Robert Donat accidentally breaks the fourth wall and for a split second looks directly into the camera in this scene from The Citadel, 1939.
A 24-year-old Robert in his first leading role in the theatre, in Paul Raynal’s The Unkown Warrior, May, 1929. Raynal’s play tells of a soldier coming home to snatch a few hours with his beloved before he returns to certain death. The poingancy for the audience is that they know he will become “the unkown soldier”. Robert received a ‘remarkable ovation’. His performance was described as an ‘intense and incisive portrayal of the tragic and doomed soldier’ (Liverpool Post, 30 May 1929).
Signed Burrell and Hardman, the expressionistic style and dramatic lighting suggest that these photographs were made by Margaret Hardman, rather than by the acclaimed photographer Edward Chambré Hardman, her husband. The play was staged in Liverpool, where Hardman had his studio.The register shows that at least one image from each negative was ordered and the price for all of them was £6.6.0. The negatives now belong to The National Trust.
Robert Donat with script, 1943, by Fred Daniels, in National Portrait Gallery
A C C U R A T E
Robert Donat Tuesday: The Citadel
Rupert Graves (from Maurice) next to his hero*, Robert Donat
*as discussed in the Bomb Magazine interview here.
The Young Mr. Pitt - 1942
Robert had the dual role of father and son, Pitt the Elder and Younger. The script was over-reverential in its treatment of Pitt. In one scene alone does any of Robert’s own humanity shine through, a delightful scene in which he has a pillow-fight with a crowd of children.The writers provided love interest in the relationship between Pitt and Eleonor Eden (Phyllis Calvert) but avoided any detailed exploration of his reasons for shunning marriage to her, namely his pledge to his father not to pass on the family strain of insanity to a further generation — a theme which would have given Robert something to act. Their scenes were played with great gentleness.
The film was intended as propaganda and was part of Robert’s war effort. Winston Churchill was the first person to be shown the film and gave it his approval.