- Known for his beautiful speaking voice, developed as a child through elocution lessons that he took to overcome a stutter.
- Began acting in the theater at 16 and played a number of Shakespearean and classical roles in repertory and touring companies before making his London debut in 1930.
- Gained world fame playing Thomas Culpeper in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933).
- Made only one Hollywood-produced film, The Count of Monte Cristo (1934), preferring to work on stage and screen in his native Britain.
- As the title character in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, for which he won an Oscar, he was seen to age from 25 to 83, though he would not reach old age in real life, dying from complications of chronic asthma at the age of 53.
- 1955, BAFTA Film Awards — Best British Actor: Nominee
- 1938, Oscar — Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Nominee
- 1959, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama: Nominee
- 1939, Oscar — Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Winner
- John Donat — Son
- Peter Donat — Nephew
- Ella Annesley Voysey — Ex-wife
- Richard Donat — Nephew
- Joanna — Daughter
- Renée Asherson — Wife (separated)
- Brian — Son
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