Born 1905 in Withington, Manchester, English actor Robert Donat made his first stage appearance in 1921 at the age of 16 at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Birmingham, playing Lucius in Julius Caesar. His break came in 1924 when he joined the company of Shakespearean actor Sir Frank Benson, where he stayed for four years.
Donat made his film debut in a quota quickie Men of Tomorrow (1932) for Alexander Korda’s London Films. He is best remembered for his roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935) and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), winning for the latter the Academy Award for Best Actor.
In his book, The Age of the Dream Palace, Jeffrey Richards wrote that Donat was “British cinema’s one undisputed romantic leading man in the 1930s”. “The image he projected was that of the romantic idealist, often with a dash of the gentleman adventurer.”
Donat suffered from chronic asthma, which affected his career and limited him to appearing in only 20 films. He died in Soho, London in 1958 at age 53. Donat has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6420 Hollywood Blvd.
Take a look at these vintage photos to see portraits of a young Robert Donat in the 1930s and 1940s.