Roddy McDowall dies at home

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 3 (UPI) _ Actor Roddy McDowall has died of cancer at his Los Angeles home at age 70.

Doctors diagnosed McDowall with cancer earlier this year, but his illness was not widely known to be terminal until Daily Variety columnist Army Archard disclosed it last month.

No funeral or memorial services were planned for the British native, whose remains will reportedly be cremated.

Flowers were placed today at McDowall's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. McDowall never married and is survived by a sister.

In the last few years, McDowall kept busy as a professional photographer when he wasn't working in movies and occasionally in television. He estimated he had made more than 140 feature films during his 62-year career.

He also published a series of books of photographs of his celebrity friends, the first of which was entitled Double Exposure.

Roddy McDowall began his career as a child actor in England, made the transition to Hollywood and adulthood, sometimes playing leading roles in sensitive dramas, sometimes appearing in forgettable comedies and horror movies.

Born Sept. 17, 1928, in London, McDowall began his screen career at the age of 8 in a movie called Murder in the Family. He made other English films but moved to Hollywood in 1940 following the outbreak of World War II in Europe.

He gained stardom in 1941 with a leading role in the movie How Green Was My Valley, co-starring Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara and Donald Crisp.

That triumph was followed rapidly by The Pied Piper (1942), My Friend Flicka (1943) and Lassie Come Home (1943), in which he co-starred with another English immigrant to Hollywood, Elizabeth Taylor. They became lifelong friends and co-workers.

McDowall left films in 1950 and spent the next decade performing on stage and in television. He returned to the screen in 1960 in The Subterraneans and in 1962 appeared in The Longest Day.

In 1963 he again appeared with Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra.

In 1967 McDowall accepted a leading role as an intelligent, articulate ape in Planet of the Apes. The well-made and hugely successful science fiction adventure spawned four sequels, the last in 1973, and McDowall starred in all of them. He recreated his movie role for a short-lived television series, Planet of the Apes, in 1974.

McDowall tried directing in 1970 but the movie, Tam Lin, in which he did not appear, flopped and he quickly returned to acting.

McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor were reunited yet again in a 1984 episode of the television series Hotel, Taylor as a temperamental and fading movie star and McDowall as her devoted and dependent personal manager.

Among his other credits are The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Funny Lady (1975).

In 1975 the FBI, as part of a federal crackdown on a multimillion-dollar international trade in "pirated" movies, seized 500 copies of films and television shows from McDowall's West Hollywood home. No charges were brought against the actor.

In 1985 McDowall and actress Deborah Kerr were honored at an American Cinema Awards banquet in Hollywood. Among the tributes to the two stars was a letter from President Ronald Reagan that said, "Deborah and Roddy are two of filmdom's brightest and most enduring stars. Each, in their own way, has brought a special magic to the movie screen."

The banquet, a fund-raiser for a movie museum and library to be built in Malibu, drew a hundred screen stars, many of them movie old-timers or veterans of the infant days of television.

McDowall's longtime friend Elizabeth Taylor praised him as "a genius at friendship." She said her family chose the actor to inform her of the deaths of her former husband Richard Burton and good friend "Monty" Clift.

"They trusted his inherent wisdom and warmth," she said. "They trusted him with my life to keep me together, and he did," she told the glittering audience.

Maureen O'Hara, McDowall's red-haired sister in How Green Was My Valley, revealed he promised during filming to marry her when he turned 21. "I waited and waited, but he jilted me," she said. "Roddy, I still love you. And I'm free now."

In thanks for the award, McDowall joked that his old co-stars Lassie and Flicka would never believe it.

He then added, "Love, affection, strength and friendship, that is the mortar of one's survival. And my life has been blessed, inundated, by those extraordinary qualities from an army of people."

Copyright 1998 United Press International (via Comtex). All rights reserved

RODDY MCDOWALL DIES AT HOME., United Press International, 10-03-1998.