McDowall's output not forgotten
He brought a gentle and soft spoken demeanor to each of his roles. Roddy McDowall died Saturday at the age of 70.
Over the course of his 60 year film career, McDowall made the transition from child star to character actor. He impressed his early audiences as the clean cut owner of a well groomed collie in Lassie Come Home (1943). Displaying his versatility, McDowall turned in a bravura performance as a young boy in a Welsh mining town in How Green Was My Valley (1941), one of John Ford's finest films-which beat out Citizen Kane for the Best Picture Oscar® in 1941.
As a young man, McDowall's clipped British accent and stately demeanor led to character roles in historical films-on a small scale and epic. Shot in 23 days on a minuscule budget and on the old sets of B-Westerns, Orson Welles' MacBeth (1948) was a dark and intense film. McDowall co-starred as Malcolm. It was a very different world, characterized by excess and opulence, when McDowall teamed with Liz Taylor for Cleopatra (1963). Together for their first time since Lassie, Roddy played Octavian to support Liz as the Queen of the Nile. In another big budget historical epic, The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), McDowall played the apostle Matthew.
By the late 1960s, he successfully found a new type of character role. McDowall lent his stately screen persona to the role of Cornelius in Planet of the Apes (1971) and repeated the part in the films many sequels, including Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). He made the transition to TV with the Apes series and appeared in a number of episodes in 1974, including: Farewell to the Planet of the Apes, The Forgot ten City of the Planet of the Apes, Life, Liberty and Pursuit on the Planet of the Apes and Treachery and Greed on the Planet of the Apes.
McDowall maintained a presence in Hollywood throughout his career with a steady supply of children's films like That Darned Cat (1965), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) and Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo (1997). His concerned voice and kind disposition made him one of the most reliable character performers in Hollywood.
But ultimately, it was that voice-a proper British accent, clipped and formal that is Roddy McDowall's trademark. He will be remembered both as the child and as the amiable adult character he played to perfection.
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