking at the photographs here of Ronald Colman and his generation, however, one can't help but notice they were an extraordinary vintage!
The following items offered here at Christie's relate to Ronald Colman's professional and personal life; they encompass his career, his hobbies, his passions, his family members and his friends, many of whom were fellow actors from Hollywood's Golden Era. He touched, read, held, created or was responsible for all of these unique pieces.
-- Juliet Benita Colman