Colourised Colman

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…

Two favourites in one post

It’s the weekend! And I saw this lovely picture come across my Instagram feed this afternoon after I finished working…


Apparently Damage has wrapped filming in Marseille and this is Richard with his co-star Charlie Murphy (an actress I don’t know yet but seems to also have been on Peaky Blinders). I have a feeling Richard is still wearing filming make-up in this picture but it’s such a sweet picture nonetheless! In his Instagram post Richard says he is ‘transformed’. I’d love to know in what way.

It reminds me of another sweet picture I came across earlier this week that I wanted to share of Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen: Mr Darcy 1995 (my absolute fave Darcy ever!) and Mr Darcy 2005…

They starred in their first movie togther and this was them at a premiere…

They seem to like each other apart from that Darcy connection and apparently only briefly exchanged Darcy experiences. They filmed a movie called Operation Mincemeat together about a British deception operation to disguise the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, using the body of a dead man, planting fake documents on him for the Germans to find. It’s based on a true story. I went to see the film with my friend last Tuesday (it was a pre-premiere showing). The cinema had a huge display to advertise the film…

It’s not Colin’s masterpiece and I could’ve done without that love triangle part of the story but it was a fun film to watch nonetheless. Ian Fleming, writer of James Bond, was part of the team who executed the deception plan and it was also very amusing finding out where M and Q in the James Bond movies seemed to have gained their names from. Colin and Matthew really play well off each other…

It’s not a film you really need to watch but it really was very nice to have seen it, especially with the added context of that Darcy connection. Although, I admit to not thinking much about either Darcy while I watched this, which is a good thing.

I love seeing my favourite actors making good connections with those they work with and showing it with a hug or a touch. It always makes me feel warm and happy inside.

My Jane Eyre has come home

When I was 8 or 9 years old my mother gave me a simplifed version of Jane Eyre to read and I was instantly hooked on the story. It has remained a favourite book of mine since. In fact, I had two simplifed Jane Eyre versions. I remember with one liking the text more and with the other I loved the images. The cover of the one version was this dark pink and it had some drawn illustrations. The other version was the quicker read and it had pictures in them of what I thought then was a movie, but I later found out was a 1973 BBC TV mini series. I would read the pink book and then study the photos in the TV version book I had and read some passages there too and I would do that endlessly.

I cherished my two Jane Eyres and they moved with me from Israel to Germany when I was 10. In the 6 years that I lived in Germany we moved three times. I think that during one of those moves (I’m guessing the last one) I couldn’t find the books anymore but there were lots of boxes with books in storage in the cellar of my dad’s office at the time. I vaguely remember going through those boxes, looking for my Jane Eyres but not being able to find them. I always figured they’d turn up in time but they never did.

At 16 I went to a boarding school in The Netherlands (so didn’t take much stuff with me) and then at 18 we moved into a house in Leiden (NL) and all my stuff from Germany was moved to The Netherlands. Those boxes of books came too. It was all unpacked but my Jane Eyres weren’t there. I have scoured bookshelves at my parents’ house and later at my siblings’ places but those books were nowhere to be found. It was around then (at about 18 or 19) when I first read the full Charlotte Brontë story of Jane Eyre. I can still remember lying in my bed in my attic room reading it and falling in love with it all over again.

Every time I went into a second-hand book store, I’d check to see if one of my simplified Jane Eyre books was available but I never had any luck. Then the internet came and I searched especially for the one with those BBC pictures in it. Try finding a simplified Jane Eyre book online and see how many versions you can find. I can tell you from experience there are hundreds!

A few years ago I thought I’d finally found it. I had found out that it had been published by Longman in 1976, I had an ISBN number and the bookseller’s front cover image indicated it was the version with those BBC images in it. When the book arrived, however, it turned out to be a different edition. The ISBN number was indeed the same but the publication year was different, it was not my version and it didn’t have any pictures. I gave up on searching for a long time after that.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was looking for that Ronald Colman biography and found a second-hand book site called Abe Books. I thought, what the heck, I’ll try looking for my Jane Eyre again and lo and behold, I found it! It was available from a bookstore in Germany. I ordered it, hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed yet again, and today it arrived. I tore the envelope open and there she was, just as I remembered: Sorcha Cusack (older sister of Sinéad Cusack, by the way, who played Mrs Thornton in North and South) as Jane Eyre on the cover…

Yes, this is my Jane Eyre! It even looked as pre-used and loved as my own edition had been. I just can’t tell you how stoked I am: this is the end of an approximately 35 year search! I leafed through the book and the images and even after all these years, they all felt so extremely familiar.

