The son of veteran actor/director J. P. McGowan, Dorrell McGowan launched his own film career as a screenwriter in 1936. Always working in collaboration with his brother Stuart, Dorrell turned out scripts for such western stars as Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and George O'Brien. Also teamed with his brother, he produced the 1946 Republic releases Valley of the Zombies and Night Train to Memphis. Dorrell and Stuart turned to directing in 1950, sharing the megging responsibilities on Showdown (1950), Tokyo File 212 (1951) and The Bashful Elephant (1962). The brothers also produced the first few seasons of TV's Death Valley Days (1952-70). Dorrell McGowan's only solo credit was for the screenplay of the 1958 "sleeper" The Littlest Hobo, which he and Stuart converted into a TV series in 1963.