- TCM’s “Summer Under the Stars” schedule – Aug. 15: Turner Classic Movies will be airing 13 titles starring Ronald Colman – at his best, one of the most compelling actors of the studio era. The TCM lineup includes three movies that earned Colman Best Actor Academy Award nominations: Bulldog Drummond, Condemned, and Random Harvest.
- This Ronald Colman article includes a brief overview of three of his TCM films: The Story of Mankind, Random Harvest, and Cynara.
TCM’s ‘Summer Under the Stars’ schedule on Aug. 15: Three Oscar-nominated Ronald Colman roles, including the shell-shocked amnesiac in the 1942 classic Random Harvest
Turner Classic Movies’ “Summer Under the Stars” schedule – Aug. 15: TCM will be presenting 13 titles showcasing English-born Hollywood star Ronald Colman, whose credits include some of the best-known and most well-regarded productions of the studio era, among them A Tale of Two Cities, Lost Horizon, The Prisoner of Zenda, Random Harvest, The Talk of the Town, and A Double Life.
The first four titles are all part of TCM’s “Summer Under the Stars” schedule, which, surprisingly, will be placing most of its primetime focus on a handful of the actor’s lesser-known early talkies: Raffles, Cynara, Bulldog Drummond, and Condemned. The first two feature raven-haired Kay Francis as Colman’s leading woman; the last two – both worth a look as dawn-of-the-sound-era curiosities – feature golden-haired actresses Joan Bennett and Ann Harding, respectively.
Also worth noting, Bulldog Drummond and Condemned earned Colman his first (double) Best Actor Academy Award nomination, followed, far more deservedly, by Random Harvest in 1942. After three decades in films, he finally took home an Oscar statuette at the 1948 ceremony for his unnerving portrayal of a veteran Shakespearean performer who takes method acting to the next level in George Cukor’s psychological drama A Double Life.
Now, regarding Ronald Colman’s “Summer Under the Stars” day, it’s a bit disappointing that the TCM programmers failed to add movies rarely shown on the channel – e.g., The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, Clive of India, Under Two Flags, If I Were King, The Light That Failed, Champagne for Caesar. Or those even harder to find good prints of, like The Masquerader and Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back.
And then there are Colman’s rarely seen surviving silents like The Sporting Venus, Beau Geste (with a pre-stardom William Powell competently playing a slimy villain), and The Rescue (a beautiful print exists, and in this one Colman gives a clear indication of the first-rate dramatic actor he was about to become).
How about having at least some of these titles aired during a Feb. 9, 2024, birthday celebration? (When it comes to Colman’s silents, TCM could well change its policy not to present score-less films, though The Rescue was released with an accompanying music track.)
Below is a brief overview of three Ronald Colman movies: The Story of Mankind, Random Harvest, and Cynara. (See TCM’s Ronald Colman “Summer Under the Stars” schedule further below. Most titles will remain available for a while on the Watch TCM app.)
The Story of Mankind (1957)
Loosely based on Hendrik Willem van Loon’s 1921 history book of the same name, Irwin Allen’s* The Story of Mankind pits Ronald Colman, as the Spirit of Man (his final role), against another movie veteran, Vincent Price, as Mr. Scratch (a.k.a. Satan).
The plot revolves around the following premise: Should divine intervention prevent a Super H-bomb from wiping out humankind (and its fellow Earth dwellers)?
Satan is on the side of allowing the bomb to do its doomsday job – a stance that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. After all, whether or not you actually believe in him, what would become of such a creature without human beings diligently working to make his plans – incessant suffering and horror – come to fruition?
Would Satan simply retire? But if so, there would be no more Florida. Where would he go?
Besides Ronald Colman and Vincent Price, the film’s eclectic all-star cast – and this gives you an idea whether you should take the goings-on seriously – includes Hedy Lamarr (instead of the originally announced Diana Lynn) as Joan of Arc; Peter Lorre as Nero; Edward Everett Horton as Sir Walter Raleigh; Virginia Mayo as Cleopatra; Harpo Marx as Sir Isaac Newton; Dennis Hopper as Napoleon Bonaparte; and Bobby Watson as the best-known human being of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler.
