Robert Donat

Friedrich Robert Donat (1905–58), English actor and a pupil of F. M. Alexander.

Donat made his first stage appearance in 1921, at the age of 16. From 1930 Robert Donat acted in London’s West End Theatres where he also worked briefly as a manager. He is known for several leading film roles, among them The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), Goodbye Mr Chips (1939) and The Citadel (1938) in which he played an idealistic doctor who comes to Harley Street from a mining village in Wales. Donat’s health was delicate all his life and and he suffered occasional depressions. 1946 was a particularly difficult year: he had recurring asthmatic attacks, he divorced and his two theatre productions were not successful, losing him £12,000. Illness, mainly chronic asthma, limited his film and theatre performances. He died in 1958 aged 53 due to a brain tumour.[1]

Lulie Westfeldt reports on students of the first training course going to the cinema to see Robert Donat:

Another time we all went together to see Robert Donat in a movie (Donat had had lessons from F. M.). In the opening scene Donat was sitting in an English railway coach. One knew he was going to get up soon, and one had a feeling of intense suspense (quite as great as when watching a murder mystery): is he or is he not going to ‘retract the head upon the neck’ when he gets up? Alas! he did retract his head, but only slightly.[2]

He is mentioned in passing in Walter Carrington’s 1946 diary.[3]

Friedrich Robert Donat *18 March 1905 – †9 June 1958.


[1] A Time to Remember by Walter H. M. Carrington (The Sheildrake Press, 1996), p. 93.
[2] F. Matthias Alexander: The Man and His Work by Lulie Westfeldt (Mouritz, 1998 [1964]), p. 41.
[3] A Time to Remember by Walter H. M. Carrington (The Sheildrake Press, 1996), p. 35.