Born: Roderick Andrew McDowall in London, England, 17 September 1928. Education: Attended St. Joseph's School, London; 20th Century-Fox school for child actors. Career: 1938—film debut as child actor in Murder in the Family; 1941—U.S. film debut in Man Hunt; 1946—stage debut in Young Woodley in Westport, Connecticut; 1955—in Julius Caesar and The Tempest at Stratford, Connecticut, Shakespeare Festival; other stage work in roles in No Time for Sergeants, 1952, Compulsion, 1957, Look After Lulu, 1959, and Camelot, 1960; 1970s—in several TV mini-series, and the series The Planet of the Apes, 1974, and Fantastic Journey, 1977; 1971—directed the film Tam Lin; 1980s and 1990s—in TV mini-series Around the World in 80 Days, 1989, An Inconvenient Woman, 1991, The Sands of Time, 1992. Died: of cancer on 3 October 1998 in Studio City, California.
Films as Actor:
Murder in the Family (Banks) (as Peter Osborne); Scruffy (Faye); Hey! Hey! USA! (Varnel); I See Ice (Kimmins); Convict Ninety-Nine (Varnel); Yellow Sands (Brenon); John Halifax, Gentleman (George King); Sarah Siddons
Just William (Cutts) (as Ginger); Dirt; Dead Men's Shoes (Bentley); Poison Pen (Stein); Brother's Keeper; Murder Will Out (Neill)
The Outsider (Stein); Saloon Bar (Forde)
You Will Remember (Raymond) (as young Bob Slater); This England (MacDonald); Man Hunt (Fritz Lang) (as Vaner, the cabin boy); How Green Was My Valley (Ford) (as Huw Morgan); Confirm or Deny (Mayo) (as Albert Perkins)
Son of Fury (Cromwell) (as Benjamin as a boy); The Pied Piper (Pichel) (as Ronny Cavanaugh); On the Sunny Side (Schuster) (as Hugh Aylesworth)
My Friend Flicka (Schuster) (as Ken McLaughlin); Lassie Come Home (Wilcox) (as Joe Carraclough)
The Keys of the Kingdom (Stahl) (as Francis as a boy); The White Cliffs of Dover (Brown) (as John Ashwood II as a boy)
Thunderhead—Son of Flicka (Louis King) (as Ken McLaughlin); Molly and Me (Seiler) (as Jimmy Graham); Hangover Square (Brahm) (as voice)
Holiday in Mexico (Sidney) (as Stanley Owen)
Green Grass of Wyoming (Louis King); Rocky (Barry); Macbeth (Welles) (as Malcolm); Kidnapped (Beaudine) (as David Balfour, + assoc pr)
Tuna Clipper (Beaudine) (as Alec, + assoc pr); Black Midnight (Boetticher) (as Scott Jordan)
Everybody's Dancing (Berke); Killer Shark (Boetticher) (as Ted); Big Timber (Tall Timber) (Yarbrough) (as Jimmy)
The Steel Fist (Barry) (as Erik)
Midnight Lace (Miller) (as Malcolm); The Subterraneans (MacDougall) (as Yuri Gligoric)
The Longest Day (Annakin and others) (as Pvt. Morris)
Cleopatra (Joseph L. Mankiewicz) (as Octavian)
Shock Treatment (Sanders) (as Martin Ashly)
The Greatest Story Ever Told (Stevens) (as Matthew); The Loved One (Richardson) (as D. J., Jr.); That Darn Cat! (Stevenson) (as Gregory Benson); The Third Day (Smight) (as Oliver Parsons); Inside Daisy Clover (Mulligan) (as Walter Baines)
Lord Love a Duck (Axelrod) (as Alan "Mollymauk" Musgrave); The Defector (L'Espion; Lautlose Waffen) (Levy) (as CIA Agent Adam); Paris brûle-t-il? (Is Paris Burning?) (Clément)
The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (Neilson) (title role); It! (Return of the Golem) (Leder) (as Arthur Pimm); The Cool Ones (Nelson) (as Tony)
Planet of the Apes (Schaffner) (as Cornelius); Five Card Stud (Hathaway) (as Nick Evers)
Hello Down There (Arnold) (as Nate Ashbury); The Midas Run (A Run on Gold) (Kjellin) (as Wister); Angel, Angel, Down We Go (Cult of the Damned) (Thom) (as Santoro); Night Gallery (Sagal—for TV)
