Plays | Notes about the School | Pictures | Interviews | Young John Mark
Malcolm's First acting roles
|Young John Mark||Boy||1956|
|Cinder Allan (Pantomime)||Ugly Brother||1957|
|The Merchant of Venice||Gratiano||1957|
|Puss in Boots (Pantomime)||Notary||1958|
|The Corsican Cousins||Worker||1959|
|A Midsummer Night's Dream||Bottom||1959|
|As You Like it||Touchstone||1960|
|Taming of the Shrew||Petruchio||1961|
The original school stood on Crown Estate lands in Eltham, Kent which is part of Greater London. This means that whenever the Crown Commissioners want the land back they can simply repossess it. They had to be demolished when the Crown Estates took back the land presumably to build more houses and make more money. I don't know the ins and outs of compensation, but a new building was purchased in a place called Chelsfield which is not far away and more country. It is called the Cannock School now and is quite nice. I went there a couple of times to visit Mr. Baker, the Headmaster, before he died and looked at all the photos of guys I had been with as well as the ones I hadn't and would have liked to. It's funny that some guys look better when you are older than they did when you were younger and the reverse with others. I think I was very lucky to go to that school at that time. An interesting note was a famous actor during the 1940s and 50s, Bonar Colleano, attended the school. Theodore House was the building next door to Old Cannock House purchased by Mr. Baker's Canadian Uncle Theodore and added to the school. Cannock House itself is next door and the combination of these two houses made a huge establishment as they both had four floors and were typical wealthy Victorian Houses. There was a large amount of land behind the houses which allowed all sorts of fun and games to be indulged in. I have good memories of these times. - Duncan Neilson
Mr. Cooper-Smith was the art teacher
Malcolm was head boy
Malcolm's 1959-60 Rugby Team Photo
Duncan got a hold of me and when I convinced him I wasn't Malcolm's official site, he opened up to me for this interview. His relationship with Malcolm reminds me of Malcolm's relationship with Kubrick. They were close at one point and then for whatever reason it didn't continue and there was some hurt there. No matter what, from talking to Duncan, he is a really nice guy and I am glad to have met him.
Q: When did you meet Malcolm?
A: As a matter of interest the first time I met Malcolm he asked me "are you THE Duncan Nielsen?" (that was my step father's name) so, you see, my reputation at the school as an actor was pretty well established despite my only being there such a short time. I am three years older than he is, but we did go to France together.
Q: So you didn't attend the school together?
A: We were not at the school together - I met him because I visited the school when I worked in London and I went on a school trip to France and Malcolm also came. I had left the school, but stayed in touch for a while and went along as a sort of unpaid French Speaker.
Q: Is that the trip Malcolm talks about going down to Monaco and falling for a sexy, young grandmother?
A: The trip was to St. Malo and he certainly did not go with any women on that occasion. He did seem to take a shine to one of the young serving girls in the hotel where we stayed and kept rushing out to ask her for more water. Mr. Baker put a stop to that by telling us all that water in France was not "looked after" in the same way as it was in England. At that time that was true.
Q: What else can you tell me about the trip?
A: We left on the Ferry boat from Southampton to the port of St. Malo which is an overnight trip. The sea, as I remember it, was quite rough and a number of boys were seasick. The hotel consisted of dormitory type rooms shared with a number of boys including Malcolm. We got shouted at by Mr. Baker for going off on our own (Malcolm. myself and maybe one other I can't remember). I honestly can't recall how long the holiday was, but probably two weeks. I think we all had a good time but it was not especially memorable.
Q: What can you tell me about Malcolm's family pub The Bull and the Dog?
A: The only thing I remember about the Taylor's Pub was that it was a very working class place. By that I mean it catered for the local workers in Ellesmere Port - a really rough place.
Q: Malcolm tells a story about skipping school to meet a girl.
A: Interesting what MM says about breaking bounds to meet a girl. I never knew there were any bounds to break, but it went without saying that you did not leave the school without permission and Mr. Baker would certainly have taken a dim view if he did - but expelled? Never. Mr. Baker could be very intimidating when he wanted to be so maybe that's it, but it could be "gilding the lily" as far as the story goes. The girls school was Babington House.
Q: Do you have a favorite film of Malcolm's?
A: Il Maestro. He did a convincing job of a conductor. One of Mr. Baker's favorites was the Raging Moon (Long Ago Tomorrow), but I haven't seen that one yet. I also haven't seen the Time After Time which Mr. Baker thought was his best performance.
Q: What do you think about if.... since you knew him from his school days?
A: I think he played the part very well, but then that was exactly the sort of person he was at school. I am not suggesting that Malcolm was really as unpleasant a character as Mick and later Alex, but he had the basic elements in his personality which merely had to be extended. I didn't like it as I thought it was, at best, fanciful and, at worst, an attack on the British Public School system.
Q: When was the last time you talked to Malcolm?
A: I did an interview on a phone-in program on BBC Radio 4 on some subject or another and Mr. Baker heard it. Although he had not heard from me or I him for 40 years or so at that point and I was now using my real father's name he remembered it and made inquiries of other ex-pupils in this area to try and find me. Cutting a long story short he found my rental property address since that pay phone number was in my name and he wrote to me. The minute I saw the letter I knew it was from him as his writing was very distinctive and thus I called him and visited him and the new school in Chelsfield. He told me all about Malcolm's rise to fame in if.... and ACO, but told me that he had also seen him on a London stage. He mentioned Long Ago Tomorrow was the best performance he'd seen of his. I telephoned Malcolm while he was in London and got the distinct impression that he was not interested in renewing our acquaintance for whatever reason and when Mr. Baker died, I called him again to see if he was coming to the funeral and he said he could not because he was filming in Italy. I said that surely the man to whom he owed just his start in acting entitled him to get one day away from the set for this funeral, but he thought otherwise. As to our relationship, well you know that we were good friends at that time and I had no contact with him in the intervening years and, indeed, I had no idea that Malcolm McDowell was the boy I knew as Malcolm Taylor as if.... If I do him an injustice then I am sorry, but all I can say is that I have contacted him twice and he has never contacted me so there you are.
Malcolm's first acting photo at age 13
Mr. Baker was a heavily religious guy and became a vicar in the Church of England when he retired from being headmaster. There isn't much about it in the school magazine except he didn't want it treated as a play, more an act of devotion.
This entire page © 2001-08 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net