Friday, September 22, 2023

Little Known Spaghetti Western Actors ~ Donatas Banionis

 [These daily posts will cover little known actors or people that have appeared in more recent films and TV series. Various degrees of information that I was able to find will be given and anything that you can add would be appreciated.]

Donatas Juozas Banionis was born in Kaunas, Lithuania on April 28, 1924. He graduated from the First Craft School of Kaunas, majoring in ceramist, during his studies he was engaged in a drama club.

In 1940, a professional theatre was established in Kaunas on the basis of the amateur collective that existed at the Chamber of Labour, headed by Juozas Miltinis. After a while, the theater moved from Kaunas to Panevėžys, and about six months later Donatas Banionis was accepted into the troupe.

In 1944, Donatas Banionis graduated from the studio at the Panevėžys Theatre and became a professional actor. He made his film debut in 1959 in the role of Dausa in the film “Adomas nori buti zmogumi” (Adam Wants to Be a Man). Subsequently, he created a number of images that are rightfully listed in the classics of Soviet cinema. The style of the actor's play, his manner is most fully expressed in the words of the Lithuanian director Vytautas Žalakevičius: "Banionis was called an "intellectual" actor ... Banionis also is a master of expressing deep feelings, sculpting the image "inward". He builds the interior of the soul. Builds labyrinths of knowledge... His reincarnations do not require him to undergo any psychological rearrangements. His appearance is inside. His face is inside. It's made up of emotions."

In 1980, after the retirement of Juozas Miltinis, there was a threat to the existence of the Panevėžys Theatre – there was no one to stage performances, the actors did not rehearse... Under these conditions, Donatas Banionis was appointed chief director, taking on, in addition to creative problems, the entire burden of purely economic problems: repertoire, preparation for tours, replenishment of the troupe. He directed the theater until 1988. In the same years he graduated from the State Conservatory of the Lithuanian SSR (1982-1984).

Donatas was married to actress Ona Banionienė [1924-2008] (1948–2008) and was the father of historian Egidijus Banionis [1948-1993] and director Raimundas Banionis [1957-    ].

He died from heart problems on September 4, 2014, in a hospital in Panevezys, Lithuania at the age of 90.

Banionis’ only Eurowestern was as Gabriel Conroy in 1977’s “Vooruzhyon i ochen opasen” (Armed and Dangerous: Time and Heroes of Bret Harte)

BANIONIS, Donatas (Donatas Juozas Banionis) [4/28/1924, Kaunas, Lithuania - 9/4/2014, Panevezys, Lithuania (heart problems)] – author, theater, film, TV actor, married to actress Ona Banionienė [1924-2008] (1948–2008) father of historian Egidijus Banionis [1948-1993], director Raimundas Banionis [1957-    ], awarded People's Artist of the USSR [1974], awarded Grand Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit for Lithuania [2004], awarded the National Award of Lithuania in the field of culture and art [2013].

Armed and Very Dangerous: Time and Heroes of Bret Harte– 1977 (Gabriel Conroy)

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