It should be noted that just about every single historical personage in The Story of Mankind is either European or an American of European ancestry. These days, Netflix and Amazon would have added a(n American sounding) black Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette, but “diversity” boxes didn’t need to be checked back in the 1950s. (Having said that, it’s ridiculous that Satan would have left out Asians Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun [Update: He didn’t leave Attila out; the Hun leader is briefly seen as further evidence for the cause of wiping out humankind.])
Something else to bear in mind about The Story of Mankind and its time: The climate emergency wasn’t a thing back then. If that movie were made today, Satan would undoubtedly have switched sides with the Spirit of Man, fighting for humankind to be spared immediate destruction so that, with the passing of each year, the human species could slowly die out from relentless heat waves, fires, droughts, typhoons, floods, famines, and wars, until every single member – along with every single member of every other species on Planet Earth – went the way of the dinosaurs.
With his job completed, Satan could then finally retire to some Florida-like spot elsewhere in the universe.
* Irwin Allen is best remembered as the producer of several all-star disaster “epics” of the 1970s, among them The Poseidon Adventure, the Best Picture Oscar nominee The Towering Inferno, The Swarm, and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure. Like the last two titles, both of which also directed by Allen, The Story of Mankind turned out to be a critical and commercial dud.
Random Harvest (1942)
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy – who went from snappy, racy Warner Bros. fare (Three on a Match, Gold Diggers of 1933) to glossy, decorous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer productions (Waterloo Bridge, Blossoms in the Dust) – the gigantic box office hit Random Harvest marks not only the apex of LeRoy’s MGM career, but also one of the peaks of romantic moviemaking, whether in Hollywood or elsewhere.
Officially adapted by Claudine West, George Froeschel, and Arthur Wimperis* from James Hilton’s** 1941 bestseller, Random Harvest is brazenly absurd: Suffering from amnesia, shell-shocked World War I veteran Ronald Colman falls in love with and marries burlesque actress Greer Garson. Fate, however, intervenes: He recovers his memory – and forgets everything about his life as an amnesiac.
How – not if – will Colman’s WWI veteran find his way back to that blissful happiness he had experienced while a man with no past, no i.d., no family ties?
Romantic fantasy – or hokum, as some would call it – was never more entrancing.
Best Director Oscar nominee Mervyn LeRoy works wonders with his cast. Colman† is flawless as the memory-impaired hero, whose old life feels meaningless without that missing something, while Greer Garson, as the missing piece, delivers what is probably the most heartfelt performance of her career.¥
As a plus, Random Harvest also features the lovely Susan Peters in an Oscar-nominated supporting role as Colman’s fiancée, and the finest production values that MGM could offer back in the early 1940s: Cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg, music by Herbert Stothart, art direction by Cedric Gibbons and Randall Duell, and so on.
* In one of those unbelievably outlandish Hollywood endings, credited Random Harvest screenwriters Claudine West, George Froeschel, and Arthur Wimperis lost the Best Screenplay Oscar (writing categories were different then) to … Claudine West, George Froeschel, Arthur Wimperis, and James Hilton for William Wyler’s World War II drama Mrs. Miniver.
** James Hilton also wrote Lost Horizon, which, four years after its publication in 1933, became a Ronald Colman star vehicle at Columbia Pictures.
† Ronald Colman – who is also excellent in another 1942 release, George Stevens’ The Talk of the Town – criminally lost that year’s Oscar to James Cagney for Michael Curtiz’s humongous hit Yankee Doodle Dandy.
¥ Greer Garson was 1942’s Best Actress Oscar winner, but for Mrs. Miniver. Coincidentally, Garson received her first of seven Best Actress nominations for Sam Wood’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), also based on a James Hilton novel. Her “Summer Under the Stars” day was Aug. 14.
A romantic drama written, directed, and performed for adults, King Vidor’s Cynara stars Ronald Colman as an English lawyer who suffers dearly after having an affair with a much younger woman (Phyllis Barry) while his wife (Kay Francis) is away in Venice.
