Date of Birth : Mar 18th 1905

English Academy Award-winning film and stage actor. He made his first stage appearance in 1921 and his film debut in 1932 in Men of Tomorrow. His first great screen success came with The Private Life of Henry VIII, playing Thomas Culpepper.

He had a successful screen image as an English gentleman who was neither haughty nor common. That made him something of a novelty in British films at the time, and he was likened by critics to Hollywood’s Clark Gable and Gary Cooper. His most successful films included The Ghost Goes West (1935), Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935), The Citadel (1938), for which he received his first Oscar nomination, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). For the last, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, over Clark Gable for Gone with the Wind, Laurence Olivier for Wuthering Heights, James Stewart for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Mickey Rooney for Babes in Arms. He was a major theatre star, noted for his performances on the British stage in Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple (1938) and Heartbreak House (1942), Much Ado About Nothing (1946), and especially as Thomas Becket in T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral at the Old Vic Theatre (1952).

Donat lobbied hard to be cast in two film roles, neither of which he gained. He wanted to play the Chorus in Olivier’s Henry V, but the role went to Leslie Banks, and he longed desperately to be cast against type as Bill Sikes in David Lean’s Oliver Twist, but Lean thought him wrong for the part and cast Robert Newton instead.

According to Judy Garland in an interview, although she first sang “You Made Me Love You” for Clark Gable, she felt bad because she really wanted to sing it for her idol Donat whom she wrote a fan letter to a few years before, after seeing The Count of Monte Cristo (1934).


The 39 Steps ( 1935 )

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