RODDY MCDOWALL Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall                                           
Born: 17 September 1928 Herne Hill, London, England, United Kingdom                   
Died: 3 October 1998 Los Angeles, California, USA                                     
Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall (September 17, 1928 - October 3, 1998) was     
an English-American actor.                                                           
McDowall was born in Herne Hill, London, the son of Winsfriede L. (nee Corcoran),     
an Irish-born aspiring actress, and Thomas Andrew McDowall, a Merchant Mariner       
of Scottish descent. Both of his parents were enthusiastic about the theatre.         
He had a sister, Virginia (1927 - 2006).                                             
McDowall made his first major film appearance at age twelve (though he had           
previously appeared in several British films), after he and his family came to       
America because of the Blitz. He played Huw in How Green Was My Valley (1941) a       
rôle that made his name, and he appeared in other films as a child actor,           
including The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The White Cliffs of Dover (1944) and       
Lassie Come Home (1943) where he co-starred, on the first of many occasions,         
opposite lifelong friend Elizabeth Taylor.                                           
McDowall was one of the few child actors to continue his career successfully         
into adulthood, but it was usually in character roles, notably in heavy makeup       
as various "chimpanzee" characters in four of the Planet of the Apes movies (1968     
- 1973) and in the 1974 TV series that followed. Other film appearances included     
Cleopatra (1963), in which he played Octavian, the later Emperor Augustus; It! (1966),
in which he played a Norman Bates character reminiscent of Psycho; The Poseidon       
Adventure (1972), in which he played Acres, a dining room attendant; Dirty Mary,     
Crazy Larry (1974); 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) in which he played a kind-hearted butler. He also appeared       
on stage and was frequently a guest star on television shows, appearing in such       
series as the original The Twilight Zone, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Night     
Gallery, The Invaders, The Carol Burnett Show, Fantasy Island, Columbo and           
Quantum Leap.                                                                         
He appeared frequently on Hollywood Squares, and occasionally came up with funny     
quips himself. For example:                                                           
Q. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, what does Queen Gertrude get that was meant for her       
famous son? McDOWALL: A dozen roses and a box of candy.                               
He played a character villain, "The Bookworm", in the camp 1960s TV series           
Batman and had an acclaimed recurring role as The Mad Hatter in Batman: The           
Animated Series as well as providing his adroit dramatic tones to the audio           
adaptation of the 1989 Batman film. He also played the rebel scientist Dr.           
Jonathan Willoway in the 1970s Bermuda Triangle-based sci-fi series, The             
Fantastic Journey. His final acting role in animation (at least), was for an         
episode of Godzilla: The Series in the episode "Dreadloch". 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 became active in film preservation and participated       
in the restoration of Cleopatra (1963), which had been severely cut by 20th           
Century Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck after skyrocketing production costs.         
McDowall served for several years in various capacities on the Board of               
Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization       
that presents the Oscar Awards. He was Chairman of the Actor's Branch for five       
terms. He was elected President of the Academy Foundation the year that he died.     
McDowall received recognition as a photographer and published five books of           
photographs, one being of his celebrity friends such as Elizabeth Taylor, Judy       
Garland, Judy Holliday and Maureen O'Hara.                                           
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 of movie piracy     
and copyright infringement. His collection consisted of 160 16 mm prints and         
over 1,000 videocassettes, at a time before the era of videotapes when there was     
no legal aftermarket for films (copying or selling prints obtained from studios       
without owning the copyright was illegal). McDowall had purchased Errol Flynn's       
home movies and the prints of his own directorial debut Tam Lin (1970) starring       
Ava Gardner, 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 brought against McDowall.                 
On October 3, 1998, McDowall died in Studio City, California from lung cancer at     
the age of 70. One of his last public appearances occurred when he accompanied       
then-88-year-old actress Luise Rainer to the 70th Oscar ceremony. Rainer was the     
earliest recipient of a Best Actress Oscar who attended that year's Academy           
Award telecast, which featured more than 70 living previous Oscar winners             
willing and able to attend.