Robert Donat Collection


Robert Donat (1905-1958) was a British actor, perhaps best known for his Oscar-winning performance in the title role of the 1939 film Goodbye Mr Chips.

Although Donat gained popularity through his film performances, he also performed regularly on stage and his voice was frequently heard on the radio. Unfortunately, his career was dogged by asthma and he died at a relatively early age in 1958.

Robert Donat learnt the art of the actor as a Bensonite, performing Shakespeare on tour with Sir Frank Benson, followed by a couple of seasons doing rep at Liverpool and Cambridge. His collaboration with the film director, Alexander Korda in 1931, introduced him to the silver screen and by the end of the 1930's he was one of Britain's greatest film stars, starring in films which included The Count of Monte Cristo (1934), The 39 Steps(1935), Goodbye Mr Chips (1939) and The Winslow Boy (1948).

Although the film industry proved to be more lucrative, his true love was the theatre and he created several memorable roles including Becket in Murder in the Cathedral at London Old Vic in 1953, which received the longest first-night ovation in the history of the theatre.

What the collection holds

The Robert Donat Collection holds 20 items that belonged to Robert Donat, including part books, scripts and photographs, which are related to his performances in Heartbreak House (Cambridge Theatre, London, 1942-1943), The Devil's Disciple (Piccadilly Theatre, London & Old Vic Tour, 1938-1940), and Murder in the Cathedral (Old Vic, London 1952-1953). There is also correspondence between himself and Tyrone Guthrie and George Bernard Shaw.

The online catalogue for this collection can be viewed here: 
RD - Robert Donat Collection

Further information

Further reading: Robert Donat by J C Trewin (1968)

The main Robert Donat Archive is held at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester

Robert Donat and Elissa Landi in The Count of Monte Cristo (1934)
Robert Donat and Elissa Landi in The Count of Monte Cristo (1934) Image credit: Public Domain
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