McDowall: Enduring and endearing

Roddy McDowall, the English child star who grew up to be one of Hollywood's most enduring actors, died Saturday of brain cancer in Los Angeles. He was 70.

Diagnosed with incurable cancer in April, McDowall died at his home in the Studio City neighborhood. Dennis Osborne, a friend who cared for the actor, told The Associated Press that McDowall's death "was very peaceful. It was exactly the way he planned."

Born Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall in London, McDowall made his film debut at 8 in England. He came to the USA in 1940 during the Blitz and quickly established himself as one of MGM's biggest child stars, making such beloved films as How Green Was My Valley, My Friend Flicka and Lassie Come Home.

It was at MGM where McDowall began his lifelong friendship with Elizabeth Taylor, his co-star in Lassie. Taylor, who recently dined with McDowall at his home, said Sunday through a spokeswoman that she was "shocked and grieving" over his death.

Though McDowall was one of Hollywood's busiest child actors, his career slowed as he left his teens. While he never lost his talent, he also never lost his boyish looks, which limited his choice of parts.

Perhaps his most famous adult roles, two different apes in the Planet of the Apes movies, solved the problem by hiding his face under heavy makeup.

"In and out of makeup, it's always good to have limited facial expressions," McDowall told critics at a July news conference marking the 30th anniversary of the first Apes film. "The challenge that was delightful was to be able to register the intent through that much (makeup)."

McDowall also had a memorable co-starring role with Taylor in Cleopatra, in which he played the deceptively innocent-looking emperor Octavian Augustus. McDowall also was active in theater and television. In 1960, he won a Tony for Jean Anouilh's play The Fighting Cock and an Emmy for NBC's Not Without Honor. He is also well remembered among musical theater fans for playing Mordred in the original Broadway production of Camelot.

Among McDowall's many TV credits was a witty turn as The Bookworm in Batman. In addition to his acting work, McDowell was well known as a photographer. Friday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it would honor him by naming its photo archive after him.

McDowall, who never married, is survived by his sister, Virginia McDowall. No interment or services are planned for the actor, whose body was to be cremated.

By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY