| If you have
ever seen the Black and White version of "A Tale of Two Cities" you
are familiar with the actor who played "Sidney Carton", the main character.
His name was Ronald Colman. In any case, Colman had one of the most
beautiful, resonant voices ever to grace stage or screen. If you have
ever seen this motion picture, you know what I mean. His final lines
are as unforgettable, now, as they were when he spoke them, over seventy
Charles Colman was born at Richmond, Surrey, England on February 9,
1891. Height 5 feet 11 inches; dark brown hair and eyes; weight 158
He was, to put it mildly, one of the great stars of the Golden Age
of motion pictures. He was raised in Ealing, the son of a successful
silk merchant, and attended boarding school in Sussex, where he first
discovered amateur theatre. He intended to attend Cambridge and become
an engineer, but his father's death cost him the financial support
necessary. He joined the London Scottish Regionals and at the outbreak
of World War I was sent
to France. Seriously wounded at the battle of Messines, he was invalided
out of service scarcely two months after shipping out for France.
Upon his recovery, tried to enter the consular service, but a chance
encounter got him a small role in a London play. He dropped other
plans and concentrated on the theatre and was rewarded with a succession
of increasingly prominent parts. His early success in the film led
to a contract with Samuel Goldwyn and career as a Hollywood leading
man was underway. He became a vastly popular star of silent films,
in romances as well as adventure films. With the coming of sound,
his extraordinarily beautiful speaking voice made him even more important
to the film industry.
was a longtime friend of Walt Disney. In the mid-fifties, he developed
Parkinson's Disease. It eventually killed him. For the last several
years of his life he was unable to work, due to the "palsy" that accompanies
Parkinson's Disease. He had exhausted all the money he had in treatment,
and was literally dying broke, with no way to pay his medical bills.
Disney offered to pay all of it as a "loan", but Coleman refused the
charity, knowing that he was dying, and could never repay it.
Disney then made a counter offer. He offered him a job. The man still
had his beautiful, resonant voice...
Disney made a cartoon especially for him. You may have seen it. It's
a Donald Duck cartoon, in which Donald, finds a box of pills on the
street, which change his usual incomprehensible voice in to a beautiful,
resonant baritone... It's the voice of Ronald Colman...
That was his last job...
Colman made just enough, and calculatedly so, to pay off the staggering
medical bills that he had accumulated, and to pay for his funeral.
Ronald Colman will live in the history of stage and screen. His face
will remain an icon to those who study and appreciate classic film.
But... to countless and endless generations of children he will be
the faceless but unforgettable voice...albiet a temporary one... of
a beloved duck...
Benita Colman (b. 1944)
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.
of "A Christmas Carol", originally released in a Decca 78-RPM set
in 1941, was the first recorded version to win wide acclaim.
Dr. William Hall on NBC Radio's "The Halls of Ivy" (1950-1952) with
his wife Benita Hume.
the British Army in World War I, and was wounded in a poison gas
attack during the Battle of Ypres.
In his early
film career he was panned by many critics for his overtheatrics
(used in the stage work he was doing at the time) and his pronounced
limp (from a bad war injury). He credited working with greats such
as George Arliss for overcoming those obstacles.
When he made
his mark in Hollywood as a handsome young silent actor, there were
some who doubted he would translate well to "talkies." His subsequent
success in radio (he made a multi-volume recording of the Shakespeare
sonnets, as well) proves them wrong with a vengeance.