On This Day … 09 June [2022]


People (Deaths)

  • 1958 – Robert Donat, English actor (born 1905).

Robert Donat

Friedrich Robert Donat (18 March 1905 to 09 June 1958) was an English actor.

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.

The 39 Steps (1935)

The 39 Steps is a 1935 British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. It is very loosely based on the 1915 adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. It concerns a Canadian civilian in London, Richard Hannay, who becomes caught up in preventing an organisation of spies called “The 39 Steps” from stealing British military secrets. After being mistakenly accused of the murder of a counter-espionage agent, Hannay goes on the run to Scotland and becomes tangled up with an attractive woman while hoping to stop the spy ring and clear his name.

Since its initial release, the film has been widely acknowledged as a classic. Filmmaker and actor Orson Welles referred to it as a “masterpiece.” Screenwriter Robert Towne remarked, “It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that all contemporary escapist entertainment begins with The 39 Steps.”

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