Peter Donat Dies: Veteran Actor Of Stage, TV, Films Was 90


Peter Donat, whose long career spanned roles on Broadway, television and in films, has died. He passed on Monday at home in Point Reyes Station, Calif. from complications of diabetes, according to his wife.

The Canadian-born character actor was best known for his role in six episodes of TV’s The X Files, where he recurred as Agent Fox Mulder’s father.

While that role was memorable, it was just a piece of the actor’s broad creative career. He performed frequently with respected companies like the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and the Stratford Festival in Canada, playing Cyrano de Bergerac, Prospero, Shylock, King Lear and Hadrian VII.

In between the stage roles, Donat was a frequent presence as a guest-starr on such shows as The F.B.I., Hawaii Five-O, Mannix, McMillan & Wife, Hill Street Blues and Murder, She Wrote. 

One well-received television role came on the original Dallas as the doctor treating J. R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) after he had been shot in one of TV’s most famous cliffhangers.

Donat also appeared as a lawyer in The Godfather Part II (1974) and as US Attorney Otto Kerner in the film Tucker: The Man and His Dream.

Donat was born Pierre Collingwood Donat on Jan. 20, 1928, in Kentville, Nova Scotia. His acting inspiration came from 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).

Donat went to the Yale School of Drama in the early 1950s,  then began his career with stage roles in Canada and obtained his first television roles.

His big break on Broadway came from a chance meeting with British director Tyrone Guthrie, who he spied walking in the Manhattan theater district with producer Alexander Cohen. The two were putting together The First Gentleman, a British costume drama by Norman Ginsbury.

Donat confronted them on the street and begged for an audition. He got a part as Prince Leopold in the play, winning a Theater World Award for best supporting actor.

Survivors include his wife, Maria (DeJong) Donat 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. No details on memorial services have been revealed.


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