I remember back in 1995 when I fell in love with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy in that year’s BBC production of Pride and Prejudice

… he reminded me of an image of Mr Rochester in my old Jane Eyre book. Of course, I didn’t have the book handy at the time to compare but now that I see this image, I can completely see again why I made that association. The comparison really wasn’t so far-fetched…

I saw this 1973 BBC series some 10 or 15 years ago for the first time and Michael Jayston (who plays Edward Rochester in it) didn’t remind me of Colin at all. He seemed lighter, a little more fair haired then I remembered from the book. I took screenshots of images that I thought might correspond with the images I still had in my head of my book, but they never seemed right. Now I understand why. The image in the book is in black and white, making Edward Rochester seem darker, and is also from a slightly different angle which makes me think this is a stills photograph and not so much a screenshot from the actual series.

I think this evening I may read through bits of that simplified text again, see what I think of it now. I also think that I may start the search for that other simplified Jane Eyre book that I remember, although I do have less details to go on as I don’t have film images or anything that can roughly date that book for me. So far the search terms “Jane Eyre” and “simplified” and “pink cover” have done nothing for me. No matter, I have at least got this one ‘back’ – my Jane Eyre has come home to me.

Silent film comedy Ronnie

The other night I watched Ronald Colman’s 1925 silent movie Her Sister From Paris and these little moments happened…

Especially that second gif cracks me up completely! I think it may be my fave (Colman) gif ever.

It was a fun movie, co-starring Constance Talmadge, an actress I had never heard of before but who seems have to been a top star in the silent movies, famous for her comedies. Short synopsis: A housewife (Constance Talmadge) poses as her twin sister, a notorious dancer, in order to fool her husband (Ronald Colman) and teach him a lesson.

That last hair tousling gif from the movie is quite irresistible too. Ronnie really had very good hair! Here’s another hair tousling gif, from the 1936 (talking) movie Under Two Flags, co-starring Claudette Colbert (I like that little thing she does with the sand, so added that gif here as well)…

Anyway, back to Constance Taldmadge. Ronald made two movies with her. I saw the 1924 movie Her Night of Romance a few weeks ago and it really cracked me up. It’s about an heiress who travels to England disguised as a frump in order to ward off fortune-hunting men. Ronald Colman is a penniless Lord who falls in love with her and then impersonates a physician to get more closely acquainted. There are lots of misunderstandings and attempted cover-ups to hide lies and when attempts are made to make things right, everything gets even worse. There’s this whole section in the film where our hero and heroine tell one person they are married to cover up a compromising situation, then must at the same time hide their ‘marriage’ from the heiress’s dad. A lie is not so easily contained and in the end a whole village shows up to congratulate them. Ridiculous and funny!

All of it is of course quite fanciful and pretty contrived but really so much fun.

I also watched Kiki from 1926 with Constance’s real life older sister Norma as the star. Norma Talmadge was more of a dramatic actress and only made very few comedies but she did do this one with Ronnie. Synopsis: Kiki (Norma Talmadge), a poor young woman who sells newspapers on the street corners of Paris, is able to land a job singing and dancing at a nearby theater. While she is there, she invites herself into the life of the revue’s manager Victor (Ronald Colman), with whom she has fallen in love.

This movie too is quite a lot of fun. Kiki worms her way into the chorus, which is a bit of a disaster…

And at the end, in order to stretch time and to not have to leave Victor, she feigns a sudden onset of catalepsy…

This one’s a fun movie too, although my fave of these three is Her Night of Romance (despite it being the most convoluted one). A cool thing about these movies is that it’s mostly the women propelling the action. 1920s women sure were sassy, in a very good way. There is a down side to these silent films too, though: you can’t hear Ronald’s gorgeous voice…

(P.S. Should you care to watch any of these movies yourself, they are all availabe on Youtube for free.)