Boasting an engrossing narrative, capable direction, solid production values, and competent (Francis) to excellent (Colman) star turns, Cynara could have been one of the best movies of the 1930s. Alas, one infuriating segment near the end irreparably mars its dramatic effectiveness, which is only partially restored by a beautifully acted final scene.
Without giving too much away, the segment has Henry Stephenson, the older jerk who sets the infidelity plot in motion, playing the role of righteous redeemer – without ever owning up to his earlier behavior. Despite Stephenson’s tip-top characterization, it’s an appalling dramatic choice: A moral lesson about the role wives must play when their husbands stray.
Adding insult to injury, this was the Pre-Code era, when women oftentimes – though, admittedly, not always – found themselves liberated from reactionary social conventions.
And never mind that one of the credited Cynara screenwriters was the top woman in the field, two-time Academy Award winner Frances Marion (The Big House, 1929–30; The Champ, 1931–32), who, along with Lynn Starling (Transatlantic, Back Street), adapted Robert Gore-Browne’s 1929 novel An Imperfect Lover* for independent producer Samuel Goldwyn (Colman’s boss for about a decade).
By the way, the movie’s title is from the line “I have been faithful to thee, Cynara, in my fashion,”** found in Ernest Dowson’s 1894 poem of lost love, “Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae” (“I Am Not as I Was in the Reign of Good Cinara”),† itself inspired by Horace’s Odes, Book 4, 1 (also at least in part about a lost love)¥. Keep in mind that the name of Kay Francis’ character is not Cynara but – hint, hint – Clemency.
* Written by H.M. Harwood, the play Cynara ran on Broadway’s Morosco Theatre from November 1931 to May 1932. The leads were played by Philip Merivale, Phoebe Foster, and, as the younger lover, Adrienne Allen (who had a brief Hollywood career in the early 1930s – e.g., The Stronger Sex, Merrily We Go to Hell).
† That’s the same poem that inspired the title of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel Gone with the Wind: “I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind.”
¥ Cinara is also mentioned in Horace’s Epistles.
Immediately below is TCM’s Ronald Colman movie schedule.
TCM’s ‘Summer Under the Stars’ schedule: Ronald Colman
Aug. 15, EDT
6:00 AM The White Sister (1923)
1h 44m | Silent Romantic Drama
Thinking her lover was killed in the war, a young woman becomes a nun.
Director: Henry King.
Cast: Lillian Gish, Ronald Colman, Gail Kane, J. Barney Sherry.
8:15 AM The Story of Mankind (1957)
1h 40m | Epic
Satan and the spirit of mankind contend for the future of humanity.
Director: Irwin Allen.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Hedy Lamarr, Virginia Mayo, Agnes Moorehead, Vincent Price, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Peter Lorre, Cesar Romero, Charles Coburn, Cedric Hardwicke, Marie Wilson, John Carradine, Dennis Hopper, Helmut Dantine, Edward Everett Horton, Marie Windsor, Reginald Gardiner, Franklin Pangborn, Cathy O’Donnell, Francis X. Bushman, Anthony Dexter, George E. Stone, Melville Cooper, Henry Daniell.
10:00 AM My Life with Caroline (1941)
1h 21m | Comedy
A man thinks his high-spirited wife is cheating on him.
Director: Lewis Milestone.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Anna Lee, Charles Winninger, Gilbert Roland, Reginald Gardiner, Kay Leslie (as Katherine Leslie), Hugh O’Connell, Matt Moore.
11:30 AM Lost Horizon (1937)
1h 58m | Fantasy | Romance
Four fugitives from a Chinese revolution discover a lost world of peace and harmony.
Director: Frank Capra.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt, Thomas Mitchell, John Howard, Edward Everett Horton, Margo, Isabel Jewell, H.B. Warner, Sam Jaffe.
1:45 PM The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
1h 41m | Period Adventure
An Englishman who resembles the king of a small European nation gets mixed up in palace in…
Director: John Cromwell.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Madeleine Carroll, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Mary Astor, Raymond Massey, C. Aubrey Smith, David Niven.
