NOT EVERY child acting prodigy becomes an adult star. Roddy McDowall was one who did, starting out before he was 10, and going on to enjoy a varied film, stage and television career that lasted 60 years. Critics hailed the fresh-faced, English newcomer with enthusiasm, suggesting he had the potential to become a male Shirley Temple. He was astute enough to avoid that awful fate. He found the fame that had eluded him since adolescence when he took the role of Galen, benign intellectual leader of a society in which apes are the rulers and men their uncivilised slaves. McDowall's attempts to establish himself as a film director were unsuccessful, but he did enjoy a parallel career as a celebrity photographer.
HE MADE his film debut at the age of eight, became a child star in movies such as Lassie Come Home, and went on as an adult to make his mark as a versatile performer in theatre, television and films. He was best know for his starring roles the Planet of the Apes movies. He went to enormous lengths to perfect his part by studying his subjects in zoos, perfecting a feet-out, knees-bent walk and run. But even in middle age, he found it hard to shrug off the impression that remained in many directors' minds - that he was a child actor. He said once: "As I got older and older, producers were still trying to present me as if I were 12."
RODDY WAS a witty raconteur and, that rare creature, an unmalicious gossip, frequently wheeled out in documentaries on Hollywood stars. He was a prize dinner party guest, and his apartment was a veritable cinema museum, containing everything from Carole Lombard's ashtray to a Mae West costume and, of course, Lassie's collar.Reuse content