Virginia McDowall: The Actress Who Died of Cancer

Virginia McDowall was a British-born actress who appeared in several movies in the 1940s and 1950s, and later worked for some motion picture icons. She was also the elder sister of actor Roddy McDowall, who died of cancer in 1998. Virginia McDowall passed away on December 8, 2006, at the age of 79, after an extended illness. She was a resident of the Motion Picture and Television Home in Woodland Hills, California, where she welcomed many friends from the industry. She was remembered for her keen intelligence, quick wit, and steadfast loyalty.

Early Life and Career

Virginia McDowall was born on September 23, 1927, in London, England. She was the daughter of Winifriede McDowall, a former actress, and Thomas McDowall, an officer in the British Merchant Marine. She had a younger brother, Roddy McDowall, who was also interested in acting. During the Blitz in 1940, while her father remained in England, 13-year-old Virginia along with her mother and brother, moved to Los Angeles, where the children were to pursue their acting careers. Virginia McDowall made her film debut in 1941, in the thriller Man Hunt, directed by Fritz Lang. She played the role of Mary, the postmistress’s daughter, who helps the protagonist escape from the Nazis. She also appeared in other films such as This Above All (1942), National Velvet (1944), If Winter Comes (1947), and The Fan (1949). She also had roles in TV shows such as Dragnet (1953) and Hallmark Hall of Fame (1952). According to IMDb, she also worked as a stand-in for actress Rita Johnson in the film Thunderhead: Son of Flicka (1945).

Later Years and Death

Virginia McDowall retired from acting in the 1950s and worked for some motion picture icons such as director Richard Brooks and actor Montgomery Clift. She also supported her brother Roddy McDowall, who became a successful actor and photographer. She was very close to him and was devastated by his death from cancer in 1998. According to Playbill, Roddy McDowall was diagnosed with cancer in April 1998 and was declared incurable in August. He died on October 3, 1998, at the age of 70. Virginia McDowall also suffered from cancer, which was diagnosed in 2006. According to CBS News, she had “undifferentiated” cancer, meaning it was not confined to a particular area of her body. She died on December 8, 2006, at the Motion Picture and Television Home in Woodland Hills, where she had been living since 1996. According to her obituary in the Los Angeles Times, she left behind many friends, including Rosemary and Joe Choate, Adam Kurtzman, Elizabeth Taylor, the Palombo family, Adina Urquhart, and Linda Young. She also requested that donations in her memory be made to the Salvation Army or to the Motion Picture and Television Fund.

Doms Desk

Leave a Comment