MCDOWELL Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Born Malcolm Taylor on 13 June, 1943, in Leeds, but raised in Liverpool, McDowell began his working life as a waiter, serving drinks in his father’s pub, The Park Hotel, before he moved on to become a salesman for a coffee factory. He loathed the job and began attending acting classes, joining a repertory theatre on the Isle of Wight before progressing to the Royal Shakespeare Company. After working briefly as a messenger, his luck changed and McDowell began getting television roles. In 1967 he made his film debut, playing a small role in Ken Loach’s Poor Cow , however his scene was deleted from the final release print. The arrogant, insolent personality McDowell projected on screen attracted director, Lindsay Anderson, who chose him to play Mick Travis, the cocky, young, rebel fighting against the system in If…. (1968). The film made McDowell a star, and inspired a generation of young British rebels both on and offscreen.


McDowell’s screen persona made him the perfect choice to play Alex, the ultra-violent thug in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of A Clockwork Orange (1971). The role that made him infamous, his leering, bowler-hatted face synonymous with evil, has since been imbued with iconic status. The film demonstrated McDowell’s instinctive talents and established him as one of the leading young stars of British Cinema. He was reunited with Anderson and screenwriter David Sherwin on O Lucky Man! (1973); his own experiences as a coffee salesman provided the plot for this second installment in the informal ’state of the nation’ Mick Travis trilogy which was completed with Britannia Hospital (1982). He also worked with Anderson in the stage adaptation of Look Back in Anger in 1980. In 1975 McDowell married his first wife, actress-publicist Margot Bennett Dullea (Keir Dullea’s ex), the couple divorced in 1980.


After a labyrinthine shooting schedule on Tinto Brass’ notorious Caligula (1979) McDowell moved to America. In 1980, he married his second wife, actress Mary Steenburgen after co-starring together in the time travel fantasy, Time After Time (1979), divorcing in 1990. A resident of Southern California since 1979 he slipped out of the British public eye, for most of the 80s but continued to find gainful employment on a wide range of films. Despite frequent first rate performances, critical successes were not forthcoming.