Ronnie research

You thought I’d be done by now with Ronald Colman? Ha! No chance… Although I admit there isn’t that much left for me to watch. There is more to read, however!

The nice thing about working in a library again is that I have access to all sorts of online databases at my free disposal. As a member of staff at my applied sciences university I did have access to them before but somehow never thought of really using them for my own personal research. Now, while familiarizing myself with a few of these databases, I figured I could type in Ronald Colman and see what happens. I got a whole interesting list! I downloaded it all, for further personal perusal at home.

I found some poetry written about Ronald Colman. There is this one about him/his character in A Tale of Two Cities (click to enlarge if you can’t read it here properly)…

Source: Poetry, Vol. 141, No. 3 (Dec. 1982) pp. 145-146, published by Poetry Foundation

Modified to add some screenshots of the scenes described in the poem above:

And a second poem about Ronald Colman in the First World War…

Source: Prairie Schooner, Winter 2013, Vol. 87, No. 4 (Winter 2013), p. 64, Univ. of Nebraska Press

I found an article on moustaches, mentioning the Ronald Colman moustache; I found a letter the writer Anthony Burgess had written with this whole section about him having watched Random Harvest while sailing on a ship; an article on ‘the role that got away’ (Colman turned down Cary Grant’s part in Bringing Up Baby, for instance); an article on ‘The Woman Film Critic’ which starts out about a female journalist interviewing Ronald Colman in 1929; an article on when the talkies came to Hollywood (and mention of Ronald Colman transitioning successfully from silent pictures to talking movies, I have yet to read the whole piece, which is interesting in itself); and a mention of Ronald Colman being the 10th highest paid actor in Hollywood in the early 1930s…

… and in the mid 1930s he was the 20th ranked star in Hollywood…

Source: The Film Business of the United States and Britain during the 1930s by John Sedgwick and Michael Pokorny, in ‘The Economic History Review’, Feb. 2005, New Series, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Feb. 2005), pp. 79-112

There are some scholarly articles that I have yet to read:

  • The 1947 movie A Double Life (for which he won an Oscar) has some articles dedicated to it. In that film he portrays an actor playing the lead in Shakespeare’s Othello and becoming obsessed with the role. I have yet to read articles called: ‘A Double Life: Othello as Film Noir Thriller‘ and ‘Ronald Colman: Figuring jewishness in A Double Life‘ and ‘Shakespeare, Performance, and the Psychology of Adaptation in A Double Life‘.
  • There is also an article on A Tale of Two Cities called ‘Insurrection and Depression-Era Politics in Selznick’s A Tale of Two Cities (1935)‘.
  • And there are some articles on The Talk of the Town (where Colman plays a judge, also with Cary Grant) like a section from a publication called ‘Embodying the State‘ dedicated to the movie, an article on the wartime comedies of George Stevens (who was the director) and an article called ‘On the Popular Image of the Lawyer
  • Random Harvest also gets some analytical treatment in articles such as ‘Lost Time: Blunt Head Trauma and Accident-Driven Cinema‘ and ‘Re-shaped For The Screen: Random Harvest’

So, you see? There’s more Ronald Colman and his work to be discovered in print as well!

And to top it all off, I just finished a video today of Ronald Colman being in love with his leading ladies in many of his film roles. I once made a similar video for Jimmy Stewart, so couldn’t resist giving Ronnie the same treatment:

Ah, such fun to be able to fangirl like this in my downtime!

8 thoughts on “Ronnie research

  1. What a great research project! I am glad there is so much to discover. Both poems were striking and the first one vivid (I love the 18 c crowd eating popcorn and burgers!). It is fascinating (and hard) to imagine RC in Bringing up Baby, it is one of my favourite films. Love Sydney tousled hair.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I couldn’t imagine Ronald Colman in that role either! It would have felt very different, I think. Cary Grant was perfect for it.

      This research thing is fun! I think I need to put all those PDF files on my e-reader so I can read as I commute as well. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Servetus

    A scholarly library login and access to interlibrary loan are major motivators to keep me teaching at this point. I don’t know if I would always miss the classroom, but boy would I miss the databases.

