Robert Donat did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, The Mandarin of Yang Cheng in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.
Robert Donat technically is quite miscast here in his final role as a Chinese Mandarin, and obviously someone who was actually Chinese would have been more fitting for the role especially since there are actual Chinese actors in the film to begin with. Robert Donat thankfully does not play the role in some stereotypical fashion, and avoids putting on some over the top mannerisms that are often found in the portrayals of these types of character. Instead Donat tries to give a fairly dignified portrayal of the character, and avoids the pitfalls of playing such a character for the most part even if he still has to dress like a Mandarin as well as have the obligatory facial hair that is of course needed for a Mandarin.
Robert Donat is always a charming presence and that is certainly the case here. Donat contains his performance appropriately by keeping that manner of a reserved man who has some power at his disposal. The film portrays the Mandarin as a purely good man though who wants to help the various people in his community and even does not mind helping Gladys despite the fact that she is foreigner. Donat while still keeping the stature of the character intact exudes a nice degree of warmth along with it. Donat makes the character of the Mandarin quite likable in fact because Donat is the one playing him. It is often the case with these characters that they are so serious that they are stiff, Donat keeps the serious points of his character, btu brings a nice ease in his performance that avoids making the Mandarin a boring presence.
The only major problem for Donat is that the Mandarin ends up being a relatively simple part. He shows up from time to time offering some support or some sort of wisdom to Gladys, and that's really about it. Donat is good in these limitations though creating that sense of wisdom the Mandarin should convey, while doing it in a way that is not boring. It's not a great role all together and obviously it is very hard to ever forget that Donat was far from perfect for the role for the most obvious of reasons. Donat still manages to give a good performance though despite what ways against him in the part, and does a good job of bringing some energy and life to any scene that he appears. It's far from his best performance, but not a bad one to be his last.