Robert Donat made fewer than twenty films yet his graceful beauty and undoubted acting ability dominated British cinema. He was big box office, he got an Oscar, he's even come top in our Great British Sex Symbol survey. He managed all this despite a severe asthma condition that eventually killed him.
He was born in Manchester, son of a Polish clerk. Because of his stammer he was sent for elocution lessons and caught the acting bug. He worked his way up through rep and was spotted by Korda who gave him a three year contract. Three minor films (now believed missing) were followed by a supporting role in the smash hit The Private Life of Henry VIII. He was lent to Hollywood for The Count of Monte Cristo, but he didn't like life out there.
At various times in the thirties he seems to have had contracts with MGM, Warners and RKO, but he rarely honoured them. Ill-health was his reason for not keeping to his commitments, though he continued with his stage work. Still, if he couldn't go to Hollywood, Hollywood would have to come to him. After his huge hit with The 39 Steps, Hollywood was happy to oblige.
His range was wide - from the comic ghost in The Ghost Goes West to the disillusioned doctor in The Citadel. His Oscar came from his role as Mr Chips in one of the great sentimental weepies.
When war came he could have gone to America, but again he chose to stay. He concentrated mainly on theatre work and rarely filmed. He directed The Cure for Love and starred in The Magic Box, a celebration of the film industry for the Festival of Britain, but then his health deteriorated.
He was married twice: Ella Annesley (1929 - 1946) and Renee Asherson (1953 - separated 1956).
|1932||Men of Tomorrow|
|1932||That Night in London|
|1933||The Private Life of Henry VIII|
|1934||The Count of Monte Cristo (U.S.)|
|1935||The Thirty-Nine Steps|
|1936||The Ghost Goes West|
|1937||Knight without Armour|
|1939||Goodbye Mr Chips|
|1942||The Young Mr Pitt|
|1943||The Adventures of Tartu|
|1948||The Winslow Boy|
|1950||The Cure for Love|
|1950||The Magic Box|
|1955||Lease of Life|
|1958||Inn of the Sixth Happiness|
Robert Donat at Amazon UK
Robert Donat at Amazon US