Roddy McDowall Biography

(Best Known for Portraying ‘Cornelius’ and ‘Caesar’ in the Original ‘Planet of the Apes’ Film Series)

Birthday: September 17, 1928 (Virgo)

Born In: Herne Hill, London, England

Roddy McDowall was an English-born American actor, director, voiceover artist and photographer. McDowall’s career as an actor began when he was a little boy in England. He starred in several British films in the late 1930s before his family moved to the United States. He continued working in films and started appearing in early American flicks of the 1940s. His most famous movie as a child actor was the adaptation of ‘How Green Was My Valley’. Since then, he never had to look back and kept himself engaged in several projects at once. McDowall appeared consistently in films and TV series for the remaining four decades of his life. He also enjoyed a successful Broadway career and won a Tony Award for his role in ‘The Fighting Cock’. Towards the end of his life, he started working as a voiceover artist and lent his voice to many movies, including the Pixar hit ‘A Bug’s Life’. Apart from acting and directing, McDowall was a reputed photographer who published five photography books featuring his co-stars and famous actors. He continued to act until his death in 1998.

Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In September

Also Known As: Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall

Died At Age: 70


father: Thomas Andrew McDowall

mother: Winsfriede L. Corcoran

Born Country: England

Actors American Men

Height: 5'9" (175 cm), 5'9" Males

Died on: October 3, 1998

place of death: Los Angeles, California, United States

Ancestry: British American, Irish American

City: London, England

Grouping of People: Gay

: Lung Cancer

Cause of Death: Lung Cancer

Childhood & Early Life
Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall was born on September 17, 1928, to Winifriede Lucinda and Thomas Andrew McDowall in Herne Hill, London. He had an elder sister called Virginia. Roddy studied at St. Joseph’s College in Upper Norwood.
Roddy was a child model, and he starred in several British films at a young age. Some of his films as a boy include ‘Murder in the Family’ (1938), ‘Scruffy’ (1938), ‘The Outsider’ (1939), and ‘Just William’ (1940).
Roddy’s family moved to the United States in 1940 on account of the World War II, and he became an American citizen after living there for a short period. He started working in films in the US as well and became famous as a teen actor after starring in ‘How Green Was My Valley’ with Maureen O’Hara.
His other famous movies as a child include ‘On the Sunny Side’ (1942), ‘The Pied Piper’ (1942), ‘My Friend Flicka’ (1942), ‘Lassie Come Home’ (1943), ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ (1944), and ‘The Keys of the Kingdom’ (1944). He was named the ‘star of tomorrow’ in 1944.
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After appearing in a string of blockbuster movies, Roddy McDowall switched to theatre in 1946. He was seen in productions of ‘Young Woodley’ in 1946 and ‘Macbeth’ in 1948.
He signed a contract with Monogram Pictures to star in two films every year. He starred in ‘Rocky’ (1948), ‘Kidnapped’ (1948), ‘Tuna Clipper’ (1949), ‘Midnight’ (1949), ‘Killer Shark’ (1950), ‘Big Timber’ (1950) and ‘The Steel Fist’ (1952).
In the 1950s, McDowall branched to television and was seen in a slew of TV series, including ‘Celanese Theatre’, ‘Robert Montgomery Presents’, ‘General Electric Theater’, ‘Playhouse 90’, and ‘The Twilight Zone.’
At the same time, he struck gold as a Broadway actor. His most notable productions include ‘Misalliance’ (1953), ‘Escapade’ (1953), ‘No Time for Sergeants’ (1955–57), ‘Diary of a Scoundrel’ (1956), and ‘Good as Gold’ (1957). In 1960, he starred in ‘The Fighting Cock’, which earned him a Tony Award.
In the 1960s, he continued starring in plays but also made his comeback in Hollywood. His most popular appearances include the musical ‘Camelot’ from 1960 to 1963 and movies, such as ‘The Tempest’ (1960) and ‘Lord Love a Duck’ (1966). The TV shows from the decade that he starred in included ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ and ‘Run for Your Life’.
In 1968, he starred as an ape in the movie, ‘Planet of the Apes’. Later in 1970, he debuted as a director with ‘The Ballad of Tam Lin’. He continued appearing in several movies throughout the 70s, including hits, such as ‘Escape from the Planet of the Apes’ (1971), ‘The Elevator’ (1974), and ‘Mean Johnny Barrows’ (1976).
He was cast in a recurring role in the sci-fi series ‘The Fantastic Journey’ in 1977. Other TV series that McDowall worked in were ‘The Feather and Father Gang’, ‘Wonder Woman’, ‘Hart to Hart’, and ‘Mork & Mindy’, among others.
In the 1980s, he chose more TV roles and was seen in successful shows like ‘The Martian Chronicles’ (1980), ‘Mae West’ (1982), ‘London and Davis in New York’ (1984), and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (1985). Towards the end of the decade, he started focusing on voiceover work and continued doing this until his death.
In the 1990s, he starred in over 20 movies and voiced for 10 series. His most popular works includes ‘Deadly Game’ (1991), ‘The New Lassie’ (1992), ‘Last Summer in the Hamptons’ (1995), and ‘Loss of Faith’ (1998). His final projects were voice roles for the movie ‘A Bug’s Life’ and ‘Godzilla: The Series,’ both released in 1998.
Apart from acting and directing, McDowall was also an accomplished photographer. He published five books of photographs, featuring his co-stars and friends, Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Holliday, Maureen O'Hara, and Katharine Hepburn.
Family & Personal Life
Roddy McDowall did not publicly speak of ever being in a relationship. Many authors and friends have stated that he was possibly homosexual and refrained from speaking about it.
He died of lung cancer on October 3, 1998 at his home. While the cause of his death was lung cancer, he died peacefully. A rose garden was named in his honor at the Motion Pictures Retirement Home.


Primetime Emmy Awards
1961 Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actor or Actress in a Single Program Sunday Showcase (1959)

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