[Excerpts from TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR by Dick Moore, 1984].

RODDY: "My childhood was totally isolated, really suffocating. As a child, I was always lied to about myself and about the world. My mother waited until I was seven before telling me there wasn't a Santa Claus. I was so guileless, such a Dopey Dwarf."

I asked about Virginia [his sister].

RODDY: "Mother used to dress us the same way. She wanted to make dolls of both of us. Not that we weren't allowed to play. She was wonderful about joining in, about making a childhood. But always within a vacuum.

"My parents kept Virginia under a tremendous psychological hold always. I don't think it was a malevolent drive. Mother was much brighter than her behavior. She spoiled the living bejesus out of us. Virginia had so many dresses and so many toys, which wasn't what Virginia was looking for. And so much love. We were drowning in love.

"And there weren't any friends. There's only eleven months age difference between Virginia and myself. Mother was desperately afraid that we two children would be split. That's why she forced 20th Century-Fox to let Virginia go to school on the lot, which was a vicious thing to do because Virginia had no reason to be there. She spent all her school years on the lot, feeling totally excluded, and so shy and inhibited.

"Mother was full of delusions of grandeur. She was not a pretty woman, so she romanced you intellectually. She'd bring pies to the studio and cook people into insanity. She'd gift them into adulation. But she never caused any trouble on the set.

"What she did was to make all the decisions concerning our lives and pretend that my sister and I were making them. She had complete control over us. Ultimately, I was in despair over the hypocrisy in family behavior. For instance, she suddenly appeared to faint or die of apoplexy. But if the phone rang, she recovered and answered normally: 'Oh, hello. How are you? I'm fine.'

"She was very clever, an entertaining woman. And she had a remarkable gift. She sensed instantly when people saw through her. She'd never go near them again.

"My father was second officer in the British marines. His ship docked in Los Angeles from time to time. He had strong feelings about propriety and one's position in the community. He was one of those Englishmen who, on entering a room, always tells three stories."


DICK MOORE: Reliance on our income became the central economic reality in our homes. No one watched the calendar. But careers withered as years passed.

Most parents were not really aware that they and the studios might be exploiting us. "Why, why did you put me in pictures when I was three years old?" Darryl Hickman confronted his mother when in his teens.

"But, dear, it's what you always wanted to do," Mrs. Hickman answered.

Most of us were told that our working would enable us to "afford an education." But formal study on any level was discouraged. Only a handful of us ever got to college.

What qualities did the Janes, Jackies, Mickeys, Peggys, and Stymies have in common?

Early intelligence, sharp memories. A shared fear that we would not be valued if we didn't earn a salary. A desperate need to win approval.

Natalie Wood described herself as "energetic," another common quality. But, said Natalie, "in my childhood I felt guilty and very isolated, very shy. There was no grownup I could in any way confide in." Another common theme.

Most of us have grappled with pervasive fears of loneliness and a feeling of responsibility for everyone around us. Walking into a room occupied by silent people, we start a conversation.

Most married at an early age, with no prior sexual experience. Almost invariably those marriages failed.

"Is there a single common denominator, Rod?" I asked at the conclusion of an interview.

"Yes, there is," Roddy McDowall said, "and that is a thing I do not wish to face."

"Why not? What is it?"

"It is that they were wrong. They were wrong to take us children and do that with our lives, to twist our environment in that way and then leave it for us to sort out."


DICK MOORE: Many of us shared Natalie [Wood's] inordinate sense of responsibility, not just for ourselves but for the pictures we were in. When we saw ourselves on screen, we thought we could have improved our performances. "I had a sense of wanting to do better, but I didn't know what better was," Roddy McDowall remembers.


DICK MOORE: Most of us felt different, shy. Rare attempts to socialize with children outside the business, when permitted, were usually unsuccessful. Roddy McDowall knows exacty when he started feeling different. It was right after HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY was released.

Before that, he never thought that being in films made him special as a kid. "But when I went out into the street after the film came out, the kids on the block wouldn't play with me." More than forty years later, Roddy still seemed bewildered. "They wouldn't even talk to me. They were afraid of me. Double jeopardy because I was English and I talked funny, and also because I didn't go to school."


DICK MOORE: Jane Powell, too was shy. And lonely. She met Roddy McDowall during her third picture, HOLIDAY IN MEXICO, and he began inviting her over to his house on Sunday afternoons. That's the only place she ever went, Jane says.