3:30 PM A Tale of Two Cities (1935)
2h | Period Drama
A British lawyer sacrifices himself to save another man from the guillotine.
Director: Jack Conway.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Elizabeth Allen, Edna May Oliver, Reginald Owen, Basil Rathbone, Blanche Yurka, Donald Woods, Walter Catlett, Fritz Leiber, H.B. Warner, Mitchell Lewis, Claude Gillingwater, Lucille La Verne, Henry B. Walthall, Billy Bevan, Isabel Jewell, Tully Marshall, Eily Malyon, E.E. Clive, Lawrence Grant, Robert Warwick, Ralf Harolde, John Davidson.
5:45 PM Random Harvest (1942)
2h 4m | Romance
A woman’s happiness is threatened when she discovers her husband has been suffering from a…
Director: Mervyn LeRoy.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Greer Garson, Philip Dorn, Susan Peters, Henry Travers, Reginald Owen, Margaret Wycherly, Bramwell Fletcher, Melville Cooper, Rhys Williams, Aubrey Mather, Ann Richards, Una O’Connor, Jill Esmond, Norma Varden.
8:00 PM Raffles (1930)
1h 20m | Crime | Romance
A distinguished British gentleman hides his true identity as a notorious jewel thief.
Director: Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Kay Francis, Bramwell Fletcher, David Torrence, Frederic Kerr, John Rogers, Alison Skipworth, Frances Dade. Uncredited: Virginia Bruce.
9:30 PM Cynara (1932)
1h 15m | Romantic Drama
Infidelity threatens a lawyer’s marriage when his fling decides to steal him from his wife…
Director: King Vidor.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Kay Francis, Phyllis Barry, Henry Stephenson, Viva Tattersall, Florine McKinney.
11:00 PM Bulldog Drummond (1929)
1h 30m | Crime
A British adventurer helps a blonde beauty rescue her uncle from an unscrupulous psychiatr…
Director: F. Richard Jones.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Joan Bennett, Lilyan Tashman, Claud Allister, Lawrence Grant, Montagu Love, Gertrude Short, Donald Novis.
12:45 AM Condemned (1929)
1h 26m | Romance | Adventure
A Devil’s Island convict and the warden’s wife fall in love.
Director: Wesley Ruggles.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Ann Harding, Dudley Digges, Louis Wolheim.
2:30 AM Kismet (1944)
1h 40m | Adventure
In the classic Arabian Nights tale, the king of the beggars enters high society to help hi…
Director: William Dieterle.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, James Craig, Edward Arnold, Hugh Herbert, Joy Page, Florence Bates, Harry Davenport, Hobart Cavanaugh, Robert Warwick.
4:15 AM Lucky Partners (1940)
1h 42m | Comedy
Two strangers who share a sweepstakes ticket take it on the lam.
Director: Lewis Milestone.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Ginger Rogers, Jack Carson, Spring Byington, Cecilia Loftus, Harry Davenport, Hugh O’Connell, Brandon Tynan, Leon Belasco, Eddie Conrad, Walter Kingsford, Lucile Gleason.
“Ronald Colman Movies on TCM: 3 Best Actor Oscar Nominations” notes
Double Oscar nods
 In the first three years of the Academy Awards, the same individual could be nominated (or considered; there were no official nominations in the second year) for more than one title in the various categories.
In the Best Actor category for the period 1929–30, three actors received double nominations: Ronald Colman for Bulldog Drummond and Condemned; Maurice Chevalier for The Love Parade and The Big Pond; and George Arliss for The Green Goddess and Disraeli.
The eventual winners were George Arliss for Disraeli and Norma Shearer for The Divorcee. It remains unclear why they won for only one performance. Two years earlier, Janet Gaynor had won for three movies (Sunrise, 7th Heaven, Street Angel) and Emil Jannings for two (The Way of All Flesh, The Last Command).
Ronald Colman “Summer Under the Stars” schedule via Turner Classic Movies.
Greer Garson and Ronald Colman Random Harvest movie image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
“Ronald Colman Movies on TCM: 3 Best Actor Oscar Nominations” last updated in September 2023.