He still has no illusions about his singing. His voice is not great, but it has possibilities, and he hopes to be good enough someday to sing in a big musical. He's not afraid of trying anything. He's appeared in public too many times to be afraid. Often, before going on to give one of his bond speeches, he hasn't been told until five minutes ahead of time what his subject would be. Then he'd go out and talk extemporaneously for as long as 30 minutes. And his speechmaking netted the Government over $11,000,000 in war bonds.


IN England Roddy and his sister lived the lives of all normal children — even to the mischief. Mrs. McDowall never spared the rod, if it was necessary, and she also became a past master at handling imaginative mischief.
     There was the time they were impressed by a gangster picture. Win was entertaining guests at tea when Virginia burst into the room. Roddy always told her to go to her mother when they did anything wrong. "After all," he'd say, "you're the oldest."
     "Mummy," Virginia began, "we won't go to the pictures tonight or any other time. And you don't have to give us any birthday or Christmas presents. And we'll never, never do it again."
     "What on earth has happened?" Win exclaimed.
     Virginia took her outside. There were huge splotches of white paint on the walls by the kitchen door. Walls that had just been painted gray.
     "Mummy," Roddy explained nervously, "we were playing store, and some gangsters came in and demanded that we pay them money. When we wouldn't, they smashed our store and threw paint on the walls."
     Win knew who the "gansters" were, but she said nothing. Fortunately she found a solution that cleaned off the spots. When it was all over, Virginia turned to her mother and said, "We still won't go to the pictures, Mummy."
     "Nonsense," said Win. "You'll have tea and go to the pictures. Next time, don't let them do so much damage." She started toward the door and turned back. "There's not another gangster picture at the theatre tonight, is there?"
     Roddy had always wanted to act. His mother read Shakespeare to him when he was small, and when he entered the Hanover Academy he was immediately impressed by hearing students read Shakespeare. One day he came home and told his mother he wanted to read a certain speech from "Henry V" in class the next day.

     "But Roddy," she said, "that's much too old for you. You haven't the experience to read that."
     "Maybe not, Mummy," he answered wistfully, "but I have the heart."


THAT was the beginning. He entered several of the school contests and almost always won, startling both his teacher Edith King-Hall and the students with his mature reading. One big contest he'll never forget. He was to read a difficult speech from a Shakespearean play. He'd been sick in bed with a bad case of the flu for a week. His mother tried to convince him he shouldn't participate, but he insisted. The boy before him, who was 18, was excellent. The applause he received gave promise to his being the winner. Then eight-year-old Roddy stepped up, still weak and visibly shaken. Once he thought he couldn't go on. Then he saw his mother in front, smiling up at him. He went on — to thunderous applause and a tie with the other boy.
Relaxing with friends between takes      It was after that that people said he should go into pictures. Then began the rounds of agents' offices and the repeated "Nothing now; he's too young." Until one day an agent's secretary said, "Too busy ... write a letter." Win decided she had had enough. In a loud voice she asked, "Would you write a letter when something was important to you? Now I want to see the person in charge — and immediately." They were admitted. The "person in charge" — a woman — was impressed with Roddy. And soon Roddy was getting parts in pictures.
     Before long Roddy had 16 films to his credit, among them "Just William," "Murder in the Family," and "This England." Several were made during the London blitz.
     In 1940 Tom McDowall decided his family should come to America because he didn't want them to be subjected to any more danger. When the family arrived at the customs, there was one small hitch — due to Roddy's naive desire to be helpful — which almost proved disastrous. They had six or seven trunks, and leftovers, including a small flashlight, packed into a rug roll. When the British customs man asked, "Have you any torches [flashlights]?" Win said she hadn't, forgetting the one. Roddy thereupon piped up with, "Oh, yes we have, Mummy. In the rug roll."

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