James L. Choron
| 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 years ago.|
Charles Colman was born at Richmond, Surrey, England on February 9, 1891. Height
5 feet 11 inches; dark brown hair and eyes; weight 158 pounds.
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
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...
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.
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...
Daughter Juliet 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.
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.
Portrayed Dr. William Hall on NBC Radio's "The Halls of Ivy" (1950-1952) with
his wife Benita Hume.
Fought with 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
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.