The Colman rabbit hole…

… that I am caught in right now is saving me from going insane over the Russia-Ukraine war. The first refugees are arriving here, 50 of them arrived near where I live this morning. They have been offered temporary shelter at a gym right outside my daughter’s school until more permanent arrangements can be made.

Putin is showing no signs of letting up and there isn’t much I can do, so I offer my support to UNHCR and keep on hoping that something will happen that stops Putin.

In the meantime, life here goes on. Junior just returned from a 5 day trip to London, showing a friend of his the sights and staying with my brother. Mini me has started final exams training while Mr E and I have been busy with work. In my spare time, instead of staying stuck in the constant news cycle, I have been distracting myself with more Ronald Colman. I have been getting my hands on old movies of his via internet archives and YouTube and other places and I have even started reading books pertaining to him!

First, I decided to read Random Harvest and I got my hands on an e-book version. It was a good read, structured differently from the film but the same story nonetheless. Then I read that Ronald Colman’s daughter (she was 13 when he died) had written a biography about him in 1975. No e-books to be found of that and buying the physical book second-hand was going to cost me at least €100! In the end I found a library PDF version via an Internet archive and managed to borrow that online for free and load it on my e-reader for the two weeks that I am lending it. Just finished that today and will now try to one day find a physical copy for my bookshelf.

Ronald Colman was an interesting man and while reading it, I felt like the daughter was discovering some of the father she had never known. He had, after all, had a whole lifetime and an illustrious career behind him before she was even born. I wish she could have given more insight on him from her childhood point of view. There was some of that, of course, but not a lot. It also felt a little strange that she always called him Ronnie in the book and never really father or dad. I guess she was more focussed on writing about the man he used to be before she arrived, learning about who he was and seeing most of his films for the first time only after he was long gone. I also wish she had given more insight into his filming Random Harvest which, to me up till now (and I haven’t seen it all yet), is his best work.

I took screenshots from the photos in the book (you can click on images to enlarge and read the captions). I love seeing those old photos and would have liked to see more of those too, especially some more private pictures…

Ronald Colman was indeed a very private man, able to stay out of scandals despite a disastrous first marriage; he was very professional, kind, soft spoken, principled, somewhat vain and always a gentleman. I’m not done with the man, have still some more work of his to view and by the time I am done, I hope this whole ugly war in Ukraine is over, with Putin defeated forever. I know it’s wishful und unrealistic thinking but I need to do that to keep my spirits up.

19 thoughts on “The Colman rabbit hole…

  1. Servetus

    How many films did he make? If there are enough …

    Random Harvest was directed by Mervyn Leroy, who was one of the most important directors / producers of the Hollywood classical period. Maybe there’d be more information in a biography of him?

    Wikipedia also tells me that Random Harvest was influential on Indian and Pakistani film. Seems to have been remade three times in different Indian languages.

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    1. He made around 40 in the talking era, and a whole bunch (some of them lost) in the silent era. I read somewhere that he made 100 films but that doesn’t sound right. He also did radio shows and some TV in the 1950s.

      About Random Harvest – Thanks for the Mervyn Leroy idea. I read elsewhere that Greer Garson once said that her favourite scene to ever film was the ending of RH with Ronald Colman. I will look a bit more into her as well. First, there are more Colman movies to watch. 🙂

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    2. More about Random Harvest – It’s not necessarily the story that fascinates me so, it’s Colman’s portrayal that gets to me. The stillness of it all, the things happening in his face and in his body that convey so much more than words can say (and he can’t even get them out much at the beginning of the film anyway). He does silent film acting (without the exaggerations) in a talking film. And when he speaks it’s gorgeous to listen to. He was nominated for an Oscar for this one. James Cagney won that year but for me, Ronald Colman deserved to win it.

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      1. Servetus

        The Criterion Channel is suggesting that I should see “Lost Horizons,” so.

        Incidentally I am watching “Around the World in 80 Days” and Colman has a cameo. (Along with the entire rest of the Hollywood glamocracy of the 1950s, lol). He’s a British rail official.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, I checked out that cameo as well! 🙂

          I watched Lost Horizon this evening. Very idealistic with some criticisms I’d have about it here and there but RC is indeed good in this as well.