    So fascinating that he was so famous back then, and I never heard of him until you developed this interest. Sic transit gloria mundi. Those poems are *super* interesting, particularly the one by John Dickson (who also was a major, if regional, poet — I had never heard of him till now, either — a curious parallel to Colman in terms of “forgotten careers”).

    I finally saw “Now, Voyager” last week, and got very interested in all the tangents / rabbit trails. Gladys Cooper, who plays the controlling mother (also someone with a huge career whom I’d never heard of) was the mother of John Buckmaster, who introduced Vivien Leigh to Lawrence Olivier (there’s a new book coming out about them that I’m in the library waiting list for). Cooper’s daughter was married to Robert Hardy (whom we’ve talked about here as he originated the role of Siegfried Farnon in “All Creatures”). The supporting cast in the film is filled with people like that — big careers, mostly forgotten, lives intertwined through the Hollywood / film royalty. including the debut of Mary Wickes, whom I’d seen in literally dozens of shows (she always plays similar roles) and who always made me smile. Maybe the most interesting thing, though, is that the author of the novel at the basis of the script (Olive Higgins Prouty) was a patron of Silvia Plath (with whom I have an extremely long term fascination dating back to my teens). It was one of her more famous novels and it concerns the theme of depression / repression.

    I suppose thirty years ago I wouldn’t have discovered any of this, but wikipedia, hyperlinks and a research library logon “machen es möglich.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the internet. 🙂
      I only vaguely knew about Colman before I started this. I had that image of the man with the moustache in my mind but never consciously ‘dealt’ with him. I’m really loving discovering him like this. 🙂
      I had an instant image in my head of a face when you mentioned Gladys Cooper. It was the wrong face, I find (I had apparently thought of Glynis Johns, who plays the suffragette mum in ‘Mary Poppins’). Looked Cooper up and find that I instantly recognized her as the mother of Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) in ‘My Fair Lady’ (from 1964, with Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle). Looking at her movie credits, I must also know her from ‘Rebecca’ (1940 with Olivier) and ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ (1947 with Cary Grant). It must be 30 years since I’ve seen ‘Now Voyager’, I can’t remember much about it. Sylvia Plath connection is interesting. Had a brief interest in her as well in my early twenties and resented Ted Hughes because of it (if I remember correctly, my English teacher claimed a real life acquaintance with him).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Servetus

        I find it very hard to like anything about Ted Hughes (even as I’ve grown older and come to understand that there are two parties to every disagreement). But above all, I don’t think his poetry is very good. Plath’s is the poetry that will be remembered, I’m certain. Of course, I may think that because I’m American and her work is in every literature textbook here and his isn’t.

        There seems to have been a very large group of actresses who transitioned from young female roles on stage and in early film right into talkies in early middle age and then went on to fill in those elderly female roles. I say “very large” because it strikes me as very strange that the number of roles for women over 50 really seems to have contracted significantly in our age, so that we only have a handful of women whom we’re familiar with today who are in that category, whereas 70 years ago there were at least two dozen.

        “Now, Voyager” — it’s kind of astounding to me that it was so popular. (Well, Bette Davis helped, no doubt.) The plot: a young woman driven to nervous breakdown by a controlling mother recovers in therapy, finds a man on a cruise, but he’s married; she breaks a later engagement because she’s still in love with him, then meets his daughter in a psychiatric setting and cares for her (preferring this to a relationship with the man). I think this is the moment everyone remembers from it:

        Wikipedia says the explanation is that it was WWII and life was rough and women love the love story. I don’t know; I don’t find the love story very satisfying.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t remember ‘Now Voyager’ blowing me away at the time like some other old movies did and I have never had the urge to re-watch, which maybe says something.

          Funny you should say that about roles for women of 50 and over, I always get the impression that in the 20th century women over 50 found it much harder to keep their careers alive and that things seem a litte better nowadays. I don’t have any data on this, though, so couldn’t say for sure. There’s probably also a difference in movies versus TV. I think especially in movies there isn’t that much great work for older women, except for a few older star actresses, as you say. Very rarely, in older Hollywood and also today, is an older woman the main charater in a movie or TV series.

          Liked by 1 person

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