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McDowall at the 1988 Academy Awards
|Born||Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall
17 September 1928
Herne Hill, London, England
|Died||3 October 1998
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Lung cancer|
|Occupation||Actor, director, photographer, voice artist|
Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall (17 September 1928 – 3 October 1998), known as Roddy McDowall, was an English-American actor, film director, photographer, and voice artist. His roles included Cornelius, Caesar, and Galen in the Planet of the Apes film and television series. He began his acting career as a child in England, and then in the United States, in How Green Was My Valley, My Friend Flicka, and Lassie Come Home.
As an adult he appeared most frequently as a character actor on radio, stage, film, and television. He served in several positions on the Board of Governors for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and the Selection Committee for the Kennedy Center Honors, and contributed to various charities related to the film industry and film preservation.
Early life and career
McDowall was born at 204 Herne Hill Road, Herne Hill, London, the son of Winifriede Lucinda (née Corcoran), an aspiring actress originally from Ireland, and Thomas Andrew McDowall, a merchant seaman of Scottish descent. Both of his parents were enthusiastic about the theatre. He had an older sister, Virginia. Both were raised Catholic. He attended St. Joseph's College, Beulah Hill, Upper Norwood, a Roman Catholic secondary school in London.
Appearing as a child model as a baby, McDowall appeared in several British films as a boy. After winning an acting prize in a school play at age nine, he landed his first major movie part in Scruffy (1938). He then appeared in films starring comedians George Formby and Will Hay, as well as in Walter Forde's thriller Saloon Bar. His family moved to the United States in 1940 due to the outbreak of World War II. McDowall became a naturalized United States citizen on 9 December 1949, and lived in the United States for the rest of his life.
He made his first well-known film appearance at the age of 12, playing Huw Morgan in How Green Was My Valley (1941), where he met and became lifelong friends with Maureen O'Hara. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and made him a household name. He starred in Lassie Come Home (1943), a film that introduced an actress who would become another lifelong friend, Elizabeth Taylor. He appeared as Ken McLaughlin in the 1943 film My Friend Flicka. McDowall went on to appear in several other films, including The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) with Gregory Peck, and The White Cliffs of Dover (1944). In 1944 exhibitors voted him the number one "star of tomorrow".
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McDowall continued his career successfully into adulthood. By the mid-1940s, released from his studio contract, McDowall turned to the theater, taking the title role of Young Woodley in 1946 in a summer stock production in Westport, Connecticut. In 1947, he played Malcolm in Orson Welles's stage production of Macbeth in Salt Lake City, Utah, and played the same part in the actor-director's film version in 1948.
He then appeared in several roles for Monogram Pictures, a low-budget studio that welcomed established stars. Apart from Kidnapped (1948), an adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson story, the McDowall Monograms were contemporary outdoor adventures; he made seven features for the studio until the series lapsed in 1952. At a relatively awkward age, and with no other decent movie roles forthcoming, McDowall left Hollywood to hone his craft on the Broadway stage, notably in The Fighting Cock, No Time For Sergeants, and Camelot with Julie Andrews and Richard Burton, and in television through the 1950s and 1960s. He also appeared on scores of broadcast radio programs during radio's Golden Age.
Having won both an Emmy (1961, for NBC Sunday Showcase) and a Tony Award (1961 in The Fighting Cock) he appeared in such television series as the original The Twilight Zone, The Eleventh Hour, Twelve O'Clock High, The Invaders, The Carol Burnett Show, Columbo, Night Gallery, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Mork and Mindy, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Hart to Hart, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Hotel, Murder She Wrote and Quantum Leap.
He is well remembered for his performances in heavy makeup as various chimpanzee characters in four of the Planet of the Apes films (1968–1973) and in the 1974 TV series that followed. During one guest appearance on The Carol Burnett Show, he came onstage in his Planet of the Apes makeup and performed a love duet with Burnett. Film appearances included Cleopatra (1963), in which he played Octavian (the young Emperor Augustus) and was intended to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor but was disqualified when the studio accidentally submitted him for Best Actor instead.
