Star Archive

Robert Donat (1905 - 1958)

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).  

Publicity portait of Robert DonatStill from The 39 StepsStill from Knight Without ArmourSet photo from The CitadelPoster of The 39 StepsPoster of The 39 StepsRobert Donat in The Young Mr PittStill from Inn of the Sixth Happiness


1932 Men of Tomorrow
1932 That Night in London
1933 Cash
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
1938 The Citadel
1939 Goodbye Mr Chips
1942 The Young Mr Pitt
1943 The Adventures of Tartu
1945 Perfect Strangers
1947 Captain Boycott
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