Welcome to ... The Index Room
Picture this: You're at the library or a bookstore and you've just wandered into the biography section. You spot a book about a celebrity and you pull it out of the shelf. What's the first thing you do? If you're like the rest of us, you go straight to the index and look for "Roddy McDowall" or -- grin and bear it -- "Roddy McDowell". Admit it.
If you're lucky, the book has several quotable quotes from Roddy. Luckier still if there are photos of him as well. And then there are the real finds, where you discover something new and unexpected.
Here are a few of the treasures we've found.
"I'd Love to Kiss You ..." Conversations with Bette Davis
by Whitney Stine
©1990 Pocket Books, New York, NY
Bette Davis house-hunting in the late 1970's ...
Bette had been scouting for a condominium, but nothing struck her fancy. One day Roddy McDowall called her at Chuck's. "I'm coming to get you, Bette. I think I've found a place that you will like."
As Roddy turned from Sunset onto Havenhurst Drive, Bette started to giggle. "I know where you are taking me," she said. "I bet it's the Colonial!"
He could not hide his surprise. "You're terrific. How did you know?"
"I know the place well," Bette answered quickly. "When Ham and I were first married, we had a tiny apartment next door. Isn't this a coincidence?"
Roddy shook his head. "Isn't that something else? I'm into real-estate investments and we're turning the Colonial into condos, which will be ready in a few months."
Bette chose a two-bedroom floor-through.
by Michael Freedland
©1985 St. Martin's Press, New York, NY
What Ensign Lemmon did after World War II ...
His next step was to go back to Harvard to graduate .... But first there was the summer before that last college session to fill in. There was only one thing for him to do -- work in a stock company. The North Shore Players in his own state of Massachusetts seemed to offer most possibilities. The company had an enviable reputation -- both for the work that it did and for the people in it -- and he wanted to join it. He had to audition for the part of Miller in Young Woodley, a famous play about a British public school. The title role was taken by Roddy McDowall, whose mother was manager of the company. Mrs McDowall was showing her usual concern for detail and one by one she turned down the applicants for Miller because they didn't sound English enough -- even though a few boys really were from England. Eventually it was Jack's turn. He took a deep breath and went into the boy's lines sounding as English as he could. It is a harder test of an American actor's skills than may at first be imagined. Halfway through, the raucous sound of Mrs McDowall's voice interrupted him from the stalls. "Thank God for an English voice," she called. The part was his.
The Street Where I Live
by Alan Jay Lerner
©1978 W.W. Norton & Company, New York, NY
Mesmerizing (and nice photos too!)
Not too much time was spent discussing who would play Mordred, the evil, bastard son of King Arthur, because two weeks after it had become known we were doing Camelot, Roddy McDowall telephoned Moss and insisted upon playing the part. We told him that, of course, he would be marvellous, but Mordred did not appear until the second act and it was not the kind of star part befitting a man of his stature -- and salary. Roddy said he did not care, that he would make every concession he could, but he must play the part. And he did. And by skill and the sheer weight of his personality, he made it a star part.
The theatre, as I previously mentioned, creates instant friendships that occasionally continue past the life of the play. So it was with Roddy and me, and for many years we saw a good deal of each other. Unfortunately, it is also idiosyncratic of our profession that because of commitments, it often becomes a long time between drinks. Roddy was doing a film and I was writing the musical about parapsychology and reincarnation, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and it involved hypnosis. One night Roddy took me to see an extraordinary hypnotist called Pat Collins (female). She did an act -- and still does -- in which she brought ten or twelve people to the stage, hypnotized them and had them perform some amazingly funny stunts. Roddy had gone to see her privately to see if hypnosis could cure his fear of flying. He had been in the middle of a film and had to fly to New York for twenty-four hours, return, and continue shooting. By post-hypnotic suggestion she not only cured his uneasiness about the air but enabled him to make the trip without fatigue.
It occasionally happens that when trance has been induced by a particular hypnotist, if someone is unusually susceptible he can be hypnotized again unintentionally. While Roddy and I were sitting at the table having a drink and Miss Collins was hypnotizing her little group on stage, Roddy went right under with them. I had to interrupt Miss Collins to bring Roddy out of his trance otherwise he would have done everything at the table that was occurring on stage.
Two or three days later I invited Miss Collins to lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel to discuss hypnosis and I also invited Roddy. The sound of her voice ordering lunch put him under again and again she had to bring him out of it. Throughout the rest of the meal Miss Collins and I had our discussion in whispers in order to keep Roddy's head out of his Caesar salad.