Yes, Ronald Colman is still on my mind and now and again I return to my little quest to find more colour images of him (like here and here) as there just aren’t enough colour images of the man out there. He was magnetic in black and white and I have this theory that he must have been even more mesmerizing in colour.
He only did two films in colour and had a very brief appearance in colour in the third. In 1944’s Kismet he was covered in lots of make-up and turbans so, in essence, hidden, until the end when he is dressed in black and his salt and pepper hair looks a little tousled. He looks devastatingly handsome in colour there. I wish he had looked like that throughout the whole movie (without the beard)…
In his little guest appearance in 1956’s Around the World in Eighty Days, his brown eyes shone nicely in the sun but he was a little hidden, dressed in a white uniform with pith helmet, and his appearance was ever so brief in a blink or you’ll miss it scene.
In his final movie from 1957, The Story of Mankind, he was also already older. The version I have is a little grainy and you rarely see him close up.
So, there are a few (moving) images in colour of an older Ronald but there are no (moving) images of him in colour as a younger man as far as I have been able to find. I can’t do anything about that but it occured to me that maybe I could do something about seeing more colour photographs of him.
I found this website where you can colourise black and white photos online and I’ve been throwing a whole bunch of images into the ‘colouriser’. Lots of the pictures don’t turn out quite right but some do come out with nice results and I want to share my favourites here. I don’t know Photoshop, so haven’t been able to enhance these myself, they come pretty much as is from the colouriser.
I’ll start with my absolute favourite colourised photo result, which really shows Ronnie’s warm brown eyes so beautifully! He had quite large eyes too, it must have been difficult to not lose yourself in them while meeting the man in person. Click on the image yourself to enlarge it and see what I mean. I think this is early 1940s Ronnie.
There is also a nice result from an end 1920s/early 1930s picture…
That photo must have been taken around the time he made Condemned (1929) with Ann Harding and Arrowsmith (1931) with Helen Hayes, from which I also now have two quite nice colourised pictures.
There are two pictures with female co-stars where especially the co-stars come out really nicely in colour. The eyes of Kay Francis in Raffles (1930) and Loretta Young in Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934) are quite stunning in these.
I also like how these images with Signe Hasso in A Double Life (1947), Ginger Rogers in Lucky Partners (1940), Jane Wyatt in Lost Horizon (1937) and Greer Garson in Random Harvest (1942) came out…
He looks his absolute sexiest with a bit of ruffled hair, as in A Tale of Two Cities (1935). The colouring quality isn’t great but the magnetism cannot be denied…
Also, another one from A Tale of Two Cities. Yes, Isabel Jewell is too yellow in the face but boy, Ronnie sure is in control of that white shirt open at the neck and sexy body language look. And two more ruffled hair pictures: one from The Talk of the Town (1942) and the other from Under Two Flags (1937).
I find that colourising from studio photographs works better than colourising from screenshots I took from the movies. Here are two more from A Tale of Two Cities, the second one also featuring actress Elizabeth Allen. Ronald Colman was very attached to his moustache and was hesitant shaving it off for Two Cities but I do think it’s one of his best looks.
This slightly ruffled Random Harvest look isn’t half bad either in colour (don’t mind his ear on the left of this picture, which is very off-colour). His brown eyes come out nicely in this one as well.
I am quite taken by this one of Ronald Colman in A Double Life – I love him with glasses!
I also really like two colourized shots from the mid 1920s with his frequent co-star Vilma Banky. The first one is from their final silent movie together, The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926) and I suspect the second one was taken on that set as well.
There’s a nice one from the end 1940s with his wife Benita Hume, when they did radio together (even though the blue hand that looks like it could fall off his arm any minute)…
I also really like these two behind the scenes shots, from A Tale of Two Cities and Random Harvest. I presume he’s not really wearing one brown and one blue sock in Random Harvest, it’s probably a colouring mistake, but I do like to imagine that he wore mismatched socks.
And I really love these candid ones from Ronnie in his garden, from the beginning 1930s and beginning 1940s, I believe. He sure looked good in blue.
Judging from these pictures alone it must have been quite something meeting him in real life full colour. In a 1926 Photoplay interview (during the silent film era when he had only been famous for two years) this is confirmed:
“He gives you the feeling that, for all his reserve, you are one of the people capable of getting under it. He conveys that impression at the very moment of meeting. It’s a beautiful trick. When you are introduced his first glance meets yours quite politely, but casually. An instant later his eyes flash interest, a deep interest in you whom he has just seen that moment. It’s enough to make any woman glow like a red-hot stove. Of course it may be due to his being a marvellous actor. Every woman in his life must have felt that she, out of all the world, was closest to him. And afterward she must have known that she didn’t know him at all. He makes you feel that he could be the most charming person in the world, the most wonderful companion, the most ardent lover. These things are in the depths of his cynical and amused eyes, in the well-bred tones of his fine voice, in his flattering attention to your silliest words.” (Source)
I wish I could have caught a glimpse like that of the real Ronald Colman in colour for myself. Alas, that does not seem to be in the cards as Ronald was very publicity shy, he rarely gave interviews and there seem to be no video interviews (more than snippets in news reels) either. There is more to be found of publicity shy actors nowadays (*cough* Richard Armitage) than of publicity shy actors from the 1920s – 1940s…