For his ongoing series “Philip French’s Screen Legends,” begun in January 2008 on the Guardian’s website, the British film critic has been profiling the “great actors in film, choosing their key works and assessing their legacy,” in neat little encapsulations. Such luminaries as Catherine Deneuve, Michael Redgrave, Jean Gabin, Margaret Lockwood, and Celia Johnson have already received their due, and this week he adds, at number 54, the debonair Oscar winner Robert Donat. Not exactly a household name today, Donat in the 1930s was one of the “two British actors . . . most in demand by our crisis-ridden film industry,” along with Leslie Howard, writes French, and was considered by no less an eminence than Charles Laughton as “the most graceful actor of our time.” Known to Hitchcock aficionados for his sly and sarcastic leading man in The 39 Steps, Donat can also be seen in our upcoming Eclipse Series 16: Alexander Korda’s Private Lives, playing the lover of Henry VIII’s fifth wife in The Private Life of Henry VIII.

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