Yolande Donlan in The Devil Bat (1940)
June 2, 1920 |
Jersey City, New Jersey, United States
|Spouse(s)||Phillip Truex (?–?) (divorced)
Val Guest 1954–2006 (his death)
Life and career
She is the daughter of James Donlan who was a hard working character actor in Hollywood films of the 1930s. It is thought by some that she had some uncredited roles in films including Pennies From Heaven and Love Finds Andy Hardy immediately following her father's death in 1938, but these have not been confirmed.
Her early credited roles include Frenchy, the maid in the horror film The Devil Bat in 1940, and she followed this up with several small roles often as similar French-accented maid characters. She played Carole Landis' maid in Turnabout (1940) and one of Red Skelton's concubines in DuBarry Was a Lady (1942).
A notable stage success as Billie Dawn in a Boston production of Born Yesterday by Garson Kanin was the start of bigger things for Donlan. Sir Laurence Olivier chose Donlan to star in his London production of the play. It became a huge success and had a long run in London's West End. Donlan was initially denied a work permit to star in the lead in Peter Pan due to complaints from Actors Equity who felt that a British star should have the lead.
After it ended, Donlan remained in the United Kingdom and began accepting film work. After Traveller's Joy in 1949, Donlan worked for the director Val Guest as the female lead in several films including Mister Drake's Duck with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Penny Princess (in the title role) with Dirk Bogarde and The Body Said No with Michael Rennie.
In 1950 British exhibitors voted her the most promising female newcomer.
Donlan married Guest in 1954 and afterwards her film work included many of her husband's films such as Expresso Bongo with Cliff Richard and 80,000 Suspects, as well as a small number of films for other directors. In one scene of Expresso Bongo Donlan famously kisses pop idol Cliff Richard full on the lips. She is thought to be the only woman to have ever achieved this feat with Sir Cliff on celluloid.
In 1955 she penned the autobiographical travelogue, Sand in my Mink a humorous tale of holiday adventures taken across Europe with her husband.
Her most recent film credit is Seven Nights in Japan from 1976. The same year saw publication of her autobiography, Shake the Stars Down (UK title) or "Third Time Lucky" (U.S. title), which concentrates on her childhood years growing up in the household of her actor father James Donlan in the Hollywood of the 1930s. It also charts her early career as a dancer and actress in that Golden Era.
Guest retired from directing in 1985 and the couple moved to the United States in the early 1990s, where they resided in Palm Springs until his death in 2006. Donlan now lives in Belgravia, London.
- 1942 'Dodie' in "Goodnight Ladies", Blackstone Theatre, Chicago.
- 1944 'Julie' in "School for Brides", Royale Theatre, New York.
- 1947 'Billie Dawn' in "Born Yesterday" by Garson Kanin, Garrick Theatre, London.
- 1948 "Rocket to the Moon" by Clifford Odets, St Martin's Theatre, London.
- 1948 'Lucrece' in "Cage me a Peacock" (with Lionel Blair) by Noel Langley, Strand Theatre, London.
- 1950 "To Dorothy a son" (with Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim), Savoy Theatre, London.
- 1953 "Redheaded Blonde", Vaudeville Theatre, London.
- 1954 "It's Different for Men", Golders Green Hippodrome, London.
- 1957 "Olive Ogilvy", Aldwych Theatre, London.
- 1958 'Lizzie' in "The Rainmaker", Olympia Theatre, Dublin.
- 1959 "Suddenly it's Spring" (with Margaret Lockwood), Duke of Yorks, London.
- 1965 "Dear Wormwood" (with Donald Wolfit and Hywel Bennett), Golders Green Hippodrome, London.
- 1971 "Chorus of Murder", (with Irene Handl and Robert Cawdron) Edinburgh.
- 1972 "Cut-Throat" Theatre Royal, Windsor.
- "Hope tops list for popularity.". The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 30 December 1950. p. 5 Supplement: Sunday Magazine. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated