Biography (1987– )
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Roddy McDowall: Hollywood's Best Friend 

This documentary from the award-winning series "A&E Biography" shows us the life of actor and photographer Roddy McDowall. The focus lies on his early days as a child star. It was produced before McDowall's death.


Victoria Price


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Episode credited cast:
Carol Burnett ... Herself
Charlton Heston ... Himself
Kim Hunter ... Herself
Frances Klamt Frances Klamt ... Herself
Leonard Maltin ... Himself
Roddy McDowall ... Himself (archive footage)
Virginia McDowall Virginia McDowall ... Herself
Dickie Moore ... Himself
Maureen O'Hara ... Herself
Dolly Parton ... Herself
Jane Powell ... Herself
Joan Rivers ... Herself


This documentary from the award-winning series "A&E Biography" shows us the life of actor and photographer Roddy McDowall. The focus lies on his early days as a child star. It was produced before McDowall's death.

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Release Date:

8 October 1998 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Van Ness Films See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude "Roddy" McDowall Improves the Quality of Hollywood
10 July 2010 | by WeatherVioletSee all my reviews

If you primarily associate actor Roddy McDowall with his fine performances in "How Green Was My Valley" or his "Murder, She Wrote" guest roles, then it comes as no surprise that his "Biography" interview guest list includes Maureen O'Hara, Kim Hunter, Jane Powell and Dickie Moore.

But then you may wonder how Carol Burnett, Dolly Parton, Joan Rivers, Charlton Heston and Adam West know Roddy, before realizing, "That's right; he's worked with them all."

And, of course, each and every star has nothing but fine compliments for Roddy, his professional acting skills and his outstanding character; so, if you can't think of a celebrity worth the accolades, then this episode is here to inform you about the ever-deserving Roddy McDowall and his very busy career in stage, film and television acting, directing, photography, and publishing, creating lasting friendships along the way.

Adam West hosts a September 08, 2000 rebroadcast of this episode, featuring the life and career of Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall, from his 1928 birth, in London, UK, through his formative years as a child actor, through his many decades of entertaining audiences in his gentlemanly fashion on stage, screen and television.

Parents, Winsfriede and Thomas McDowall welcome daughter, Virginia, and son, Roddy, within a year of each other, and so Winsfreide rears the children as twins, with her stage mother approach to representing them for modeling and acting positions.

In 1937, Roddy enters acting, and by age 11, appears in 17 films. But the London blitz during WWII causes Thomas to enroll in the British Navy, while sending Winsfriede, Virginia and Roddy to the States, where the three settle in New York City to await the safe return of Thomas.

But talent scouts from 20th Century Fox Studios discover the talented young actor and recommend him for the role of youngest brother, Huw, in "How Green Was My Valley" (1941), which launches Roddy's international fame.

Roddy continues acting at 20th throughout the 1940's, but returns to Broadway to hone his acting skills once coming of age, and primarily devoting the 1950's to stage and television appearances.

Roddy's role in the extravagant version of "Cleopatra" (1963) proves his versatility as an adult actor. But when rumors persist of an Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton romance on the Italian-location shoot, Roddy refuses to fuel the gossip pages, thus proving him a staunch friend to the stars (hence this episode's sub-title), an attitude which does not stop here, as Roddy befriends many in his beloved Hollywood for decades to follow.

This account follows Roddy's acting career through many of his other legendary films, as "My Friend Flicka" (1943), "Lassie Come Home" (1943), and "Planet of the Apes" (1968), as well as television's "Batman" (1966-68), which, of course, provides the basis for Adam's hosting.

And Roddy also becomes a capable director, erudite author, proficient photographer (beginning with Judy Holliday as his subject), and well-organized collector of films, or at least until the unwarranted FBI raids his collection, along with those of other stars.

Interview Guests for this episode consist of Virginia McDowall (Sister), Frances Klamt (Teacher at 20th), Carol Burnett (Actress), Kim Hunter (Actress), Maureen O'Hara (Actress), Dolly Parton (Actress/Singer), Jane Powell (Actress), Joan Rivers (Actress), Dickie Moore (Actor/Author), Charlton Heston (Actor), and Leonard Maltin (Film Critic), with Adam West (Guest Host) and Peter Graves (Narrator).

Still Photographs include Roddy McDowall, Winsfriede McDowall (Mother), Thomas McDowall (Father), Virginia McDowall (Sister), Elizabeth Taylor, Mira Rostova, Bobby Lewis, Paul Newman, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Myron McCormick, Rex Harrison, Eddie Fisher, Sybil Burton, Boris Karloff, Inga Svenson, Eartha Kitt, Judy Holliday, Lauren Bacall, Laurence Olivier, and Ava Gardner.

Archive film footage includes Roddy McDowall, Shirley Temple, Anna Lee, Maureen O'Hara, Walter Pidgeon, Harry Davenport, Diana Hale, Flicka, Lassie, Jane Powell, Bob LeMond, Rex Harrison, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Adam West, Burt Ward, Bobby Darin, Charlton Heston, Maurice Evans, Kim Hunter, Goldie Hawn and Ian McShane.

Some of Roddy McDowall's Plays are discussed here: "MacBeth," "Misalliance" (1953), "No Time for Sergeants" (1955), and "Compulsion" (1957).

Film Clips include a screen glimpse of Roddy McDowall through the years, in scenes from How Green Was My Valley (1941), My Friend Flicka (1943), Lassie Come Home (1943), Holiday in Mexico (1946), Killer Shark (1950), Cleopatra (1963), That Darn Cat! (1965), Lord Love a Duck (1966), Planet of the Apes (1968), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Overboard (1987), and The Ballad of Tam-Lin (1970, as Director), along with Newsreel footage of Cleopatra (1963).

Television Clips include "Playhouse 90: Heart of Darkness" (1958), "Batman: While Gotham City Burns, The Bookworm Turns" (1966), and "The Carol Burnett Show" (1974).

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