Ronald Colman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Major Rudolf Rassendyll and King Rudolf V in The Prisoner of Zenda.
Colman uses his scenes as the King well which amplify his work as just plain old Rudolph. This is a bit more traditional Colman, but I mean that in a good way. Colman again brings that ease to his performance that makes him such a likable screen presence. Colman though manages to indicate something further in this by carefully realizing a man who is not burdened by responsibility, which the King is. When the King is drugged, then later kidnapped by those who wish to take the power for themselves, the common Rudolph is called upon to act as an imposter in order for the King to keep his title. Colman actually carries this lack of burden into his portrayal of Rudolph's method of impersonation. Colman brings this sort of carefree quality, although he portrays the proper intention to succeed most directly, particularly when a challenge arises, Colman always alludes to the peculiar state in some very knowing glances though. Colman manages to bring just the right touches of humor in these, in such small moments such as almost forgetting his lines, or just showing the way he's more than a little taken aback by all the attention he is receiving.
Colman finds the right balance in his work as he shows Rudolf conveying both the severity of the situation and the strangeness of it, all of course with his trademark charm thrown in for good measure. Colman proceeds though to properly realize the changing situation as Rudolf continues the act. This includes the complication of being encouraged to romance the King's intended the Princess Flavia (Madeleine Caroll). Colman is always a great romantic lead as he just seems to be able to strike that spark with no time at all, and that is the case here as well. Colman though again does well not to play it completely straight. He brings just the right undercurrent awkwardness in moments indicating the impersonation even while portraying honest infatuation. Not everything though is quite as complex as with Rudolf dealing with the film's true villain the henchmen Rupert (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) who makes no excuses for his amorality. Colman is terrific in these scenes though by showing the way Rudolf is so keenly aware of almost the game he's playing against this man, as he and Fairbanks have a lot of fun as the two have a battle of wits along with the expected swordplay. Colman though is careful though to portray a genuine concern and passion for the King's safety as the situation becomes more severe. He's particularly good in the closing scenes of the film, including its thrilling climax, offering the right gravity to the situation. He's indeed effortless in the role, but Colman importantly provides the needed intensity showing the needed effort Rudolf must make to save the day as well as return to being just the common man. This is typically strong work from Ronald Colman that succeeds in making the film all the more enjoyable.