British actor Roddy McDowall's father was an officer in the English merchant marine, and his mother was a would-be actress. When it came time to choose a life's calling, McDowall bowed to his mother's influence. After winning an acting prize in a school play, he was able to secure film work in Britain, beginning at age ten with 1938's Scruffy. He appeared in 16 roles of varying sizes and importance before he and his family were evacuated to the U.S. during the 1940 Battle of Britain. McDowall arrival in Hollywood coincided with the wishes of 20th Century-Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck to create a "new Freddie Bartholomew." He tested for the juvenile lead in Fox's How Green Was My Valley (1941), winning both the role and a long contract. McDowall's first adult acting assignment was as Malcolm in Orson Welles' 1948 film version of Macbeth; shortly afterward, he formed a production company with Macbeth co-star Dan O'Herlihy. McDowall left films for the most part in the 1950s, preferring TV and stage work; among his Broadway credits were No Time for Sergeants, Compulsion, (in which he co-starred with fellow former child star Dean Stockwell) and Lerner and Loewe's Camelot (as Mordred). McDowall won a 1960 Tony Award for his appearance in the short-lived production The Fighting Cock. The actor spent the better part of the early 1960s playing Octavius in the mammoth production Cleopatra, co-starring with longtime friend Elizabeth Taylor.
An accomplished photographer, McDowall was honored by having his photos of Taylor and other celebrities frequently published in the leading magazines of the era. He was briefly an advising photographic editor of Harper's Bazaar, and in 1966 published the first of several collections of his camerawork, Double Exposure.