He was born in 18 in Scotland. He started his movie career in 1907 in The French Maid. By 1911, Crisp had been making the rounds of film companies, and visited the Biograph company His first Biograph film was with Mabel Normand in The Diving Girl , 1911, directed by Mack Sennett. He was with Biograph for several years as his training ground for the movies. Crisp left Biograph with D. W. Griffith and appeared in Birth of a Nation (Epoch/Mutual, 1915). He went on to play the villian in Broken Blossoms with Lillian Gish (United Artists, 1919), Don Q Son of Zorro, with douglas Fairbanks, Sr., (United Artists, 1925) and The Black Pirate (United Artists, 1926).
Crisp was also a director, with many films as early as 1914. His first movie as a director was The Dawn (1914). He also directed the first version of Ramona. He went on to direct The Barbarian 1921, with Alan Hale Sr. He also directed Sunnyside Up (Cecil B. de Mille Productions, 1928),. Crisp also assisted with the directing of Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill Jr. (United Artists, 1928).
Crisp went on to appear in films such as Svengali (Warner Bros., 1931), with John Barrymore, Kick In (Paramount, 1931), with Clara Bow, Red Dust (M.G.M., 1933), with Gable and Harlow, The Little Minister (R.K.O., 1934), with Katherine Hepburn and Alan Hale Sr., Mutiny on the Bounty (M.G.M., 1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (Warner Bros., 1936), with Errol Flynn, Mary of Scotland (RKO, 1936), with Katherine Hepburn, The Dawn Patrol (Warner Bros., 1938), with Errol Fylnn , and Jezebel (Warner Bros., 1938), with Bette Davis.
Donald Crisp won an Oscar for How Green Was My Valley (20th Century Fox, 1941), with Maureen O'Hara. He also starred in Lassie Come Home (M.G.M., 1943), starring Roddy MacDowell, The Adventures of Mark Twain (Warner Bros., 1944), National Velvet (M.G.M., 1944), with Elizabeth Taylor, Pollyanna (Buena Vista, 1960), starring Haley Mills. Among many more to his credit. His last film was Spencer's Mountain (Warner Bros., 1963), with Henry Fonda.
With wise investments, Donald Crisp was a successful businessman. He died in Van Nuys, CA. at the age of