The banjo, whistling and ‘my sweet’

It’s been two months since I first watched Ronald Colman in Random Harvest and a new crush started. How can I still be this obsessed with him? And yet, I am.

For my birthday almost two weeks ago, my daughter ordered a Ronald Colman print off Ebay for me, which has now found it’s way onto my movie desk (top left image)…

And as I delve on into Ronnie I find more details that I overlooked in that first thirst for information but now have space in my head to absorb.

To begin with, he apparently was an accomplished banjo player. He learned it at age 16 after his father died. His daughter Juliet mentions it in the biography she wrote about him, on page 19: “To add some colorful contrast, he joined the Bancroft Amateur Dramatic Society, where they acted Wilde, sang the English drinking songs, learned Gilbert and Sullivan and how to play the banjo.”

He himself jokingly mentions playing the banjo in that epsiode about his Oscar on the Jack Benny radio show, about two minutes and 20 seconds into this video. I also found some images of Ronald Colman with banjo in the 1920s on a movie set. The image on the right is apparently a still from the movie The Magic Flame.

Juliet Colman says on page 85 of the biography: “Vilma [Banky] and Ronnie were next teamed in The Magic Flame, which provided him with his first of several dual roles. This one was a costume drama set in a mythical kingdom in which he played a circus clown and a villainous count. He introduced the idea of the clown playing a banjo being an old virtuoso from his amateur theatrical days, and serenaded the astonished company with his repertoire.

Alas this movie seems to be lost so we can never actually see and hear him in action playing that instrument. My fave image of Ronald with banjo is this next one. He’s so relaxed, with tousled hair, that cigarette hanging at the corner of his mouth and his fingers look like they are apparently playing something.

The shirt he wears here makes me think this was taken on another set, from The Winning of Barbara Worth, the only movie he made with Vilma Banky that still survives.

Speaking of Vilma Banky, I adore this image of the two of them, which looks like a candid on set shot from Barbara Worth (they made 5 movies together and she retired from acting pretty much when the talkies came along)…

Back to the banjo: I wonder if Ronald would also sing along with his banjo? He had such a lovely voice, I wonder if that also meant he could hold a tune well and whether he had a decent singing voice. He does seem to have been a whistler, as I read in an interview with his daughter from 1975 (source: Beaver County Times, aug, 29th, 1975), 17 years after Ronald passed away:

“When Juliet’s mother, actress Benita Hume, who died in 1967, broke the news that Colman was gone, Juliet fled to her room in frozen shock. ‘I was too sad to cry’
Ever since she could remember Ronald Colman had used a language of ‘whistles’ to communicate with his wife and daughter if he were in one wing of the house and they in another. Juliet and her mother were adept at returning ‘warbling messages’. It was an esoteric game the three Colmans relished.
‘That night I thought I heard Daddy whistling to me,’ says Juliet. ‘Sometimes I still hear him.’

The whistles I have encountered in some of his films indicate he is indeed adept at it and that he has a musicality.

Hearing him whistle like that makes me think of his daughter now.

Another little detail I noticed is that he liked to use the endearment ‘my sweet’ in several of his movies. He used other endearments like my darling, my love, my dear as well but someow, starting with Arrowsmith from 1931, he liked to use ‘my sweet’ in a few more movies as well. I loved him say it over and over again to Leora (Helen Hayes) in Arrowsmith. It’s not an endearment I hear a lot in movies, if ever, and it struck me that it may be a term he injected into his movies himself. Here’s a little ‘my sweet’ compilation…

The final clips are from a 1953 TV special he did. The ‘my sweet’ in that seems a little forced and not as sincere (which fits the role) as my favourite ‘sweets’ from Arrowsmith. Now every time I hear that word I hear it echo in Colman’s voice in my head and then I add mentally, “Ah, Leora, sweet!”

Sorry I’ve become so monotonous on here with all this Colman stuff but I can’t seem to help myself. And to make it worse for you, dear readers, I don’t think I’m quite done yet…