When Men Were Men #2


(An Autographed Who's Who of the Screen, 1930)

"I was born in Richmond, Surrey, England, in 1891. When I was sixteen my father died and I got a job as office boy for the British Steamship Company in London at a salary of $2.50 a week. I became bookkeeper and junior accountant for the firm. At school I had played in amateur theatricals and now I continued with the Bancroft Amateur Dramatic Society. At the same time, for exercise and diversion, I enlisted in the London Scottish Regiment. I belonged to this regiment until 1913 and promptly rejoined it when war broke out the following year. I was a private soldier in Kitchener's "Contemptibles" the first hundred thousand of England's army to land in France. At Messines a shell struck, there was an explosion, I stumbled and fractured my ankle. I was discharged by the medical board, having failed to get back into action in the other branches of the army. In 1920 I came to New York to look for work, arriving there with exactly $37 in my pocket. I lived in a furnished room and was down to my last dollar when I got a part in support of Robert Warwick in "The Dauntless Three." After a few years of New York stage life, Henry King offered me the leading male role in "The White Sister," starring Lillian Gish. Then Samuel Goldwyn offered me a long term contract, and I definitely cast my fate with moving pictures."

-Ronald Colman

6 comments:

Rob said...

Yes, service in His Majesty's forces seemed to be de-riguer for dashing film lads and screenwriters - Ray Milland was a Horse Guards, I recall, gold helmet and all, and Raymond Chandler was in a Canadian Scots Regiment in the trenches. No Cherry-pickers in Hollywood, tho - there were certain Regiments that seemed destined to do only fighting, rather than career development.

BCNU

swac said...

Of course the most tragic example of a celebrity in the Great War was Max Linder, whose life and career was ruined by the experience, after suffering a nervous breakdown in the aftermath of a gas attack. Sad, considering he was one of the few artists Chaplin would walk over broken glass to praise.

Tom Sutpen said...

I remember seeing footage of Chaplin and Max Linder together, briefly imitating one another and it was eeire how much each one had obviously studied the other's style.

It's a guess on my part, but that has to be the highest compliment one comic can pay to another.

swac said...

Yep...the only other bit of footage I've seen like that is Chaplin and Scotch comic Harry Lauder, who Chaplin clearly adored, and probably knew for years from the English music hall stage.

Chaplin always referred to Linder as "The Professor" which pretty much says it all.

Dave B. said...

Great photo of Colman. Thanks! Seeing A TALE OF TWO CITIES at the age of 15 was one of those life-changing moments, wholly due to Colman's performance. (Seeing the film today, it's entirely too MGM for my particular taste, but Colman is still, now, and forever the perfect Sydney Carton.)

swac said...

It kills me to know that they're screening The White Sister with Colman and Gish at Cinefest in Syracuse this weekend. Grrr...

Dave, if you want to know the pain of what I'm missing, go to http://www.picking.com and look for the Cinefest 2005 schedule. It's a helluva weekend, and the second straight one I've missed. Argh. (Let's just chalk it up to poor planning on my part.)