Almost forgotten, except as the actor who beat out Clark Gable for the Oscar in 1939.
And, as the Englishman passing as Russian during the revolution who rescues an appealingly feminine countess (Marlene Dietrich, above) from the clutches of heartless Bolsheviks. (Can you name the movie?)
Then there is Madeleine Carroll (above), who was literally linked (via handcuffs) to our man in the 1935 version of The 39 Steps. Carroll was regarded at the time as the “Queen of British Cinema.” In any case, Steps remains one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most popular films, and our man’s lightly whimsical yet deadly serious performance largely explains why.
One of the biggest male stars of the 1930’s, Robert Donat had a short career but a powerful one. In 25 years, he made only 19 pictures. One reason: he didn’t live long. Donat died in 1958 at the age of 53.
In his time, he was considered more masculine than Leslie Howard and more restrained than Laurence Olivier. He was a pleasure to watch, and he drew audiences very much into the characters he was playing.
Yet, he personally led what you could almost call la vie maudit. In other words, he didn’t have it easy, and serious obstacles were put before Donat in life and in his professional career. How much do you know about him? Let’s see (answers tomorrow):
1) Question: Although Donat is thought of as an English actor, he was actually Polish. a) True; or b) False.
2) Question: As noted in our opening sentence, Donat upstaged Clark Gable by winning the best actor Oscar citation for his masterful performance in 1939’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Which one of the following was NOT in Donat’s best-actor competitition back then? a) Mickey Rooney; b) Laurence Olivier; c) James Stewart; or d) Thomas Mitchell.
3) Question: Donat battled various physical maladies throughout his life. Which of the following affected him most? a) High blood pressure; b) A pronounced stammer; c) Asthma; or d) Heart palpitations.
4) Question: Which of the following male stars significantly benefited from the starring movie roles Donat turned down for physical reasons? a) Errol Flynn; b) Laurence Olivier; c) James Stewart; or d) Gary Cooper.
5) Question: Although Donat pretended otherwise, he really liked the glamour and glitz he found in Hollywood. a) True; or b) False.