Brian Aherne’s A Dreadful Man is ostensibly a George Sanders biography, but has a lot of Ronnie anecdotes, as they were best friends:
I was set, but not yet signed, for the famous part of Sydney Carton…This was a very great opportunity for me, and when the day came that the Studio called to say that Mr Selznick would like to have a talk with me I went to his office with the script under my arm in a state of euphoria.
Selznick was, as always in my experience, both charming and direct. He was extremenly sorry, he said, but the Studio would have to withdraw the offer they made to me. I was of course ideal casting for the part, but they had just heard that they could get Ronald Colman for it, and he knew I would understand that meant a million dollars at the box office, so they had no choice.
There was nothing I could do or say but smile, thank him for his courtesy and wish him luck with the picture, but both he and I knew he had dealt me a crushing blow.
That night, by an extraordinary coincidence, we [Brian and Ronnie] had arranged to have dinner together at his house, and as we sat drinking at his bar I plucked up the courage to ask him if the rumour was true that he might be going to play Sydney Carton. To my surprise, he seemed doubtful and unenthusiastic. Selznick, he said, was insisting that he shave off his moustache, a thin but famous line which had become his trademark and without which he feared the audience would scarcely recognise him. This may seem a frivolous objection now, but in those days it had a definite validity.
“Don’t you agree I’m right?” asked Ronnie.
I hesitated, for in that moment Satan tempted me. If I advised Ronnie to insist on his moustache it was possible that Selznick would turn to me and I might play Sydney Carton after all!
“Let’s think about it,” I replied as I handed him my empty glass. In silence he mixed the Scotch and sodas. My heart seemed to turn over. Could I do this to my friend?
“Good luck old man,” he said casually.
“Luck to you, Ron,” I managed to reply.
We both drank, and I spoke of other things. I could not bring myself to do it. In the end, he shaved the moustache, played the part and was fine in it, but he never knew how close he came to losing it. Our friendship was not disturbed.