Producers began to notice Colman in the small acting parts he was able to get - they found in him a young actor with striking good looks, a rich voice and a dignity that was rare in one so young. He worked with stage greats Gladys Cooper and Gerald DuMaurier, gaining invaluable experience. Acting lifted his spirits and cut through his natural reserve, making him more extroverted; as he put it, "One can be someone else, in another, more dramatic, more beautiful world."

Colman's first film work came in 1917. He was invited to do a two-reel comedy 'The Live Wire' - the set was an old house, the budget was negligible, and Colman doubled as the leading character and prop man. For the next three years, he would divide his time between stage and rather primitive British film efforts. Colman liked the extra income film work provided, but still felt his future lay on the stage.

In 1919, after a brief courtship, he married an actress named Thelma Raye . The marriage was in trouble almost from the beginning - Raye, a somewhat domineering young woman, made the mistake of taking her husband's gentleness as malleability - her attempts at control were not a success. The two separated in 1923 but were not divorced until 1934. Unfortunately, Thelma was not the type to let go easily, and she would continue to plague Colman for many years. This dreadful experience greatly contributed to Colman's pronounced reticence regarding relationships.

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