Rodney Sturt Taylor
11 January 1930
|Died||7 January 2015 (aged 84)|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.|
|Education||University of New South Wales|
(m. 1951; div. 1954)
(m. 1963; div. 1969)
Rodney Sturt Taylor (11 January 1930 – 7 January 2015) was an Australian actor. He appeared in more than 50 feature films, including The Time Machine (1960), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Birds (1963), and Inglourious Basterds (2009).
Taylor was born in Lidcombe, a suburb of Sydney, to a father who was a steel construction contractor and commercial artist and a mother who was a children's author. He began taking art classes in high school, and continued in college. He decided to become an actor after seeing Laurence Olivier in an Old Vic touring production of Richard III.
His first film role was in a re-enactment of Charles Sturt's voyage down the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers, playing Sturt's offsider, George Macleay. At the time, he was also appearing in a number of theatre productions for Australia's Mercury Theatre. He made his feature film debut in the Australian Lee Robinson film King of the Coral Sea (1954). He soon started acting in television films, such as Studio 57 (1954), where he played multiple different characters.
He started to gain popularity after starring in The Time Machine (1960), as H. George Wells. He later starred in the Disney film One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), as Pongo. In one of his most famous roles, he played Mitch Brenner in The Birds, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1963). By the late 1990s, Taylor had moved into semi-retirement. His final film role was in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds in 2009, portraying a fictionalized version of Winston Churchill in a cameo.
Taylor was born on 11 January 1930 in Lidcombe, a suburb of Sydney, the only child of William Sturt Taylor, a steel construction contractor and commercial artist, and Mona Taylor (née Thompson), a writer of more than a hundred short stories and children's books. His middle name comes from his great-great-granduncle, Captain Charles Sturt, a British explorer of the Australian outback in the 19th century.
Taylor attended Parramatta High School and later studied at the East Sydney Technical and Fine Arts College and took art classes. His mother wanted him to be an artist, and pressured him into taking the art classes. For a time he worked as a commercial artist, but he decided to become an actor after seeing Laurence Olivier in an Old Vic touring production of Richard III.
Taylor acquired extensive radio and stage experience in Australia, where his radio work included a period on Blue Hills and a role as Tarzan. Earlier in his career he had to support himself by working at Sydney's Mark Foy's department store, designing and painting window and other displays during the day. In 1951, he took part in a re-enactment of Charles Sturt's voyage down the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers, playing Sturt's offsider, George Macleay. A short documentary, Inland with Sturt (1951), was based on it. Taylor also appeared in a number of theatre productions for Australia's Mercury Theatre.
Taylor made his feature film debut in the Australian Lee Robinson film King of the Coral Sea (1954), playing an American. He later played Israel Hands in a Hollywood-financed film shot in Sydney, Long John Silver (1954), an unofficial sequel to Treasure Island. Following these two films, Taylor was awarded the 1954 Rola Show Australian Radio Actor of the Year Award, which included a ticket to London via Los Angeles, but Taylor did not continue on to London.
Taylor soon landed roles in television shows such as Studio 57 and the films Hell on Frisco Bay (1955) and Giant (1956). In 1955, he guest-starred as Clancy in the third episode ("The Argonauts") of the first hour-long Western television series, Cheyenne, an ABC program starring Clint Walker. Taylor and Edward Andrews played gold seekers Clancy and Duncan, respectively, who are best friends until they strike it rich, only to see Native Americans release their gold dust to the wind. The episode was a remake of the film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Taylor was considered for one of the leads in Warner Bros. Television's Maverick.
Toward the end of 1955, Taylor unsuccessfully screen tested to play boxer Rocky Graziano in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Somebody Up There Likes Me after James Dean's death, but his use of a Brooklyn accent and physical prowess in the test impressed the studio enough to give him a long-term contract. At MGM, he played a series of support roles in The Catered Affair (1956), Raintree County (1957), and Ask Any Girl (1959). He had a significant role in Separate Tables (1958), which won Oscars for two of its stars, David Niven and Wendy Hiller. He also made a strong impression guest-starring in an episode of The Twilight Zone titled "And When the Sky Was Opened" (1959).
Taylor's first leading role in a feature film was in The Time Machine (1960), George Pal's adaptation of the science-fiction classic by H. G. Wells, with Taylor as the time traveller who, thousands of years in the future, falls for a woman played by Yvette Mimieux. Taylor played a character not unlike that of his Twilight Zone episode of a year earlier and the film World Without End in 1956.
In or around 1960, he was approached regarding the role of James Bond in the first feature-length Bond film. Taylor reportedly declined to become involved because he considered the character of Bond "beneath him". Taylor later commented: "Every time a new Bond picture became a smash hit ... I tore out my hair."