JANE POWELL: "For the first two years in Hollywood, I was really miserable. If it hadn't been for the Sundays at Roddy's, I don't know what I'd have done. I think he saw the loneliness in me. I wanted to go to a public school so bad, because at least there I could meet people. But I never met anybody. I was always in between. Elizabeth [Taylor] was younger than I was and of course she was very sophisticated. She never went anyplace either, but she had her horses. I sang, so I was always taking lessons when I wasn't going to school or working. That's all I knew. There was no place for me to meet people. I tried going to church, but then when events came up I would be working and I'd miss the hayride or whatever. "And then letters would come from Portland telling me about the wonderful times they were having, the proms and parties, which I never had."


DICK MOORE: Roddy McDowall didn't go to college. He seemed surprised when I asked. "How could I go to college? There wasn't enough money. Who was going to do the work? The problem was very painfully explained to me. 'Of course, dear, you can do anything you want, BUT. . . .' " So Roddy didn't go to college.

But he did leave home. As a young adult, Roddy went to New York to learn to act and live an independent life. Jane Powell, his close friend, urged him to go, still convinced that if he hadn't, he would eventually have had a nervous breakdown. Like Jane, Roddy left everything with his parents, who, after his departure, rattled around in the big house in Cheviot Hills, ignoring the unused swimming pool.

RODDY: "When I moved to New York, I gave my parents everything. Mother sat for years playing canasta. Eventually, I told them they had to sell the house. I could no longer make a living in New York and support the system in Los Angeles.  "After I left home, I never really had much money until I did the movie CLEOPATRA, and by that time I had a lawyer in New York to take over the parental role of managing my finances. I had given him power of attorney, which he held for ten years. But still I had no money, although I'd made over a hundred thousand a year.

"Eventually, I decided that I needed to learn about dealing with money. I knew nothing, partly because my mother never wanted me to know. My father knew, but he couldn't get at the money. If he hadn't been so mesmerized by my mother, if they'd done what HE wanted, I would have had every dime I ever made. My father was scrupulously honest. And he was not a gambler. But she had such control over him that he was powerless."


DICK MOORE: At seventeen, Roddy McDowall was loaned by Fox to MGM, where Lillian Burns, the studio drama coach, told him: "Until you're twenty-seven, nothing is going to happen to you again." It didn't make sense to Roddy that he was through professionally. "I talked to people about it. But Wynn Rocamora, my agent at the time, told me I would never work again, because I'd grown up."


DICK MOORE: Natalie Wood was in analysis for eight years, until age thirty, when she became pregnant with her first child.

NATALIE: "A common thread for all of us is that we played many parts and had many different sets of parents. We were always charming and nice, we knew how to behave socially better than other little kids; but I, for one, really didn't know what I should be saying 'yes' or 'no' to.  "What analysis did for me was to help me clarify what I wanted to do, and when I started figuring out what I wanted, it didn't make me more self-centered, it made me less self-centered.

"What analysis did for me was to put painful childhood memories in the past. Now, when I look back, I can still recall them, but they don't have the power to make me crazy."

Roddy McDowall never told his mother he was in analysis. "It wasn't out of fear," Rod emphasized, "it was out of common sense. I knew I'd have to go through all that moaning about 'Where did we go wrong?' "

Encouraged by his friend Jane Powell (who loved his mother but felt she was destroying him), Roddy went to New York, where he met Montgomery Clift. That friendship changed Rod's life. Before that, he had starred in summer stock, where he gave good performances but couldn't repeat them. He'd never learned the craft of acting because "I had been taught that I was a movie star and had nothing to learn."

"Fuckin' rubbish," Clift told him. "You've got to LEARN to act." He introduced Rod to Mira Rostova, Clift's acting coach and confidante.

For six months, Roddy sat in class, not knowing what the group was talking about. "I said absolutely nothing. I had no idea what this foreign language was all about. Then it began to click, and I began to respond. I worked very hard," Roddy recalls. "I was terribly angry, which I didn't yet realize; but my anger didn't show up in hostility, it showed up in productivity."

With three plays in 1955, the breakthrough came: THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA at New York's Phoenix Theatre; THE TEMPEST at the Stratford, Connecticut, Shakespeare Festival; NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS on Broadway.
LIFE magazine took note. In 1960 [*Date is wrong*], Rod co-starred with Dean Stockwell on Broadway in COMPULSION, played in CAMELOT with Richard Burton; and in 1961, the movie CLEOPATRA, with Burton and Roddy's friend Elizabeth Taylor. No longer thought of as an ex-child star, Roddy had become an actor.


DICK MOORE: I found that most of us tried unconsciously to stay the way we were, because that's what people wanted us to do. Most of us never completely outgrew the unique, highly public childhood that we shared.

"Take Roddy," Darryl [Hickman] went on. "He's still trying to be the dutiful son to a lot of famous people who are images of what he tries to live up to. Yet he is way beyond most of them.

"The problem is that all of us played roles. Dean Stockwell, for instance, didn't do what was natural to him. He did what he thought he was supposed to do."