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          1. Servetus

            “Lost Horizons” was the answer to a Quiz Bowl question back in the day. It was on a list of things I memorized without knowing why they were significant. Lost Horizons, Shangri-La, James Hilton. (I see James Hilton also wrote the novel from which “Random Harvest” was adapted.) I should watch it, lol. Yesterday I had to get away from the news so I went to the movies and saw two films I didn’t really want to see, instead (“Marry Me” and “Death on the Nile”) and then I came home and re-watched the 1978 “Death on the Nile” and “Written on the Wind” and then fell asleep rewatching “Giant.” I really should watch something new, though.

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            1. Wow, that’s a lot of movies in one day! Without going into long reviews, did you enjoy Marry Me and Death on the Nile? I’ve heard very mixed things about both.

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              1. Servetus

                Shortest answer is “they were both fine, I didn’t hate either of them.”

                Slightly longer answers —

                Marry Me: the viewer has to just accept a lot of things that are wildly unrealistic, right off the bat (and they pile up along with the self-contradictions as the movie rolls on). I basically like / admire Jennifer Lopez and I don’t hate Owen Wilson. Keeping in mind that I don’t like rom-coms, this one was okay (I was surprised at my reaction — but maybe it’s because it flips a lot of tropes on their heads). By which I mean that I didn’t feel nauseated when I left the theater.

                Death on the Nile — it was better than Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” but it was cursed by a cast that had more of its share of controversial involvements (COVID deniers, sexual assault, tone-deafness on Israel). Oddly for me, I had a harder time suppressing my anger at Letitia Wright than at Armie Hammer. I am pretty sure most of the cinematography of Egypt was CGI. In general (with the exception of the opening introduction of Jack Doyle to Linnet Ridgeway — this is better done in the newer movie) I thought the 1978 one was more suspenseful and had better performances — I am always going to prefer Peter Ustinov as Poirot over Kenneth Branagh — but this one wasn’t awful. I also thought that it is watchable even if (like me) you already know “whodunit”.

                But all in all I would never have seen those films had there been no war in Ukraine. I just needed to forcibly unhook myself from the news.

                Liked by 1 person

              2. Thanks!

                I still haven’t braved Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express because all the clips I saw of him as Poirot make me think, “But he isn’t Peter Ustinov!”. Maybe one day I will brave it.

                Marry Me I will watch in time. I too quite like Jennifer Lopez, I also think she’s one of the most beautiful women ever. I admit that Owen Wilson is holding me back from watching this because even though I don’t hate him, I am no fan, he annoys me.

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              3. Servetus

                I didn’t understand how Branagh managed to make such a great story (in “Orient Express”) so slooow. And I am not at all hostile to long films. It’s my impression after seeing two of these that it’s really just about his desire to see himself on screen in the role. (I am not a big fan of his; his ego annoys me.) He said recently he could imagine an Agatha Christie film universe a la the MCU. IMO the BBC does it better (e.g., the recent “And Then There Were None”).

                I assume they picked Wilson for this role because he is so visually opposite to Lopez (and he doesn’t leave that stereotype in this film, either). It’s a legit question here whether putting him in the role that the woman usually occupies in this particular film doesn’t enhance the annoyance factor (e.g., is that an innovative move that changes our perspective on rom-coms, or does it make the man into a whiner?). The film picks up on themes in Lopez’s real life, which I think makes it more interesting to me as a viewer. I haven’t seen many of her films, but I have liked her in the ones I’ve seen, and particularly in “Hustlers.”

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Servetus

    Non sequitur: just saw a classic film that I enjoyed and I thought you might like it, too (if you haven’t already seen it). Marty (1955). Oscar and Palme d’Or winner that year. Had never heard of it before.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Servetus

        I can’t remember where our thread about Cary Grant / Hitchcock went, but I finally saw “To Catch a Thief” this week, too. (Can you send a theme here? Massive escapism on my part, for sure.) I was surprised how much I liked it. I’m not a huge fan of suspense, but this seemed to be less suspenseful that the other films I associate with Hitchcock. I really liked it.

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