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Roddy McDowall Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Trivia (30) | Personal Quotes (10)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 17 September 1928Herne Hill, London, England, UK
Date of Death 3 October 1998Studio City, California, USA  (lung cancer)
Birth NameRoderick Andrew McDowall
Height 5' 9" (1.75 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Roderick McDowall was born in London, the son of a Merchant Mariner father and a mother who had always wanted to be in movies. He was enrolled in elocution courses at age five and by ten had appeared in his first film, Murder in the Family (1938), playing Peter Osborne, the younger brother of sisters played by Jessica Tandy and Glynis Johns. His mother brought Roddy and his sister to the US at the beginning of World War II, and he soon got the part of Huw, youngest child in a family of Welsh coal miners, in John Ford's How Green Was My Valley (1941), acting alongside Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara and Donald Crisp in the film that won that year's best film Oscar. He went on to many other child roles, in films like My Friend Flicka (1943) and Lassie Come Home (1943) until, at age 18, he moved to New York, where he played a long series of successful stage roles, both on Broadway and in such venues as Connecticut's Stratford Festival, where he did Shakespeare. In addition to making many more movies (over 150), McDowell acted in television, developed an extensive collection of movies and Hollywood memorabilia, and published five acclaimed books of his own photography. He died at his Los Angeles home, aged 70, of cancer.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Trivia (30)

In December 1998, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) honored him for his acting career and critically acclaimed photography by naming its photo archive after him. The collection, which includes several million negatives and stills, will be known as the Roddy McDowall Photograph Archive at the Margaret Herrick Library.
He was cremated after death and his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
Had appeared on three different Batman series: he played the Bookworm in Batman (1966) and the Mad Hatter (Dr. Jervis Tetch) in Batman: The Animated Series (1992) and its spin-off The New Batman Adventures (1997).
In addition to appearing on both the original and animated Batman series (Batman (1966) and Batman: The Animated Series (1992)), he was also the reader for the book-on-tape version of the novelization of the first Batman (1989).
He was a rarity among movie stars in that he appears to have made no enemies at all during his lifetime. A man with numerous friends both in and out of show business, those who knew him continue to speak well of him to this day, and his funeral drew overflow crowds.
In 1943, 20th Century-Fox announced that McDowall would star in "Oliver Twist", but the film was not made.
Won Broadway's 1960 Tony Award as Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) for "The Fighting Cock".
A clerical error on the part of 20th Century-Fox cost McDowall a likely Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor for his role as Caesar Augustus Octavian in Cleopatra (1963). The studio erroneously listed him as a leading player rather than a supporting one. When 20th Century-Fox asked the Academy to correct the error, it refused, saying the ballots already were at the printer. 20th Century-Fox then published an open letter in the trade papers, apologizing to McDowall: "We feel that it is important that the industry realize that your electric performance as Octavian in Cleopatra, which was unanimously singled out by the critics as one of the best supporting performances by an actor this year, is not eligible for an Academy Award nomination in that category... due to a regrettable error on the part of 20th Century-Fox.".
In 1974, the FBI raided his home and seized his collection of films and television series during an investigation of copyright infringement and movie piracy. The collection consisted of 160 16mm prints and over 1,000 videocassettes. The value of the films was conservatively assessed at $5,005,426 by representatives of the movie industry. The actor was not charged and agreed to cooperate with the FBI. There was then no aftermarket for films, as the commercial video recorder had not been marketed, and studios routinely destroyed old negatives and prints of classic films they felt had no worth. Film buffs like McDowall had to purchase 16mm prints of films from the studios, or movie prints on the black market, or from other collectors. He claimed that he had once had as many as 337 movies in his collection, but at the time of the investigation he was not sure how many were still in his possession. He had bought Errol Flynn's movie collection, and had acquired other films through purchases or swaps. McDowall told the FBI that he had transferred many of his films to videotape in order to conserve space and because tape was longer-lasting than film, and subsequently had sold or traded the prints, plus other prints of movies he had lost interest in, to other collectors. He said that he collected the films due to his love of the cinema and to help protect the movies' heritage. McDowall also said that being in possession of prints of his own films allowed him to study his acting and improve his craft. One of the films he had purchased, from American-International Pictures, was The Devil's Widow (1970), a movie he himself had directed. He explained that he believed that he was not in violation of copyright, as he was not showing the films for profit, nor trying to make a profit when selling his prints as he charged only what he remembered as the price he himself paid. He believed he had purchased some of the films outright from 20th Century-Fox, but learned subsequently from his lawyer that his agreement with 20th Century-Fox meant the studio retained ownership of the prints, and that he was forbidden to sell, trade or lend them out. McDowall was forthcoming about the individuals he dealt with on the black market, and also named Rock Hudson, Dick Martin and Mel Tormé as other celebrities with film collections.
Introduced Carol Lawrence to Robert Goulet. In fact, she jokingly said that McDowell was responsible for hers and Goulet's first child.
Biography in: "American National Biography". Supplement 1, pp. 396-398. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Became close, lifelong friends with Peggy Ann Garner while filming The Pied Piper (1942) with her in 1941.
Final stage appearance was as Ebenezer Scrooge in the New York City production of "A Christmas Carol" in 1997. He alternated performances with Hal Linden.
On March 10, 1965, he attended the Los Angeles premiere of The Sound of Music (1965) as the date of the movie's star, Julie Andrews.
Lifelong friends with Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor has since referred to him as the one friend she had to whom she confided everything, and who was always understanding.
An accomplished ballroom dancer, he won both the Charleston and Cha-Cha contests on the The Arthur Murray Party (1950).
Explained in 1995 during an interview for American cable station USA Network the limitations of his make-up on Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). Overwhelmed by frustration over the inability to eat, touch his face and the constant itch brought on by the chimpanzee prosthetics, he admitted to crying.
Along with Woodrow Parfrey, Norman Burton and Eldon Burke, he is one of only four actors to appear in both Planet of the Apes (1968) and Planet of the Apes (1974).
He was close friends with Maureen O'Hara for 57 years, from the time that they made How Green Was My Valley (1941), their first and only film together, until his death in October 1998.
Both of the series in which he starred were short-lived science fiction series produced in the 1970s: Planet of the Apes (1974) and The Fantastic Journey (1977).
Has appeared in four of the five Planet of the Apes films. Having originally played the chimpanzee archaeologist Cornelius in Planet of the Apes (1968), he was unable to reprise his role in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) as he was directing The Devil's Widow (1970) in Britain at the time. In that film, the role was played by David Watson. However, he later returned as Cornelius in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) and as his son Caesar in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).
Horse whisperer Monty Roberts was McDowall's stunt double for most of his childhood roles.
The day after his death, Angela Lansbury paid tribute to him on BBC Radio Five 5: Up all Night. She described him as "one of the most wonderful friends, anybody could possibly have... we've lost a beloved friend" and that he will be "so missed".
Parents are Thomas Andrew McDowall and Winifred Lucinda Corcoran; had an older sister: Virginia McDowall.
Had appeared on an episode of The Carol Burnett Show wearing his Planet of the Apes make-up. The look of fright on Carol Burnett's face was reputed to be genuine.
Had played the same character (The Mad Hatter) on three different series: Batman: The Animated Series (1992), Superman (1996) and The New Batman Adventures (1997).
Had played villains on both Batman (1966) and Batman: The Animated Series (1992), the only actor to do so.
Along with Adam West, Bob Hastings, Barry Dennen, Steve Franken, Michael Pataki and Judy Strangis, he is one of only seven actors to appear in both Batman (1966) and Batman: The Animated Series (1992).
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6632 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
He cast his mother Winifriede McDowall as the innkeeper's wife in Kidnapped (1948). Although she dreamed of being an actress, it was her only on screen role.

