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Roddy McDowall

Roddy McDowall

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Also Known As: Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude Mcdowall Died: October 3, 1998
Born: September 17, 1928 Cause of Death: cancer
Birth Place: London, England, GB Profession: actor, producer, model, photographer, director

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Roddy McDowall began his prolific career as a child model in his native England. Segueing to features, he appeared in over 15 British films in the mid- to late 1930s, including "Convict 99" (1937) and "Murder in the Family" (1938). With his mother and older sister, McDowall was evacuated to the USA. Almost immediately upon his arrival in Hollywood, he was signed to a contract by 20th-Century Fox. McDowall first came to the attention of American audiences as the cabin boy who helps Walter Pidgeon escape from the Nazis in Fritz Lang's superb "Man Hunt" (1941). Pidgeon and McDowall were again teamed in John Ford's Oscar-winning "How Green Was My Valley" (also 1941), this time with the older actor as a minister encouraging the youth in his attempts to overcome a crippling accident. The film established McDowall as a rising young lead, at once sensitive but also manly, and engendered comparisons with other child actors from Shirley Temple and Freddie Bartholomew. Throughout the 40s, he appeared in a number of well-crafted films, many centered around animals like "Son of Fury" (1942) and "Lassie Come Home" (1943). By the end of the decade, as he approached adulthood, McDowall attempted more interesting...

Roddy McDowall began his prolific career as a child model in his native England. Segueing to features, he appeared in over 15 British films in the mid- to late 1930s, including "Convict 99" (1937) and "Murder in the Family" (1938). With his mother and older sister, McDowall was evacuated to the USA. Almost immediately upon his arrival in Hollywood, he was signed to a contract by 20th-Century Fox. McDowall first came to the attention of American audiences as the cabin boy who helps Walter Pidgeon escape from the Nazis in Fritz Lang's superb "Man Hunt" (1941). Pidgeon and McDowall were again teamed in John Ford's Oscar-winning "How Green Was My Valley" (also 1941), this time with the older actor as a minister encouraging the youth in his attempts to overcome a crippling accident. The film established McDowall as a rising young lead, at once sensitive but also manly, and engendered comparisons with other child actors from Shirley Temple and Freddie Bartholomew. Throughout the 40s, he appeared in a number of well-crafted films, many centered around animals like "Son of Fury" (1942) and "Lassie Come Home" (1943). By the end of the decade, as he approached adulthood, McDowall attempted more interesting fare including a turn as David Balfour in the beautifully photographed but slow remake of "Kidnapped" (which also marked his producing debut) and as Malcolm in Orson Welles' "Macbeth" (both 1948). Slowly, though, despite producing a number of efforts, good feature roles became scarce.

McDowall turned to the stage and to television to further hone his craft. In 1951, he studied with famed acting teacher Mira Rostova and began finding work in TV anthology series. McDowall made his stage debut in summer stock in Westport, CT in 1946 and had toured in the waning days of vaudeville, but it wasn't until 1954 that he made it to the New York stage. After appearing in the inaugural season of the American Shakespeare Festival, he went on to co-star in the Broadway play "Compulsion" (1957) and earned a Supporting Actor Tony Award for "The Fighting Cock" (1959-60). McDowall made his Broadway musical debut alongside Richard Burton and Julie Andrews in Lerner and Loewe's "Camelot" (1960). On the small screen, he excelled as Ariel in "The Tempest" (NBC, 1960) and earned a 1961 Emmy for "Not Without Honor" (NBC). Baby boomers may also recall McDowall as the villainous The Bookworm on the campy "Batman" (ABC, 1966).

When he returned to features in the early 60s, it was as a character player. He was suitably creepy as a punk enamored of heroine Doris Day in the uneven "Midnight Lace" (1960) and was a strong Octavian in the extravagant "Cleopatra" (1963). In 1968, McDowall was cast in what is probably one of his most remembered role, the simian scientist Cornelius in "Planet of the Apes," a role he reprised in the second sequel "Escape From the Planet of the Apes" (1971). For the fourth and fifth installments, "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" (1972) and "Battle of the Planet of the Apes" (1973), the actor assumed the role of Caesar, the son of Cornelius. He also played a similar role in the short-lived 1974 TV version.

The prolific actor continued to work in all media into the 80s and 90s. He was the French magistrate and bar owner on the adventure series "Tales of the Gold Monkey" (ABC, 1982-83) and won critical acclaim and a legion of new fans as the washed-up horror movie actor-turned-TV host who is enlisted to battle Chris Sarandon's seductive vampire in the superior "Fright Night" (1985). Near the end of his career, he played the nosy town barber in "The Grass Harp" (1995) and was back among simians as an Englishman held captive by chimps in "Rudyard Kipling's 'The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo'" (1997). A noted collector of Hollywood memorabilia and a fine raconteur, McDowall had been a frequent interview subject for documentaries on celebrities as well as on the A&E series "Biography."

