james donald biog.
Date of Death
Or is it the sun?'
- Dr Clipton (James Donald))<
Bridge on the River Kwai
He was tall and gaunt, and played authority figures like military officers, doctors or scientists.
Born in Aberdeen, the fourth son of a Presbyterian minister, Donald made his first professional stage appearance sometime in the mid-30s, having been educated at Rossall School. During World War II he appeared in minor but important roles in such propaganda classics as In Which We Serve (1942), Went the Day Well? (Donald as a German is truly shocking but that was why he was cast) (1942) and The Way Ahead (1944). However, leading roles eluded him until Lust for Life (1956), in which he played Theo Van Gogh.
He then memorably portrayed Major Clipton in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). The final words of the film are his: "Madness. Madness!" He also played Group Captain Ramsey, the senior British officer in The Great Escape (1963), as well as supporting roles in other notable films both in Britain and the United States, including The Vikings (1958), King Rat (1965), Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), and Quatermass and the Pit (1967).
He also appeared regularly in many TV dramas in the UK and USA, as well as on stage.
Married with one stepson, he had retired from acting by the late 1970s because of his poor health. Instead, he grew grapes and made wine in Wiltshire where he died.