Roddy McDowall – Early Life, ‘Planet of the Apes’ & Photography

Actor Roddy McDowall gained a cult following after he played Cornelius in the 1968 film ‘Planet of the Apes.’

Who Is Roddy McDowall?

Actor and photographer Roddy McDowall was born Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude on September 17, 1928, in London, England. In 1941, McDowall was in How Green Was My Valley. After a stint in theater, he returned to film in Cleopatra. Afterwards, McDowall took the role of the villan The Bookworm on the 1960s Batman series. In 1968, he played Cornelius in cult classic Planet of the Apes and later took on the role of Galen in the 1970s television series of the same name. McDowall starred in countless television movies and appeared in scores of shows throughout his life. Toward the end of his career, he voiced characters in numerous animated series. McDowall died on October 3, 1998, in Los Angeles, California.

Roddy McDowall was the only son of Thomas McDowall, a merchant seaman, and his wife, Winifred. As a child, Roddy appeared in a slew of British films, including Yellow Sands (1938) and Just William (1939).

Like many child stars, McDowall found it challenging to transition into adult film roles. Frustrated with dwindling opportunities in Hollywood, he turned to stage acting. McDowall toured in vaudeville and summer stock before moving to New York in 1954. He was featured in memorable Broadway productions, including Compulsion (1957) and The Fighting Cock (1959). For the latter, McDowall earned a Supporting Actor Tony Award.

In 1968, McDowall starred as the sympathetic scientist Cornelius in the seminal science fiction film Planet of the Apes. The film spawned several sequels and earned McDowall a cult following. He reprised his role as Cornelius in the third installment, Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971). In the two subsequent releases, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), McDowall assumed the role of Cornelius’ son Caesar.

McDowall was also an accomplished portrait photographer whose pictures of Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and Mia Farrow appeared in Look and Life magazines. He published a series of books: Double Exposure (1966), Double Exposure, Take Two (1989), Double Exposure, Take Three (1992) and Double Exposure, Take Four (1993). An active and respected member of the Hollywood community, McDowall served on the executive boards of the Screen Actors Guild and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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