Pretty Maids All in a Row (Vadim) (as Mr. Proffer); Escape from the Planet of the Apes (Taylor) (as Cornelius); Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Stevenson) (as Mr. Jelk); Terror in the Sky (Kowalski—for TV); A Taste of Evil (Moxey—for TV); Corky (Lookin' Good) (Horn)
The Poseidon Adventure (Neame) (as Acres); Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (Thompson) (as Caesar); The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (Huston) (as Frank Gass); What's a Nice Girl Like You . . .? (Paris—for TV)
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (Thompson) (as Caesar); The Legend of Hell House (Hough) (as Ben Fischer); Arnold (Fenady) (as Robert)
The Elevator (Jameson—for TV); Miracle on 34th Street (Cook—for TV); Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (Hough) (as Stanton)
Funny Lady (Ross) (as Bobby)
Mean Johnny Barrows (Williamson) (as Tony DaVinci); Embryo (Nelson) (as Riley); Flood (Bellamy—for TV)
Sixth and Main (Cain) (as Skateboard)
Laserblast (Rae) (as Dr. Mellon); The Cat from Outer Space (Tokar) (as Stallwood); Rabbit Test (Rivers) (as Gypsy Grandmother/Dr. Fishbind)
The Thief of Baghdad (Conner—for TV); Hart to Hart (T. Mankiewicz—for TV); Nutcracker Fantasy (Nakamura—animation) (as voice of Franz Fritz); Scavenger Hunt (Michael Schultz) (as Jenkins); Circle of Iron (The Silent Flute) (Moore) (as White Robe); The Martian Chronicles (Anderson—for TV)
The Memory of Eva Ryker (Grauman—for TV)
Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (Clive Donner) (as Gillespie)
Evil under the Sun (Hamilton) (as Rex Brewster); Mae West (Phillips—for TV)
Class of 1984 (Lester) (as Terry Corrigan); This Girl for Hire (Jameson—for TV)
Zany Adventures of Robin Hood (Austin—for TV)
Fright Night (Holland) (as Peter Vincent); Deceptions (Chaenault—for TV)
GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords (Patterson—animation) (as voice of Nuggit)
Dead of Winter (Arthur Penn) (as Mr. Murray); Overboard (Garry Marshall) (as Andrew, the butler, + exec pr)
Doin' Time on Planet Earth (Charles Matthau) (as Minister)
Fright Night Part 2 (Wallace) (as Peter Vincent); The Big Picture (Guest) (as the Judge); Cutting Class (Pallenberg) (as Dr. Dante)
Shakma (Parks) (as Sorenson); The Color of Evening (Stafford); Carmilla (Beaumont)
Going Under (Travis) (as secretary of defense/Mr. Neighbor); Earth Angel (Napolitano—for TV) (as Mr. Tatum); Deadly Game (Wright—for TV) (as Dr. Aaron/Osiris); Los Gusanos no Llevan Bufanda (The Naked Target) (Elorrieta) (as Ernest Peabody)
The Magical World of Chuck Jones (Daugherty—doc) (as himself); Double Trouble (Paragon) (as Chamberlain)
Hart to Hart: Home Is Where the Hart Is (Peter R. Hunt—for TV) (as Jeremy Sennet); Mirror Mirror 2: Raven Dance (Lifton); Heads (Shapiro—for TV) (as Fibris Drake); Angel 4: Undercover (Axmith) (as Geoffrey Kagen)
The Alien Within (for TV) (as Dr. Henry Lazarus); Last Summer in the Hamptons (Jaglom) (as Thomas)
It's My Party (Kleiser) (as Damian Knowles); Dead Man's Island (as Trevor Dunnaway—for TV)
The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo (McLachlan) (as King Murphy)
A Bug's Life (Lasseter, Stanton) (as voice of Mr. Soil); Something to Believe In (Hough); Behind the Planet of the Apes (Burns, Comtois—for TV) (as Host/Narrator)
Keepers of the Frame (McLaughlin) (as himself)
Film as Director:
Tam Lin (The Devil's Widow)
By McDOWALL: books—
Double Exposure (photographs), New York, 1966.