In the 1960–1961 television season, Taylor starred as foreign correspondent Glenn Evans in the ABC dramatic series Hong Kong. His principal co-star was Lloyd Bochner; Jack Kruschen played the bartender, Tully. The program faced stiff competition on Wednesday evenings from NBC's Wagon Train, hence lasted for only one season. He voiced Pongo (a Dalmatian dog) in Disney's animated feature One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) and also guest-starred on Marilyn Maxwell's short-lived ABC series Bus Stop around the same time. In 1962, he starred in an episode of NBC's The DuPont Show of the Week ("The Ordeal of Dr. Shannon"), an adaptation of A. J. Cronin's novel Shannon's Way.
Taylor starred in Alfred Hitchcock's horror thriller The Birds (1963), along with Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy and Veronica Cartwright, playing a man whose town and home come under attack by menacing birds. Taylor then starred with Jane Fonda in the romantic comedy Sunday in New York (also 1963).
During the mid-1960s, Taylor worked mostly for MGM. His credits including The V.I.P.s (1963), his first feature film role as an Australian, with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and Maggie Smith; Fate Is the Hunter (for 20th Century Fox, 1964) with Glenn Ford and Suzanne Pleshette; 36 Hours (1964) with James Garner; Young Cassidy (1965) with Julie Christie and Maggie Smith; The Liquidator (1965) with Jill St. John; Do Not Disturb (1965); and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), both co-starring Doris Day.
He began to change his image toward the end of the decade to more tough-guy roles, such as Chuka (1967), which he also produced, and he starred in Hotel (1967) with Catherine Spaak; Dark of the Sun (or The Mercenaries, 1968), again with Yvette Mimieux; Nobody Runs Forever (1968) where he played New South Wales Police Sergeant Scobie Malone, this being Taylor's first starring feature film role as an Australian; and Darker than Amber (1970) as Travis McGee.
He was also reportedly up for the role of martial artist Roper in the Bruce Lee vehicle Enter the Dragon (1973). The film was directed by Robert Clouse, who had also directed Taylor in the film Darker than Amber (1970). Taylor was supposedly deemed too tall for the part, and the role instead went to John Saxon.
In 1973, Taylor was cast in The Train Robbers alongside long time friend John Wayne and Ann-Margret. The film was a box office success. Taylor also had some television roles: he starred in Bearcats! (1971) on CBS and in The Oregon Trail (1976) on NBC. He had a regular role in the short-lived spy drama series Masquerade (1983) and played one of the leads in the equally short-lived series, Outlaws (1986). From 1988 to 1990, Taylor appeared in the CBS drama series Falcon Crest as Frank Agretti, playing opposite Jane Wyman. In the mid-1990s, he appeared in several episodes of Murder, She Wrote and Walker, Texas Ranger.
In 1993, he hosted the documentary Time Machine: The Journey Back. The special ended with a mini-sequel written by David Duncan, the screenwriter of the George Pal film. Taylor recreated his role as George, reuniting him with Filby (Alan Young).
Taylor returned to Australia several times over the years to make films, playing a 1920s traveling showman in The Picture Show Man (1977) and a paid killer in On the Run (1983). In the black comedy Welcome to Woop Woop (1997), he played the foul-mouthed redneck Daddy-O.
By the late 1990s, Taylor had moved into semi-retirement. In 2007, he appeared in the horror telemovie Kaw, which revisits the idea of marauding birds turning on their human tormentors. In this film, however, the cause of the disturbance was discovered by Taylor who plays the town doctor. He appeared in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds in 2009, portraying Winston Churchill in a cameo. In 2017, a documentary on Taylor's life, "Pulling No Punches", was released and entered into the Beverly Hills Film Festival.
His first wife was model Peggy Williams (1951–1954). They divorced after allegations of domestic violence. Taylor later claimed that they divorced because they felt they were too young to have a healthy marriage. Taylor dated and was briefly engaged to Swedish actress Anita Ekberg in the early 1960s. He dated model Pat Sheehan in the late 1960s.
His second marriage was to model Mary Hilem (1963–1969). The couple had one daughter, now-retired CNN financial reporter Felicia Taylor (born 1964). Taylor bought a home in Palm Springs, California in 1967.
He married his third wife, Carol Kikumura, in 1980. They had originally dated in the early 1960s when she was an extra on his TV series Hong Kong. The couple got back together in 1971 and dated for an additional nine years before marrying.
Taylor died of a heart attack at his home, surrounded by his family, on 7 January 2015, in Beverly Hills, California, four days before his 85th birthday. He was survived by his wife, Carol, and his daughter Felicia.
