I have been meaning to email you for some time now, but just never got around to it until now, to let you know about Roddy McDowall's appearance in "Keepers of the Frame".
I'm the Producer and Co-Writer of that feature-length documentary, which as you know, hosts Roddy McDowall among its interviewees.
Our film champions film preservation and restoration, a subject which I'm sure you know, was very important to Roddy. Within days of receiving my first letter, early in 1998, Roddy agreed to do an on-camera interview for us, which of course, made us feel wonderful. His being an advocate for preservation was well known, as well as the fact that being an actor and having a film legacy of his own, we knew he'd be able to personalize his responses to our questions.
We eventually interviewed him on Feb. 26, 1998. I met him in my car, he driving his own Chrysler Sebring convertible (with "XMOPPET" personalized plates-you obviously knew about those plates], at the corner of Graciosa and Beechwood Drive, in Hollywood, whereafter he followed me to a private home, on nearby Hollyridge Drive, which we fortunate enough to have secured as an interview locale.
Roddy was a very good interviewee. I mean VERY good. He was alert and enthusiastic (no signs, nor mention of his illness). Because he was one of our films' last interviews, we needed what we filmmakers call "connectivity" from him. That is, we needed to have him make a bridging statement to take us from one subject to another...usually to buttress up against someone else's interview. In other words, suggesting the commentary we'd like to hear-putting the thoughts, if not the exact words, in someone's comments. Roddy understood exactly what we were asking for...before we finished the explanation.
He answered every question,and even agreed to eloquently read something we'd researched and found in a 1906 trade journal called the "Views and Film Index", which eerily, years before anyone else we'd read of, was expressing a pondering thought if the motion pictures produced that year were being thought of as historical records...such that they might be then given special preservation, and not just thought of as disposable commodities-as they otherwise then were. Roddy's reading this short paragraph is one of the highlights of our film. At least, everyone tells me it is.
After the interview, Roddy graciously lingered and signed autographs for several of our crew. He then rose to leave, and glancing over to one of the canyon view windows in this 1920's home we were in, walked over to a window. He pointed, as we looked over his shoulder, at the house he said Gloria Swanson had lived in. He pointed out several others on the horizon that had a Hollywood history. It was, as I said, a great interview, and a meeting I'll never forget.
My notes indicate that Roddy passed away on Oct. 3, 1998. "Keepers of the Frame" officially premiered in the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, in March of 1999. It eventually appeared in 19 film festivals and was broadcast on AMC, on June 17, 2000, during their 8th annual "Film Preservation Festival" event. I've always thought that "Keepers" was Roddy's last film appearance.
Just thought you'd want to know.
Mount Pilot Productions
261 W. Verdugo Ave., #D
Burbank, CA 91502