Double Exposure Take Two (photographs), New York, 1989.
Double Exposure, Take Three (photographs), New York, 1993.
Double Exposure, Take Four (photographs), New York, 1993.
By McDOWALL: articles—
"A Life in Pictures," interview with Gavin Lambert, in Interview (New York), September 1989.
"Dark Star," interview of Louise Brooks by Roddy McDowall, in Interview (New York), October 1989.
"Tim Burton and Vincent Price," interview by Graham Fuller and Roddy McDowall, in Interview (New York), December 1990.
"The Redgrave Sisters," interview by Roddy McDowall, in Interview (New York), February 1991.
"Sitting Pretty: After a Twenty-Year Absence, Actress Maureen O'Hara Returns to the Silver Screen," interview by Roddy McDowall, in Premiere (New York), July 1991.
On McDOWALL: articles—
Current Biography 1961, New York, 1961.
Buckley, Michael, "Roddy McDowall," in Films in Review (New York), August/September and October 1988.
Contemporary Theatre, Film & Television Volume 16, Ed. By Kath-leen J. Edgar & Lynn M. Spampinato, Gale Research, Detroit, 1997.
* * *
Although Roddy McDowall has appeared in more than 100 motion pictures playing a variety of roles and characters (and has an equal number of television credits) he seems to have been plagued by typecasting during much of his career. He began acting in films at the age of nine in Great Britain. His family emigrated to America in 1940 when he was signed to a movie contract by Darryl F. Zanuck at Twentieth Century-Fox. His first major role in an American film was in John Ford's How Green Was My Valley. Soon afterwards followed My Friend Flicka and Lassie Come Home. These films helped to establish McDowall as a major child star, generally playing the role of sensitive, winsome youngsters. He kept extremely busy making two or three films each year throughout the 1940s. Although McDowall was growing into an adult during this period, producers and audiences continued to think of him as a "child" star. His youthful appearance allowed him to play characters much younger than his actual years (the most outlandish situation coming in 1965 with Lord Love a Duck in which the 35-year-old McDowall played a high school teenager), but it limited the kinds of film roles he was being offered. His initial stardom in America had typecast him into one specific kind of role that he had now outgrown.
Many child stars fade away after this period in their careers, but McDowall was able to continue with his acting by moving to the New York stage. Live television was another medium that enabled McDowall to expand his acting talents with a variety of roles. While he has not been honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, McDowall has won both Emmy and Tony awards for his work in these other mediums.
In the early 1960s he cautiously ventured back into motion pictures as an "adult" actor, taking mainly character roles. In 1967 his career took a different turn with Planet of the Apes. McDowall, in Oscar-winning ape makeup, played Cornelius, a chimpanzee scientist sympathetic to human time traveler Charlton Heston in a future world where humans are subservient to apes. The film was extremely popular at the box office, and there were four sequels, plus a short-lived television series. Although he continued to take other film roles during this period, McDowall's name became synonymous with the ape series. And while it is true that McDowall has appeared in several science-fiction films (such as The Legend of Hell House, Arnold, Embryo, Laserblast, and The Martian Chronicles), he also continued to play many varying roles in other films. A quick glance at his screen credits shows an amazing diversity of films, and McDowall should perhaps be considered more of a character actor than one who has been typecast in any one specific role.
—Linda J. Obalil, updated by Frank Uhle