David Watson, Who Played Cornelius in 'Beneath the Planet of the Apes,' Dies at 74

Courtesy of Everett Collection
David Watson in TV's 'Rawhide.'

He jumped in when Roddy McDowall was unavailable for the second film in the original film series

David Watson, who stepped in for Roddy McDowall to portray the chimpanzee archeologist Cornelius in the 1970 film Beneath the Planet of the Apes, has died. He was 74.

The British actor died on Oct. 5 following a heart attack in New York, where he had been attending the opening night of the Broadway play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the U.K. newspaper The Stage reported.

McDowall played Cornelius in the original Planet of the Apes (1969) as well as in Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). He also was Cornelius' son Caesar in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and another chimp, Galen, in a 1974 Planet of the Apes series for CBS.

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But when McDowall was unavailable for Beneath the Planet of the Apes because of a scheduling conflict (he was in England directing the Ava Gardner-Ian McShane feature The Ballad of Tam Lin), Watson — who sounded much like McDowall underneath the mask and all that makeup — took over the role for that film only.

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Watson earlier appeared on such 1960s TV series as Rawhide opposite Clint Eastwood, Never Too Young, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Time Tunnel and Daniel Boone, and he starred as Robin Hood (opposite McDowall as Prince John) in a 1968 musical for NBC. Later, he showed up on The Bionic Woman and in the 1988 telefilm Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the Lake.

A native of London, Watson was a singer in nightclubs and on the cabaret scene before making a transition to acting.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4

 

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