Colman's 'Quiet Birthday' Turns Into All-Star Surprise!
February 9 10:45pm (Reuters):
Actor Ronald Colman isn't 'big' on birthdays. "It's not the age issue," he said, in an interview last week. "I accept what the calendar says; with my service records proving I served in WWI, it would be foolish to shave off years, don't you think?" Still, the attention paid on the passing of another year is a "damned nuisance". He allows daughter Juliet to make a fuss ("For children, a birthday is another holiday to celebrate"), but usually prefers a quiet dinner with his wife, Benita, to mark the occasion.
This year, however, Colman was in for a surprise! After an early round of golf with friends Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, Colman's calendar scheduled him for a photo shoot, in tux, at the popular Hollywood nightspot, Ciro's...but the appointment was actually a clever rouse for a surprise birthday party, set up by friends Johnny Holliday and Laine. "Ronnie's been far too quiet, of late," Holliday, the popular singer/radio entertainer, explained. "Laine and I decided it was time to get him away from work, and to have some fun."
Laine, the vivacious songstess and Hollywood historian, added, "Once we said the party was for Ronnie, everybody wanted to attend! We actually had to turn down people, as we reached the maximum seating capacity for Ciro's private room." Nearly three hundred attended, including over 100 Hollywood legends.
The event caught Colman completely off guard. "I was walking into Ciro's with Benita and Juliet, expecting to finish the session and have dinner...and suddenly EVERYBODY jumped up! I was completely dumbfounded and speechless!"
Many Hollywood couples attended, including Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, Phil Harris and Alice Faye, Joel McCrea and Frances Dee, Dick Powell and June Allyson, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and Glenn Ford and Eleanor Powell. Not only was Colman's birthday celebrated; for many, the night was an early celebration of Valentine's Day. "I have champagne chilling at the house," Bacall said, slyly. "Bogie's going to have a special night, when we leave."
A few guests were surprised to have been invited. Holliday squired starlet Marilyn Monroe, who had never met Colman. "I predict, within five years, she'll be one of the biggest stars in the business," he explained. "Plus, she's a damn fine-looking woman, don't you think? She uses Lux, by the way."
Even more surprised was artist Ben Burgraff, who had created a portrait for Colman. "This is a dream come true!", the cherubic artist exclaimed. "Duke Wayne's already commissioned me for a drawing, and Ava Gardner wants a nude, for the Sinatra bedroom."
The biggest laugh of the evening came when the birthday cake arrived...a tiny chocolate cake with cream cheese filling, and strawberry slices on top. Bob Hope exclaimed, "We need a priest, it'll take a miracle to feed everybody with that!" The cake was actually baked by Juliet Colman (with Benita's assistance) for her father; Ciro's pastry chef soon emerged with a huge white cake, for all the guests.
After dancing to the music of Harry James (whose wife, Betty Grable, led the guests in singing "Happy Birthday"), the party concluded by Colman thanking all his friends.
"I am deeply moved, dear friends," he acknowledged. "I can certainly never repay this kindness...my most sincere thanks, one and all!"
Jack Benny then called out, "Then where do we send the bill?", bringing the house down in laughter!
Guests at the Surprise Birthday Party for Ronald Colman:
Row 1: Glenn Ford, Eleanor Powell, Ann Miller, Alan Ladd, Susan Hayward, Burt Lancaster, Ann Sheridan, Jane Wyman, Ronald Reagan, Alexis Smith, W.C. Fields
Row 2: Bud Abbott, Donald O'Connor, Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante, Lou Costello, Claudette Colbert, Richard Barthelmess, Ann Harding, Bette Davis, John Barrymore, Clementine
Row 3: Jack Benny, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Kay Francis, Al Jolson, Alice Faye, Phil Harris, Basil Rathbone, James Cagney
Row 4: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Mortimer Snerd, Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy, Celeste Holm, June Allyson, Dick Powell, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Rita Hayworth
Row 5: Walt Disney, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Bing Crosby, Johnny Holliday, Marilyn Monroe, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans
Row 6: The Marx Brothers, Dean Martin, Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall
Row 7: Ben Burgraff, David Niven, Dorothy Lamour, Sylvia Sidney, John Ford, Frances Dee, Joel McCrea, Helen Hayes, Ginger Rogers, Fredric March
Row 8: Errol Flynn, Greer Garson, Paulette Goddard, Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Esther Williams, Robert Montgomery, Maureen O'Hara, Victor McLaglen, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Laine
Row 9: Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Gary Cooper, Grace Moore
Row 10: Herbert Marshall, Joan Bennett, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Betty Grable, John Payne
Row 11: John Garfield, Alfred Hitchcock, Fay Wray, Joan Crawford, Shelley Winters, James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, Henry Fonda, Irene Dunne, Barbara Stanwyck, Rosalind Russell
Row 12: Claude Rains, Mary Astor, Loretta Young, George Sanders, Juliet Colman, Ronald Colman, Benita Hume Colman, Vincent Price, Madeleine Carroll, Ingrid Bergman
THE RONALD COLMAN SAGA
"The Dinner Party for Erich von Stroheim"
"The Misadventures of John Barrymore's Cheeky Monkey, Clementine"
"The All-Star Surprise Party for Laine"
"The Classic Hollywood Long Beach-Catalina Yacht Race"
"The Ronald Colman Seance"
"My "Lost Horizon" Surprise!"
"A Night at the Hollywood Canteen!"
"But I Thought You Were..."
"The People vs. Ronald Colman"
"The Epic Hearst Costume Party..."
"The Monkey on Ronald Colman's Back Saga" (A 9-Part Adventure):
"A MAN, A MONKEY, the MOB, and RONALD COLMAN!" (A 5-Part Adventure):
"Introduction: Broadway, 1920..."
"Chapter 1: A LONG Memory..."
"Chapter 2: Barrymore's Reply..."
"Chapter 3: Barrymore in Cement!"
"Chapter 4: A Desert Grave..."
"SURPRISE PARTY for RONALD COLMAN!"
"The RONALD COLMAN Banner Collection"
Finally, if you'd like to 'go to the source', with over 200 photos of Ronald Colman's life and career, please visit Myspace.com/Ronald Colman...the page that started it all!