Friday, September 14, 2018

RIP Peter Donat

Peter Donat, Actor Who Played a Panoply of Roles, Dead at 90

The New York Times
By Richard Sandomir
September 14, 2018

Peter Donat, a Canadian-born character actor who played a wide variety of classical and contemporary roles in theater, film and television, died on Monday at his home in Point Reyes Station, Calif. He was 90.

His wife, Maria, said the cause was complications of diabetes.

Mr. Donat was best known in recent years for his recurring role as Agent Fox Mulder’s father in six episodes of “The X Files.”

But he preferred theatrical work. He performed frequently with respected companies like the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and the Stratford Festival in Canada. Over the years he played Cyrano de Bergerac, Prospero, Shylock, King Lear and Hadrian VII.

“It’s the closest thing to the ideal creative life,” he said of stage acting in an interview with The Honolulu Advertiser in 1984. “I mean, how often can an actor do Shakespeare, Chekhov and a new play, all in an eight-month span? And do TV shows and films in between?”

He worked regularly in television, guest-starring on series like “The F.B.I.,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Mannix,” McMillan & Wife,” “Hill Street Blues” and “Murder, She Wrote,” on which he played three different roles over several seasons. On “Dallas,” he portrayed a doctor who treated the notorious Texas oilman J. R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) after he had been shot in a famous cliffhanger episode in 1980.

His film career nearly received a significant boost when he was considered for the role of Tom Hagen, the consigliere to Don Corleone, in “The Godfather” (1972). From a list that also included Anthony Zerbe and Ben Piazza, the director Francis Ford Coppola chose Robert Duvall.

Mr. Coppola cast Mr. Donat in a small role as a lawyer in “The Godfather Part II” (1974) and as Otto Kerner, the United States attorney who prosecuted the carmaker Preston Tucker for fraud, in “Tucker: The Man and His Dream” (1988).

Pierre Collingwood Donat was born on Jan. 20, 1928, in Kentville, Nova Scotia. His father, Philip, was a landscape gardener, and his mother, Marie Bardet, was a homemaker. He was inspired to act by the films of his uncle, the British film star Robert Donat, who won a best-actor Oscar for his performance in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1939). As a teenager, Pierre wrote and performed plays with school friends in his garage.

After graduating from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and studying for one year at the Yale School of Drama in the early 1950s, Mr. Donat began performing onstage in Canada and the United States. He also got his first television roles.

While working in the United States, he changed his first name to Peter.

In 1957, he took a chance on landing his first Broadway role when he spotted the renowned British director Tyrone Guthrie walking in Manhattan’s theater district with the producer Alexander Cohen. The two were collaborating on “The First Gentleman,” a British costume drama by Norman Ginsbury.

“On the spur of the moment, I dashed across 45th Street and confronted them,” he recalled in 1985 in an interview with the Southam News service in Canada. “I said: ‘Dr. Guthrie, I’m Peter Donat. My uncle was Robert Donat and I’d like to audition for your play.’ ”

Mr. Guthrie agreed to cast Mr. Donat in the play, which starred Walter Slezak as the Prince Regent of England. For his performance as Prince Leopold, Mr. Donat won a Theater World Award for best supporting actor. And in his otherwise mixed review of the play in The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson praised Mr. Donat’s Leopold as “the one genuine human being in a palace of courtiers.”

Mr. Donat appeared later that year in the Broadway revival of “The Country Wife.” In 1958, he had a role in John Osborne’s play “The Entertainer,” alongside Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright.

In addition to his wife, Maria (DeJong) Donat — with whom he wrote a one-man show about Chekhov that he performed — Mr. Donat is survived by his sons, Caleb, Christopher and Lucas; two stepdaughters, Barbara Park Shapiro and Marina Park Sutton; a stepson, Malcolm Park; 11 grandchildren; and his brother, Richard, who is also an actor. Mr. Donat’s marriage to the actress Michael Learned ended in divorce.

Mr. Donat once recalled that his uncle had cautioned him to stay in North America to learn his craft.

“My uncle said, ‘In England, they’ll make you speak with an English accent, which has nothing to do with acting,’ ” Mr. Donat told The Los Angeles Times in 1968. “I think he didn’t want to see me become a half-baked Englishman.”

DONAT, Peter (Peter Collingwood Donat)
Born: 1/20/1928, Kentville, Nova Scotia, Canada
Died: 9/10/2018, Point Reyes Station, California, U.S.A.

Peter Donar’s westerns – actor:
Adventures in Rainbow Country (TV) 1969 (Mr. Johnson)
Sara (TV) – 1976 (Alan Yarnell)

No comments:

Post a Comment