Don Taylor (American actor and director)

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Don Taylor
Don Taylor (Father's Little Dividend).JPG
Don Taylor in Father's Little Dividend (1951)
Born Donald Ritchie Taylor
(1920-12-13)December 13, 1920
Freeport, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died December 29, 1998(1998-12-29) (aged 78)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart failure
Occupation Actor, film director
Years active 1943-88

Phyllis Avery (m. 1944–55) (divorced) 2 daughters

Hazel Court (m. 1964–98) (his death) 2 children (1 daughter, 1 son)

Donald Richie "Don" Taylor (December 13, 1920 – December 29, 1998) was an American actor and film director.[1] He co-starred in 1950s classics, including Stalag 17, Father of the Bride, and the 1948 film noir The Naked City. He later turned to directing films such as Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Tom Sawyer (1973), and Damien: Omen II (1978).


Early life and work[edit]

The son of Mr. and Mrs. D.E. Taylor,[2] he was born Donald Ritchie Taylor[3] in Freeport, Pennsylvania, on December 13, 1920.[4] (Another source says that he was born "in Pittsburgh and raised in Freeport, Pa.")[3] He studied speech and drama at Penn State University and hitchhiked to Hollywood in 1942. He was signed as a contract player at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and appeared in small roles. Drafted into the United States Army Air Forces (AAF) during World War II, he appeared in the Air Forces's Winged Victory Broadway play[5] and movie (1944), credited as "Cpl. Don Taylor."

Acting career[edit]

After discharge from the AAF, Taylor was cast in a lead role as the young detective, Jimmy Halloran, working alongside veteran homicide detective Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) in Universal's 1948 screen version of The Naked City, which was notable for being filmed entirely on location in New York. Taylor was later part of the ensemble cast in MGM's classic World War II drama Battleground (1949). He then appeared as the husband of Elizabeth Taylor in the comedies Father of the Bride (1950) and its sequel Father's Little Dividend (1951), starring Spencer Tracy. Another memorable role was Vern "Cowboy" Blithe in Flying Leathernecks (1951). In 1953, Taylor had a key role as the escaping prisoner Lt. Dunbar in Billy Wilder's Stalag 17. His last major film role came in I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955).

Directorial career[edit]

From the late 1950s through the 1980s, Taylor turned to directing movies and TV shows, such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the short-lived Steve Canyon, starring Dean Fredericks, and Rod Serling's Night Gallery. One of his memorable efforts, in 1973, was the musical film Tom Sawyer,[6] which boasted a Sherman Brothers song score. Other films that Taylor directed are Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Echoes of a Summer (1976), The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday (also 1976), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) starring Burt Lancaster, Damien: Omen II (1978) with William Holden, and The Final Countdown (1980) with Kirk Douglas.

Taylor occasionally performed both acting and directing roles simultaneously, as he did for episodes of the TV detective series Burke's Law.

Writing career[edit]

Taylor "wrote one-act plays, radio dramas, short stories, and the 1985 TV movie My Wicked, wicked Ways ... The Legend of Errol Flynn."[3]

Personal life[edit]

Taylor was married twice.

  • His first wife was Phyllis Avery, whom he married in 1944; they divorced in 1955,[3] but not before the births of their daughters Anne and Avery.
  • His second wife was Hazel Court,[6] whom he married in 1964 and stayed with until his death;[7] they had a son, Jonathan, and a daughter, Courtney.


Taylor died on December 29, 1998 at the University of California Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, of heart failure. He was survived by two daughters, a son, a stepdaughter, a sister, and a granddaughter.[3]


Selected filmography as director[edit]

In addition to his Hollywood credits, Taylor directed 27 television movies and episodes for 53 television series including Cannon, Rod Serling's Night Gallery, Mod Squad, It Takes a Thief, The Big Valley, The Flying Nun, Vacation Playhouse, The Tammy Grimes Show, The Wild Wild West, Burke's Law, The Rogues, The Farmer's Daughter, The Lloyd Bridges Show, The Dick Powell Theatre, Dr. Kildare, Checkmate, 87th Precinct, Zane Grey Theater, The Rifleman, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and others.

Selected filmography as actor[edit]


  1. ^ Jerry Roberts (5 June 2009). Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors. Scarecrow Press. p. 584. ISBN 978-0-8108-6378-1. 
  2. ^ "Don Taylor Expected To Visit in Freeport". Pennsylvania, Kittanning. Simpson's Leader-Times. July 10, 1957. p. 1. Retrieved March 24, 2016 – via  open access publication – free to read
  3. ^ a b c d e "Actor Don Taylor, 78, Also Directed Movies, Tv". Los Angeles Times (via Sun Sentinel). January 4, 1999. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  4. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors ..., Volume 1. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 720. ISBN 9781557835512. Retrieved 25 March 2016. 
  5. ^ "Don Taylor". Playbill. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Kleiner, Dick (September 27, 1972). ""Tom Sawyer" family film even on set". Nebraska, Columbus. The Columbus Telegram. p. 34. Retrieved March 24, 2016 – via  open access publication – free to read
  7. ^ Weiskind, Ron (January 1, 1999). "Longtime Hollywood actor, director raised in Freeport". Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. B-7. Retrieved 25 March 2016. 
  8. ^ "Awards Search: Don Taylor". Television Academy. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 

External links[edit]