Monday, August 15, 2016

Roddy McDowall- A Star Under the Summer Sky

Summer Under the Stars- Roddy McDowall

This article is for the Summer Under the Stars blogathon event.  On August 15th, Turner Classic Movies will be devoting 24 hours to Roddy McDowall.   He has had a career that spanned over 40 years with making the transition from child actor to adult actor.  This article will focus on the movie that put Roddy McDowall on the map and brought the world to his attention: How Green Was My Valley.

How Green Was My Valley (1941) was a John Ford masterpiece set in a poor Welsh mining town. It centers around the Morgan family.  Donald Crisp played the patriarch of the family. Sara Allgood played the matriarch of the family. Maureen O'Hara played the only daughter, Angharad.  And Roddy McDowall played the youngest son, Huw.  Walter Pidgeon also starred as the new town Preacher.

The movie is narrated by older Huw, and he tells the story of essentially becoming a man in the midst of a village dying and a changing family. Roddy McDowall was 12 years old when he played  the role of Huw Morgan, and he gave a brilliant performance full of sensitivity.    

Roddy McDowall is one of my favorite child actors of the classic film period, and his performance as Huw is the reason for it.  In the beginning of the film, Huw is treated as and seen as the baby of the family. He has no experience outside of life in his village. He has to be a bystander, an observer, as his family struggles and changes due to dangers of working in the mine and lack of fair pay by the mine owners.  Things start to change for Huw, when he attends a school in a different village. This school is full of more upper class children. At this school, Huw has to deal with a bullying classmate and a bullying teacher. The way Huw handles these situations has his family starting to see that he is becoming a man.

One of my favorite scenes with Roddy McDowall is when two of his elder brothers decided to leave for America for better prospects. Their mother leaves the dinner table heartbroken. It is only Huw and his father at the table. His father sits in silence with his head downcast. Huw gives a little cough, and his father says "Yes, my son. I know you are there." Huw smiles and continues eating his dinner.  His father's acknowledgement meant so much. It is a great scene between them.

Another scene was when Huw and his mother falls through ice into the freezing water.  After they are rescued, Huw overhears that his legs are frozen solid and he may never walk again. The look on that young boy's face, the look in his eyes....that was good acting from young McDowall.

Then there is the very last scene of the film.  Huw holds his father in his arms. There were no words spoken, and yet much was conveyed in McDowell's eyes.

His eyes. So much emotion, so much sensitivity and understanding seemed to be expressed in his eyes. That is what drew you to Roddy McDowell's performance as Huw Morgan and many other
performances.  He was a joy to watch as a child and he grew up continuing to be a fine actor and even
a great photographer.

On August 15, I hope people enjoy his performances that airs on TCM, and may newcomers come to
know of him.

2016 Summer Under the Stars Blogathon

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