1928 - 1998

by Gary Rose

One of the few child actors able to graduate successfully to adult roles, he made his film debut at the age of eight in the film "Murder In The Family" in 1936, but had already appeared on the amateur stage from the age of four.

Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall was born on 17th September 1928 in Herne Hill, London. The son of a merchant marine of Scottish descent and a frustrated actress, he was educated at St. Joseph's College and Hanover Academy, but still found the time to make film appearances.

With the outbreak of World War Two, he emigrated to Hollywood where he signed a contract with 20th Century-Fox in 1940. His appearance in "How Green Was My Valley" in 1941 established him as a major child star and he also became popular as the star of animal-and-boy pictures, such as "My Friend Flicka" (1943) and "Lassie Come Home" (1943). Each of these films were excellent family entertainment and reached theatres when audiences needed refreshingly wholesome distraction from the horrors of World War Two.

However, in 1945, 20th Century-Fox chose not to renew Roddy's contract and so MGM offered him a part as a teen-ager in "Holiday In Mexico".

Eventually type-cast in teenage roles, the 23 year old Roddy left Hollywood to work on stage and TV in New York, but he returned to ten years later and successfully made the transition to adult roles.

His versatility as an adult actor showcased Roddy in a wide choice of roles. He is probably best known for his role in the "Planet Of The Apes" film series, in which he appeared in a monkey costume, and later won him a cult status. The popularity of the films spawned a TV series of the same name in 1974, in which Roddy also starred.

Roddy has also tried his hand at producing, his first film, "Tam Lin" in 1968, was shelved but his second, the Goldie Hawn vehicle, "Overboard" in 1988, was a huge hit.

Roddy was living proof that there is always a percentage of successes for the so-called plight of ex-child stars. He has worked hard and has been lucky, as there are those who have fallen by the wayside to become alcoholics, drug takers, losers - or simply forgotten.

The ever-reliable actor continued to work, both in films and on TV, until his untimely death on 3rd October 1998 aged 70. Roddy was also a celebrated photographer. His sister, Virginia, was an actress for a brief period.

Films include:

Murder In The Family (1936)

Just William (1939)

This England (1940)

Man Hunt (1940)

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

The Pied Piper (1942)

My Friend Flicka (1943)

Lassie Come Home (1943)

Thunderhead, Son Of Flicka (1945)

Holiday In Mexico (1946)

Macbeth (1950)

The Subterraneans (1960)

The Longest Day (1962)

Cleopatra (1963)

Shock Treatment (1964)

That Darn Cat (1965)

The Cool Ones (1967)

Planet Of The Apes (1967)

Five Card Stud (1968)

Angel, Angel Down You Go (1969)

Escape From The Planet Of The Apes (1971)

Bedknobs And Broomsticks (1971)

Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes (1971)

The Poseidon Adventure (Irwin Allen production, 1972)

The Legend Of Hell House (1973)

Battle For The Planet Of The Apes (1973)

Arnold (1974)

Funny Lady (1975)

Embryo (1977)

The Cat From Outer Space (1978)

Scavenger Hunt (1979)

Evil Under The Sun (1982)

Dead Of Winter (1987)

Fright Night Part 2 (1989)

The Big Picture (1989)

Disturbed (1990)

The Colour Of Evening (1991)

Double Trouble (1992)

The Grass Harp (1995)

TV Movies include:

Flood (Irwin Allen production, 1976)

The Memory of Eva Ryker (Irwin Allen production, 1980)

Alice in Wonderland (Irwin Allen production, 1985 )

TV includes:

Planet Of The Apes (1974)

Fantastic Journey (1977)

Tales Of The Gold Monkey (1982 - 83)

Bridges To Cross (1986)

The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen (1995)

As director:

Tam Lin (1968)

As executive producer:

Overboard (1988)


The Official Web Site on the Career of Roddy McDowall

Roxanne Smith-Graham's tribute to Roddy McDowall

Planet of the Apes International Fan Club