Other films included It! (1966), in which he played a Norman Bates-like character reminiscent of Psycho; The Poseidon Adventure (1972), in which he played Acres, a dining room attendant; The Legend of Hell House (1973), in which he played a physical medium assigned to a team attempting to crack the secret of the Belasco House; Bedknobs and Broomsticks, That Darn Cat!, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, Scavenger Hunt (1979) in which he played valet Jenkins, Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun (1982), Funny Lady, Class of 1984 (1982), Fright Night (1985), in which he played Peter Vincent, a television host and moderator of telecast horror films, and Overboard (1987 with Goldie Hawn).
McDowall appeared frequently on Hollywood Squares and occasionally came up with quips himself. McDowall played "The Bookworm" in the 1960s American TV series Batman and he had a recurring role as the Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series, as well as providing his voice to the audiobook adaptation of the 1989 Batman film. He played the rebel scientist Dr. Jonathan Willoway in the 1970s science fiction TV series, The Fantastic Journey. He had a substantial role in the miniseries version of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. His final acting role in animation was for an episode of Godzilla: The Series in the episode "DeadLoch". In A Bug's Life (1998), one of his final contributions to motion pictures, he provides the voice of the ant Mr. Soil.
During the 1990s, McDowall redoubled his passion for film preservation and participated in the restoration of Cleopatra (1963), He amassed a personal library of over 1000 books on Hollywood and Broadway history. In 1997, he hosted the MGM Musicals Tribute at Carnegie Hall. McDowall served for several years in various capacities on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organisation that presents the Oscar Awards, and on the selection committee for the Kennedy Center Awards. He was Chairman of the Actors' Branch for five terms. He was elected President of the Academy Foundation the year that he died. He worked tirelessly to support the Motion Pictures Retirement Home, where a rose garden named in his honour was officially dedicated on 9 October 2001 and remains a part of the campus.
McDowall received recognition as a photographer, working with LOOK, Vogue, Collier's and LIFE, including a cover story on Mae West for LIFE, and published five books of photographs, each featuring photos and profile interviews of his celebrity friends interviewing each other, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Judy Holliday and Maureen O'Hara, Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, and several others. One of his last public appearances occurred when he accompanied actress Luise Rainer to the 70th Oscar ceremony, and performing as "Scrooge" in A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden in 1997-98.
In 1974, the FBI raided the home of McDowall and seized the actor's collection of films and television series in the course of an investigation into film piracy and copyright infringement. His collection consisted of 160 16-mm prints and more than 1,000 video cassettes, at a time before the era of commercial videotapes, when there was no legal aftermarket for films.. McDowall had purchased Errol Flynn's home cinema films and the prints of his own directorial debut Tam-Lin (1970), and transferred them all to tape for longer-lasting archival storage. McDowall was quite forthcoming about those who dealt with him: Rock Hudson, Dick Martin and Mel Tormé were just a few of the celebrities interested in his film reproductions. No charges were filed against McDowall.
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On 3 October 1998, aged 70, McDowall died of lung cancer at his home in Studio City. Dennis Osborne, a screenwriter friend, had cared for the actor in his final months. The media quoted Osborne as having said, "It was very peaceful, it was just as he wanted it. It was exactly the way he planned."
