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"In the Spotlight"

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In the Spotlight: RODDY McDOWALL




The talented and beloved actor was born Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall on September 17, 1928 in Herne Hill, London, the son of Winsfriede (n?e 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 was enrolled in elocution courses at age five and by ten had appeared in his first film, "Murder in the Family" in 1938, and appeared in several British films afterward.


McDowall made his first major film appearance at age twelve, after he and his family including older sister Viginia came to America because of the Blitz.

He played the pivitol role of Huw in John Ford's "How Green Was My Valley" (1941) a role that made his name.

Other films as a child actor included "Son of Fury" playing Tyrone Power as a boy, "The Pied Piper" wih Monty Woolley, "My Friend Flicka", "Lassie Come Home" where he co-starred opposite lifelong friend Elizabeth Taylor, "The Keys of the Kingdom" with Gregory Peck, "The White Cliffs of Dover" and "Molly and Me".


McDowall was one of the few child actors to continue his career successfully into adulthood, although in 'B' films such as "Tuna Clipper", "On the Sunny Side", "Steel Fist" and "Killer Shark", etc.

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.


The 1960s brought some quality work in "Midnight Lace" with Doris Day, the war epic "The Longest Day", "Cleopatra" as Caesar Augustus Octavian for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, "Shock Treatment as a nut job, "The Loved One", "Inside Daisy Clover", "Lord Love a Duck" with Tuesday Weld, "Planet of the Apes" as chimpanzee archaeologist Cornelius, and "Midas Run".


Other noteworthy roles included, "The Poseidon Adventure", in which he played Acres, a dining room attendant; "Funny Lady" with Streisand, "Evil Under the Sun", "Class of 1984", "Fright Night", a good chiller in which he played Peter Vincent, a television host and moderator of telecast horror films, and "Overboard" in which he played a kind-hearted butler.


In 1974 the FBI raided his home and seized his collection of films and TV 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.


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", "Batman" "Quantum Leap" and oodles of others.

He also appeared frequently on "Hollywood Squares", and occasionally came up with funny quips himself.


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 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.

His dinner parties were legendary. Someone said that at Roddy's, you could see PeeWee Herman sitting next to Dorothy Lamour, at other parties you would find Dominick Dunne, Louise Brooks, Robert Wagner, or Lauren Bacall.


Although he was one of Hollywood's great storytellers, Mr. McDowall never told tales out of school, one key to the longevity of his friendships. As he said, "I'm a great believer in the private existence of public figures."


Fact or fiction: ?In the Kitty Kelley book 'My Way', (a biography about Frank Sinatra) Sinatra at one of his parties decided to find out who was the most well endowed male celebrity, and so ordered the male guests to expose their members as a kind of contest. Roddy put everyone to shame, apparently.?



On October 3, 1998, McDowall died at his home in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles from Undifferentiated cancer (cancer in every organ of his body, including his brain) It was very peaceful, said Dennis Osborne, a screenwriter friend who had cared for the actor in his final months. It was just as he wanted it. It was exactly the way he planned. Though he was cremated through the Neptune Society, his ashes were not distributed in the Pacific Ocean as had been widely reported at the time.


The day after his death, his close friend Angela Lansbury, who'd worked with him over the years, paid tribute to him on BBC Radio 5 Live, saying that he was 'one of the most wonderful friends anybody could possibly have' and that she had 'lost a beloved friend'.

Life-long friend of Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor has since referred to him as the one friend she had to whom she confided everything, and who was always understanding.


The versatile actor has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Quoted: I absolutely adore movies. Even bad ones. I don't like pretentious ones, but a good bad movie, you must admit, is great.


Message was edited by: mongo

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From his "Huw" in *How Green Was My Valley* to the last film I saw him in, *Overboard*, Roddy McDowell always stayed at the top of my favorite actor list. Thanks for the spotlight, Joe, another "spot-on"!!!!!



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