McDowall was also an accomplished photographer, having worked for such magazines as LOOK, LIFE and VOGUE. He has also published four books of his celebrity portraits: "Double Exposure" (1966), "Double Exposure, Take Two" (1989) "Double Exposure, Take Three" (1992) and "Double Exposure, Take Four" (1993).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Tam Lin (1971) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Truth About Lying, The (2000) Henry Stokes
2.
 Mary Pickford: A Life on Film (2000) Interviewee
3.
4.
 Bug's Life, A (1998) Mr. Soil
5.
 Star Hunter (1998)
7.
 It's My Party (1996) Damian Knowles
8.
 Unlikely Angel (1996) Peter
9.
 Dead Man's Island (1996) Trevor Dunaway
10.
 Alien Within, The (1995) Dr Henry Lazarus
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Began career as a child model
1937:
Film debut, "Convict 99"
1940:
With mother and sister, moved to the USA to escape bombing of London during WWII
1940:
Settled in Hollywood; put under contract at 20th Century-Fox
1941:
Had featured role in John Ford's Oscar-winning "How Green Was My Valley"
1943:
Loaned to MGM for "Lassie Come Home"; first screen work with Elizabeth Taylor
1946:
Stage acting debut, "Young Woodley" in Westport, CT
:
Toured in vaudeville in the late 1940s
1948:
Associate produced first film, "Kidnapped"; also acted
:
Appeared as guest actor on such series as "Robert Montgomery Presents Your Lucky Strike Theater", "Faith Baldwin's Theater of Romance" and "Chrysler Medallion Theater"
1954:
Off-Broadway debut, "The Homeward Look"
1955:
Appeared in the inaugural season of the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, CT
1957:
Starred in the Broadway production of "Compulsion", based on the Leopold and Loeb case
1959:
Had featured role in the Broadway play "The Fighting Cock"; won Tony Award
1960:
Made stage musical debut as Mordred in "Camelot", starring Richard Burton and Julie Andrews
1963:
Co-starred in the overblown "Cleopatra", starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
1964:
Formed Silver Lion Inc., a production company
:
Worked as a portrait photographer for LOOK, LIFE and VOGUE magazines, among others
1966:
Published first book of photographs, "Double Exposure"
1966:
Appeared on the camp TV adventure series, "Batman" as the criminal 'The Bookworm'
1968:
Starred as Cornelius in "Planet of the Apes"
1971:
Reprised role in the sequel "Escape From the Planet of the Apes"
1972:
Played new role of Caesar in second sequel "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes"
1972:
Directed first feature, "The Devil's Widow/Tamlin"
1973:
Appeared in fourth sequel "Battle for the Planet of the Apes"
1974:
TV series debut as regular, the short-lived CBS version of "Planet of the Apes"
1977:
Co-starred as the scientist Dr. Willaway on the sci-fi series "Fantastic Journey" (NBC)
1977:
TV miniseries debut in supporting role in "The Rhinemann Exchange" (NBC)
:
Was French magistrate and bar owner Bon Chance Louis in the ABC adventure series "Tales of the Gold Monkey"
1985:
Had one of his best roles as the TV horror host called upon to battle vampires in the superior horror film "Fright Night"
1986:
Was executive secretary to Suzanne Pleshette in the CBS drama "Bridges to Cross"
1987:
Executive produced feature "Overboard"; also played the role of the butler Andrew
1988:
Played himself in "Going Hollywood: The War Years"
1991:
Entered into an exclusive production agreement with Foxboro Entertainment to serve as producer and production consultant to the company
1992:
Voiced The Mad Hatter on the animated "The Adventures of Batman and Robin"
1995:
Provided the voice of Snowball, the hamster nemesis of Brain, on the animated "Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky and the Brain"
1996:
Narrated the Showtime series "Sex and the Silver Scene"
:
Appeared as an interviewee in several episodes of the A&E series "Biography"
1998:
Final film role, providing a character voice for the animated "A Bug's Life"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

St Joseph's College: -
Hanover Academy: -

Notes

He was named Screen Actors Guild representative to the National Film Preservation Board in 1989.

He was awarded the Motion Picture and Television Fund's Silver Medallion Award for humanitarian achievement (1991)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in October 1998 that its collection of still photographs was renamed the Roddy McDowall Photo Archive.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Thomas Andrew McDowall. Mearchant seaman. Scottish.
mother:
Winifred McDowall. Scottish.
sister:
Virginia McDowall. Older; survived him.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Double Exposure" William Morrow
"Double Exposure, Take Two" William Morrow
"Double Exposure, Take Three" William Morrow
"Double Exposure, Take Four" William Morrow
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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