- Murder in the Family (1938) as Peter Osborne
- I See Ice (1938) as Boy (uncredited)
- John Halifax (1938) as Boy
- Scruffy (1938) as Boy (uncredited)
- Convict 99 (1938) as Jimmy (uncredited)
- Yellow Sands (1938)
- Hey! Hey! USA (1938) as Urchin on Dock (uncredited)
- Sarah Siddons (1938) (uncredited)
- The Outsider (1939) as Boy (uncredited)
- Poison Pen (1939) as Choirboy (uncredited)
- Dirt (1939)
- Murder Will Out (1939)
- His Brother's Keeper (1940) as Boy (uncredited)
- Dead Man's Shoes (1940) as Boy
- Just William (1940) as Ginger
- Saloon Bar (1940) as Boy
- You Will Remember (1941) as Young Bob Slater
- Man Hunt (1941) as Vaner
- This England (1941) as Hugo, Norman Boy
- How Green Was My Valley (1941) as Huw
- Confirm or Deny (1941) as Albert Perkins
- Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942) as Benjamin - as a Boy
- On the Sunny Side (1942) as Hugh Aylesworth
- The Pied Piper (1942) as Ronnie Cavanaugh
- My Friend Flicka (1943) as Ken McLaughlin
- Lassie Come Home (1943) as Joe Carraclough
- The White Cliffs of Dover (1944) as John Ashwood II as a Boy
- The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) as Francis Chisholm - as a Boy
- Thunderhead, Son of Flicka (1945) as Ken McLaughlin
- Molly and Me (1945) as Jimmy Graham
- Holiday in Mexico (1946) as Stanley Owen
- Rocky (1948) as Chris Hammond
- Macbeth (1948) as Malcolm
- Kidnapped (1948) as David Balfour
- Tuna Clipper (1949) as Alec MacLennan
- Black Midnight (1949) as Scott Jordan
- Killer Shark (1950) as Ted White
- Everybody's Dancin' (1950) as Roddy McDowall (Cameo)
- Big Timber (1950) as Jimmy
- Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Goes to Bat (1950) (short subject)
- The Steel Fist (1952) as Eric Kardin
- The Big Country (1958) as Hannassey Watchman (uncredited)
- The Subterraneans (1960) as Yuri Gilgoric
- Midnight Lace (1960) as Malcolm
- The Longest Day (1962) as Pvt. Morris
- Cleopatra (1963) as Octavian - Caesar Augustus
- Shock Treatment (1964) as Martin Ashley
- The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) as Matthew
- The Third Day (1965) as Oliver Parsons
- The Loved One (1965) as D.J. Jr.
- Inside Daisy Clover (1965) as Walter Baines
- That Darn Cat! (1965) as Gregory Benson
- Lord Love a Duck (1966) as Alan Musgrave
- The Defector (1966) as Agent Adams
- The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967) as Bullwhip Griffin
- The Cool Ones (1967) as Tony Krum
- It! (1967) as Arthur Pimm
- Planet of the Apes (1968) as Cornelius
- 5 Card Stud (1968) as Nick Evers
- Midas Run (1969) as Wister
- Hello Down There (1969) as Nate Ashbury
- Angel, Angel, Down We Go (1969) as Santoro
- Tam-Lin (1970)
- Journey to Murder (1971) as Rollo Verdew (The Killing Bottle)
- Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971) as Proffer
- Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) as Cornelius
- Terror in the Sky (1971) as Dr. Ralph Baird
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) as Mr. Rowan Jelk
- Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) as Caesar
- The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) as Frank Gass
- The Poseidon Adventure (1972) as Acres
- The Legend of Hell House (1973) as Benjamin Franklin Fischer
- Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) as Caesar / Cornelius
- Arnold (1973) as Robert
- Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974) as George Stanton (uncredited)
- Funny Lady (1975) as Bobby
- Mean Johnny Barrows (1976) as Tony Da Vince
- Embryo (1976) as Frank Riley
- Sixth and Main (1977) as Skateboard
- Laserblast (1978) as Doctor Mellon
- Rabbit Test (1978) as Gypsy Grandmother / Dr. D & C Fishbine
- The Cat from Outer Space (1978) as Mr. Stallwood
- Circle of Iron (1978) as White Robe
- The Thief of Baghdad (1978) as Hasan
- Overboard (1978) as Andrew
- Nutcracker Fantasy (1979) as Franz / Fritz (voice)
- The Black Hole (1979) as V.I.N.CENT. (voice, uncredited)
