Donald Moffat, Veteran Actor, Dies at 87

Donald Moffat in NBC's The West Wing (1999)

Donald Moffat, Veteran Actor, Dies at 87

Donald Moffat, stage actor and movie star, died at 87 in his Sleepy Hollow home in New York on Dec. 20, according to the New York Times. Moffat, who made his Broadway debut in Under Milk Wood, went on to appear in 18 additional shows. Tony Award Nominations include two 1967 Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Play for his performances in The Wild Duck and Right You Are If You Think You Are. He is survived by his wife, four daughters, 10 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

A Man of Broadway

Donald Moffat in Housesitter (1992) - Photo by Imagine Films Entertainment - © 1992
Donald Moffat in Housesitter (1992) – Photo by Imagine Films Entertainment – © 1992

The actor was born in the United Kingdom in 1930 and moved to American when he was 26 years old. Lynn Moffat told The New York Times her father was “anxious” to leave the UK.

“One reason he was anxious to leave England was the class system,” she said. “He hated it. And he loved Americans. He met many American G.I.s in Totnes, in Devonshire, where he lived as a boy. It was in the American sector for the D-Day invasions. He also met many Americans after the war at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he studied, including his first wife, Anne Murray.”

Donald Moffat was rarely accorded top billing in Broadway theater. However, when he played Falstaff, Shakespeare’s bravest coward, wisest fool and most ignoble knight, in Joseph Papp’s 1987 production of Henry IV, Part 1 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, he shone brightly. Mainly a comic figure, Falstaff, a sidekick to Prince Hal, the future King Henry V, embodies a depth more common to major Shakespeare characters.

“He is the con artist extraordinaire and the liar par excellence,” Donald Moffat told The New York Times before going on. “He has no income, but he lives fairly well, entirely by his wits. He gets trapped into being exposed, but he always finds his way out — so on to another level. There are all kinds of variations on that theme throughout the play.”

A Star to Many

He appeared on television in One Life to Live, Logan’s Run, and The New Land. Among Donald Moffat’s better-known film roles were Garry, the station commander, in John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), Lyndon B. Johnson in Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff (1983), and in Costa-Gavras’s Music Box (1989).

Other film credits included Rachel, Rachel (1968), The Trial of the Catonsville Nine (1972), The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972), Showdown (1973), Earthquake (1974) and Winter Kills (1979).

Take a look at one scene in the film Clear and Present Danger (1994), where the CIA agent Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) bursts into the Oval Office and threatens to expose a plot involving President Bennett (Donald Moffat).

Moffat retired from acting in 2005 and one of his last entertainment-associated appearances was in an off-Broadway production of A Few Stout Individuals in 2002.

Memorial details are not available at this time.

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