Personal Quotes (10)

Intellectually, I'd love to play Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire". Can't you just imagine me down in the streets yelling, "Stella! Stella!". God, the critics would have a lot of fun with that one.
[on his more well-known roles as a child actor] I really liked Lassie, but that horse, Flicka, was a nasty animal with a terrible disposition. All the Flickas - all six of them - were awful.
My whole life I've been trying to prove I'm not just yesterday.
I enjoyed being in movies when I was a boy. As a child, you're not acting - you believe. Ah, if an adult could only act as a child does with that insane, playing-at-toy-soldiers concentration!
[in 1976, on his fellow former child stars] Compare us to your high school graduating class. You'll discover there is always a percentage of successes, and those who fall by the wayside to become alcoholics, dopers, or just plain losers. Sure there are the Bobby Driscolls - the tragedies - but don't forget the others: Elizabeth Taylor, Hayley Mills, Natalie Wood, Gene Reynolds -- who's a successful producer -- and so many others.
I absolutely adore movies. Even bad ones. I don't like pretentious ones, but a good bad movie, you must admit, is great.
All you can do is make a piece of product, sell it on its own terms, stand behind it and hope that people will go see it. If you try to be like something else or appeal to any given group, then you can very easily end up being gratuitous and imitative. There's not much to be gained by that and I think too much time is spent going around trying to be like someone else.
[on Mia Farrow] Trying to describe Mia is like trying to describe dust in a shaft of sunlight. There are all those particles. Her conversation is clotted.
I knew back in Rome when we were making Cleopatra (1963) that it would never work. Elizabeth [Taylor] doesn't just love someone; she possesses them. And Richard [Burton] isn't a man to be possessed. I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did.
[on his career quoted in 1988]... totally isolated, really suffocating. As a child, I was always lied to about myself and about the world.

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