James Donald

Two years later he appeared in another James Clavell screenplay (with Bryan Forbes) 'King Rat' (1965) this time dealing with treachery and double dealing inside a Japanese POW camp. Another brilliant piece of character acting with an especially lovely screen where he gives a dying POW his boots. Unfortunately again type cast and not really given the opportunity to expand he plays an allied doctor (sensitive, caring, moral and pragmatic) reminisces of Bridge…

He did, however, have another moment of glory in Hammer's Quartermaster and the Pit (1967), where his Professor Roney, another sardonic idealist, saves the world from destruction. Like the original version of ‘The Thing From Another World’, this is a film where the dialogue and the performances make you forget we are dealing with strange creatures from another planet. In point of fact, ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ uses a bare minimum of special effects to create its thrills and chills and relies more on the actors. Chilling in its day it was a big box office success.

Like every other British Character Actor he spent his time when not making films in plays. His repertoire was diverse, in 1953 he played with Kenneth Williams in 'Slightly Soiled' and in in 1963 with Susannah York in 'The Wings of The Dove' in London’s West.

Film roles started to become rarer and rarer as the 1970's wore on and he made some memorable TV appearances, the last of which was the role of Murdstone in the 1970 all-star adaptation of David Copperfield. It is truly a shame that he was not offered more roles and perhaps also that he did not receive Queens honours. He was nominated for an Emmy in the the category 'Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role' for 'Victoria Regina' (1961).

James Donald died of stomach cancer at the age of 75.


Suggested films to see:

Quatermass and the Pit (1967)
The Great Escape (1963)
Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)




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