Yes, there is our man posing thoughtfully above with Greer Garson, his costar in 1939’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips, in which Robert Donat portrays a British head master recalling 63 years of his life between 1870 and 1933. (The actor was 34 years old when he played the part.)
The movie is perhaps notorious today since it resulted in Donat’s surprise best-actor Oscar win in the highly competitive year of 1939, when Clark Gable was all but assured of the citation for his Rhett Butler portrayal in Gone With The Wind.
Oh, well. So much for sure things.
When we think of Donat today, we also think of Tyrone Power. Why?
Both actors were extremely popular and successful in their times, and both were cut down relatively early in life. In fact they died the same year, 1958: Donat in June and Power the following November. He was 44, Donat was 53.
Whereas Power lived hard and had a pretty good time for himself playing vigorous swashbuckling roles — he died of a heart attack after filming a lengthy sword fight with George Sanders on the set of Solomon and Sheba — Donat was plagued by severe and chronic asthma his whole career.
He also was afflicted with a pronounced speech impediment early. In other words, our man struggled throughout and often turned down choice parts because of his physical incapacities. Donat’s final big screen outing was 1958’s Inn of the Sixth Happiness, filmed in England by Twentieth Century Fox, the studio that Power called home.
On to the answers to our Robert Donat Quiz:
1) Question: Although Donat is thought of as an English actor, he was actually Polish. a) True; or b) False.
Answer: b) The actor was born Friederich Donat in 1905 in Manchester. His father was Polish but he was definitely English.
2) Question: As noted in our opening, 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.
Answer: d) Thomas Mitchell, who the Oscar for best supporting actor for John Ford’s Stagecoach.
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.
Answer: c) Asthma.
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.
Answer: Another of our trick questions. ALL did. Flynn for 1935’s Captain Blood; Olivier for 1939’s Wuthering Heights; Stewart for 1951’s No Highway in the Sky; and Cooper for 1935’s Peter Ibbetson.
5) Question: Although Donat pretended otherwise, he really liked the glamour and glitz he found in Hollywood. a) True; or b) False.
Answer: b). Donat liked England, disliked the “fishbowl” atmosphere of Hollywood.