A Ladies’ Man Who Is Regular
By Arthur Brenton
Photoplay December 1924, Vol. XXVII Number One
All the girls in Hollywood are mad about him. He is besieged at dances by the most alluring beauties of the screen. At “cat parties” his name ranks with reducing and bobbed hair as the chief topic of conversation. Ingenues and famous scenario writers alike grow ecstatic about his technique at love making and his irresistible way of holding a lady’s hand and his good looks. And yet—The men like him. And when men like a man in spite of the above mentioned handicaps, he is bound to be regular.
It was such a happy combination that gave Wallace Reid his amazing and lasting hold upon the affection of the public, that have combined to make Tommy Meighan the best loved and highest salaried star of today, and that now seems likely to add to the list the name of Ronald Colman, leading man for Lillian Gish in “The White Sister” and “Romola” and in George Fitzmaurice’s latest hit, “Tarnish.”
It doesn’t always follow that a man who is a success with the feminine fans is likewise a riot in his own country of Hollywood. Many a famous screen lover has languished as a wallflower among the feminine portion of the film colony. And the oldest living resident cannot remember when any man has had such an instantaneous personal triumph among them as young Colman.
It seems to have been accomplished without any effort on his part. In fact, he’s just a little embarrassed and slightly annoyed about it and doesn’t always know just what to do. And this is one of the reasons the men like him, of course. Ronald Colman,—they called him ” Mustard” Colman in his school days because his last name is spelled the same as the manufacturer of the famous mustard itself—is an Englishman, with a slight trace of Scotch in his ancestry. He is the type of “black Englishman” not so familiar in this country—his hair is jet and he has the big, black eyes that we associate more with the Italian or Spanish type. But as to temperament, disposition, and tastes he is thoroughly British.
In fact, in spite of his romantic and impetuous good looks, he’s a serious, quiet chap, fond of books and a pipe and interested in politics and sports of all kinds. To him, his work is the first and most important thing on earth. He never takes an important step without a lot of thought. He has a fund of good, solid common sense, and a lot of business ability. Yet no less an authority than George Fitzmaurice declares he registers as much romance as any man on the screen. And in his love scenes his hands are almost as expressive as those of Zasu Pitts, which is saying a lot in Hollywood. Colman is a veteran of the war, though he’s just past thirty. As a boy of twenty just out of Hadleigh-Sussex College, he enlisted in the London-Scottish Regiment when war was declared and was among those who went with the first British Expeditionary Force. He was seriously wounded in the first battle of Ypres, and when he was discharged from the hospital after many months he was placed on detached service.
He began his career as an actor shortly after the close of the war, playing the Richard Bennett role in “Damaged Goods” in London. He made a big hit, followed by several others, including “The Misleading Lady” and “Little Brother.” When Lillian Gish offered him the leading role opposite her in “The White Sister” he accepted it eagerly. Pictures appealed to him. But when he came to America after completing “The White Sister” he couldn’t get a job on the screen so went back to the stage, supporting Ruth Chatterton in “La Tendresse ” and Fay Bainter in ” East is West.”
With the release of “The White Sister,” critics hailed young Colman with fervent and lengthy praise, and Miss Gish signed him again for the lead in “Romola.” Then George Fitzmaurice brought him to Hollywood to play opposite May McAvoy in “Tarnish.” His ambition in life is to be a director, not an actor, so that he can earn money faster and retire forever as a gentleman farmer. This seems a worthy ambition and has at least the merit of being different.