Roger MacDougall

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16 Feb 1993
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Born Glasgow in August 1910, son of a headmaster who wanted Roger to have a university education; Glasgow University where he studies for an LIB, but in his final years developed eye trouble and had to give up. He talks about his cousin Sandy MacKenrick who worked as an artist for J. Walter Thompson’s Glasgow branch; they worked on a script together, Midnight Menace. The film was made at Pinewood and directed by Sinclair Hill. He says that he believed that Conrad Veidt had something to do with the setting up of the film.

The next scripts that he talks about were This Man in the News, and This Man in Paris, both directed by Dave MacDonald. He then goes on to talk about working for Michael Balcon. The Man in the White Suit. He talked with Alec Clunes (Arts Theatre) about writing for the stage, and the advice he got was write a play with only four characters in it and one set. He says he did better, he wrote To Dorothy A Son, which had two characters on stage and a ‘voice off’ which was produced at the Savoy Theatre. He has written music and as many as 1700 songs; he says that thanks to The Performing Rights Society he still enjoys royalties, which [is] better in its service than the Writer’s Guild, of which he did become President, with Frank Launder. He talks about working with Diana Morgan [BEHP Interview 265] (whose voice is also heard occasionally on this recording) on The Foreman went to France. He talks about a deal he had tried to make with a musical version of The Man in the White Suit, but the Ealing copyright had gone to EMI who were demanding £250,000 so the deal fell through. He also wrote two shows for the Crazy Gang and talks about going to a Royal Command Performance, where he followed the usual procedure of taking the National Anthem to be the playout music! He then talks about David MacDonald as a film director, and also about Basil Deardon. His most important work he says was To Dorothy a Son, but the play he liked best was The Delegate to Valhalla, but unfortunately it folded after opening in Manchester; Jack de Leon produced. During the war years he did do some directing of documentaries for the COI [Central Office of Information] in the This Britain series, as well as Back to Normal for the MOI [Ministry of Information]. Being a conscientious objector he ran a market garden in the Henley area but gave away his produce to the local schools.


At the age of forty he became paralysed with MS [Multiple Sclerosis], and also blind. He went to Queen’s Square [and] continued to work using a Dictaphone [a recording device]. He then discovered he was able to control the MS and although confined at that time to a wheelchair he went to Hollywood, working for Disney and Paramount, but without any success. Colin Young then invited him to become a Professor at the UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles] Film School where he worked for two years; his success with one of his pupils, Colin Higgins, produced Harold and Maude.

At the end of his interview he talks about his theories of controlling various ailments.



Roger was a Scottish playwright, who first entered films as a composer  He  later moved to Ealing Studios, notably as screenwriter of "The Man in the White Suit" (1952 Oscar nomination) and "The Gentle Gunman", based on his own plays. In the 1940's he also wrote and directed documentaries for his own company Merlin.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1953, he published a pamphlet on a paleolithic diet (low animal fats, no dairy, low sugar, gluten-free) which stabilised his condition. By 1975, his movement and muscle control had returned to almost normal.