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TV Channels, October 13th, 1974
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It's A Bit Strange - Jack Ryan
Roddy McDowall’s career has been, to say the least, a bit strange. He portrayed brightfaced 14-year-olds until he was 23. And now he is aping it up for the CBS series “Planet of the Apes,” although, to give credit, his role is that of an intelligent ape.
His co-stars are Booth Colman (an orangutan) and Mark Lenard, (a gorilla). And that should indicate, dear friends, just how low the acting profession has come since Broadway and the legitimate theater dried up in the wake left by prime time television.
And although all that has gone before appears to be harsh criticism, it isn’t. It is merely a way of getting into a brief dissertation on the series, which is based on the highly successful movies.
A society ruled by apes, where humans occupy menial roles and are subjected to the whims of their simian masters, is the underlying theme of the TV work. McDowall and a few ape friends are bright enough to realise that two stranded astronauts from the good ol’ U.S.A. are not enemies.
The astronauts are considered a menace by the ape society and McDowall is an ape outlaw, if you will, since he sides with the Americans.
Roddy McDowall:
An Acting Test
If you’ve stayed this far and haven’t decided this is a totally implausible concept for network programming, then read on.
The Executive Producer for “Planet of…” said that the makeup process for the actors was “tortuous. Actors suffering from claustrophobia need not apply.” It seems the makeup takes three to four hours to put on, is smothering, especially in hot weather, and takes another 30 minutes to remove.
For his part, McDowall views it as a challenge. “I’m in the mask the whole time,” he says, “and the audience never sees my face so I have to establish identification for the audience through my voice and eyes. To me, that’s a real test of acting ability.” (Attn. Johnny Bench!)
My association (purely as an observer) with McDowall goes back to two great movies of the 1940s: “Lassie Come Home” and “My Friend Flicka,” both of which I saw so often I could probably deliver half the dialogue.
However, I recently learned that McDowall made his debut in a movie that only caught my fancy after I had moved into later years, “How Green Was My Valley.” And there may be a few TV viewers who recall McDowall’s role as the sidekick in Andy Griffith’s first stage success: “No Time for Sergeants.”
A lifelong bachelor, McDowall became interested in still photography several years ago and pursued the hobby all the way into a second vocation. He has studied under Richard Avedon and Eliot Elisofon, two of the best still men outside the mountains of West Virginia, and McDowall’s work has been widely published. In 1966, a volume of his portraits was published under the title “Double Exposure.”
Paradoxically, he has played opposite a dog, (Lassie), a horse (“Flicka”) and a fish (“Killer Shark”).
“And now I know what it was all meant to lead up to — I’ve turned into one myself,” he quipped about his ape man portrayal.
BELOW: The feature as it originally appeared.
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