- Scavenger Hunt (1979) as Jenkins
- Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981) as Gillespie
- Evil Under the Sun (1982) as Rex Brewster
- Class of 1984 (1982) as Terry Corrigan
- Fright Night (1985) as Peter Vincent
- Alice in Wonderland (1985) as The March Hare
- Zoo Ship (1985) (voice)
- GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords (1986) as Nuggit (voice)
- Dead of Winter (1987) as Mr. Murray
- Fright Night Part 2 (1988) as Peter Vincent
- The Big Picture (1989) as Judge
- Cutting Class (1989) as Mr. Dante
- Heroes Stand Alone (1989)
- Shakma (1990) as Sorenson
- Going Under (1990) as Secretary Neighbor
- Harold Lloyd, The Third Genius (1990) (documentary)
- Precious Moments Christmas: "Timmy's Gift" (1991) as Narrator (voice)
- The Naked Target (1992) as Minister
- Doin' Time on Planet Earth (1992) as Minister
- Los gusanos no llevan bufanda (1992) as Ernest Peabody
- Double Trouble (1992) as Philip Chamberlain
- The Magical World of Chuck Jones (1992) (documentary)
- The Evil Inside Me (1993) as Pauly
- Mirror, Mirror 2: Raven Dance (1994) as Dr. Lasky
- Angel 4: Undercover (1994) as Geoffrey Kagen
- The Grass Harp (1995) as Amos Legrand
- Last Summer in the Hamptons (1995) as Thomas
- Star Hunter (1995) as Riecher
- The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen (1995) (documentary)
- It's My Party (1996) as Damian Knowles
- Mary Pickford: A Life on Film (1997) (documentary)
- The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo (1997) as King Murphy
- Something to Believe In (1998) as Gambler
- A Bug's Life (1998) as Mr. Soil (voice)
- When It Clicks (1998) (short subject) as Professor Bark
- The Color of Evening (2006) as Henry Seaton (Last appearance)
|1943||Lux Radio Theatre||My Friend Flicka|
|1952||Family Theater||A Lullaby for Christmas|
- Vallance, Tom (5 October 1998). "Obituary: Roddy McDowall". The Independent. London, UK.
- Gussow, Mel (4 October 1998), "Roddy McDowall, 70, Dies; Child Star and Versatile Actor", New York Times, retrieved 16 March 2010
- Biography Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University
- "SAGA OF THE HIGH SEAS.". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860–1954). Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 11 November 1944. p. 9. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
- "The Roddy McDowell Memorial Rose Garden". xmoppet.org. 19 September 2016.
- Smith, Patricia Juliana (2002), Claude J. Summers, ed., "McDowall, Roddy", glbtq.com, retrieved 15 March 2010
- Simpson, Mark (2002), Sex terror: erotic misadventures in pop culture, Routledge, p. 69, ISBN 1560233761
- "Roddy McDowall, 70, Dies; Child Star and Versatile Actor". The New York times.
- "Actor Roddy McDowall dies of cancer" deseretnews.com, October 4, 1998
- "Lux Theatre Guest". Harrisburg Telegraph. Harrisburg Telegraph. June 5, 1943. p. 17. Retrieved December 23, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Kirby, Walter (December 14, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 54.
- Best, Marc. Those Endearing Young Charms: Child Performers of the Screen (South Brunswick and New York: Barnes & Co., 1971), pp. 176-181.
- Holmstrom, John. The Moving Picture Boy: An International Encyclopaedia from 1895 to 1995, Norwich, Michael Russell, 1996, pp. 158-159.
- Dye, David. Child and Youth Actors: Filmography of Their Entire Careers, 1914-1985. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1988, pp. 140-144.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Roddy McDowall.|
- Roddy McDowall at the Internet Movie Database
- Roddy McDowall at the Internet Broadway Database
- xmoppet.org – tribute site with career and biographical information, image gallery, sound clips, links, articles, US TV guide, and a fan club with mailing list
- Documents from the 1974 FBI Raid
- Roddy McDowall at Find a Grave
- The Roddy McDowall Collection, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University