- King of the Coral Sea (1954) as Jack Janiero (film debut)
- Long John Silver (1954) as Israel Hands
- The Virgin Queen (1955) as Cpl. Gwilym (uncredited)
- Top Gun (1955) as Lem Sutter
- Hell on Frisco Bay (1956) as John Brodie Evans
- World Without End (1956) as Herbert Ellis
- The Catered Affair (1956) as Ralph Halloran
- Giant (1956) as Sir David Karfrey
- The Rack (1956) as Al (uncredited)
- Raintree County (1957) as Garwood B. Jones
- Step Down to Terror (1958) as Mike Randall
- Separate Tables (1958) as Charles
- Ask Any Girl (1959) as Ross Tayford
- The Time Machine (1960) as H. George Wells
- Colossus and the Amazon Queen (1960) as Pirro
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) as Narrator Pongo (voice)
- Seven Seas to Calais (1962) as Sir Francis Drake
- The Birds (1963) as Mitch Brenner
- The V.I.P.s (1963) as Les Mangrum
- A Gathering of Eagles (1963) as Col. Hollis Farr
- Sunday in New York (1963) as Mike Mitchell
- Fate Is the Hunter (1964) as Capt. Jack Savage
- 36 Hours (1965) as Maj. Walter Gerber
- Young Cassidy (1965) as John Cassidy
- The Liquidator (1965) as Boysie Oakes
- Do Not Disturb (1965) as Mike Harper
- The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) as Bruce Templeton
- Hotel (1967) as Peter McDermott
- Chuka (1967) as Chuka
- Dark of the Sun (1968) as Capt. Bruce Curry
- Nobody Runs Forever (1968) (a.k.a. The High Commissioner) as Scobie Malone
- The Hell with Heroes (1968) as Brynie MacKay
- Zabriskie Point (1970) as Lee Allen
- Darker than Amber (1970) as Travis McGee
- The Man Who Had Power Over Women (1970) as Peter Reaney
- Powderkeg (1971, TV movie/pilot for Bearcats!) as Hank Brackett
- Family Flight (1972, TV movie) as Jason Carlyle
- The Train Robbers (1973) as Grady
- Gli eroi (1973) (a.k.a. The Heroes) as Lieutenant Bob Robson
- Trader Horn (1973) as Trader Horn
- The Deadly Trackers (1973) as Frank Brand
- Hell River (1974) (a.k.a. Partizani) as Marko
- A Matter of Wife... and Death (1975, TV movie) as Shamus McCoy
- Blondie (1976) as Christopher Tauling
- The Oregon Trail (1976, series) as Evan Thorpe
- Gulliver's Travels (1977) as Reldresal / King of Blefuscu (voice, uncredited)
- The Picture Show Man (1977) as Palmer
- The Treasure Seekers (1979) as Marian Casey
- Cry of the Innocent (1980, TV movie) as Steve Donegin
- Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (1981, TV movie) as 'Black Jack' Bouvier
- Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story (1982, TV movie) as Edward Adeane
- A Time to Die (1982) as Jack Bailey
- On the Run (1983) as Mr. Payatta
- Terror in the Aisles (1984) as Himself (stock footage)
- Marbella, un golpe de cinco estrellas (1985) as Commander
- Half Nelson (1985, TV series)
- Mask of Murder (1985) as Supt. Bob McLaine
- Danielle Steel's 'Palomino' (1991, TV movie) as Bill King
- Grass Roots (1992, TV movie) as Gen. Willoughby
- Open Season (1995) – Billy Patrick
- Point of Betrayal (1995) as Ted Kitteridge
- Welcome to Woop Woop (1998) as Daddy-O
- The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy (1998, TV movie) as General Sorenson
- Kaw (2007, TV movie) as Doc
- Inglourious Basterds (2009) as Winston Churchill (final film role)
- Inland with Sturt (1951) as George Mcleady
- The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal (1985)
- Time Machine: The Journey Back (1993)
- All About the Birds (2000)
- Not Quite Hollywood (2008)
- Pulling No Punches (2016)
As a regular
Taylor had several lead roles in television, from the early 1960s to the early first decade of the 21st century. Among his television shows as a regular are:
- Hong Kong with co-star Lloyd Bochner (1960, ABC)
- Bearcats! (1971, CBS)
- The Oregon Trail as Evan Thorpe, a widower taking his three children from their Illinois farm to the Pacific Northwest by way of the Oregon Trail (1977, NBC)
- Masquerade (1983)
- Outlaws (1986)
- Studio 57 (1955) – "The Last Day on Earth", "The Black Sheep's Daughter"
- Lux Video Theatre (1955) – "Dark Tribute", "The Browning Version"
- Cheyenne (1955) – "The Argonauts"
- Suspicion (1957) – "The Story of Marjorie Reardon"
- Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (1958) – "A Thing to Fight For"
- Studio One (1958) – "Image of Fear"
- Lux Playhouse (1958) – "The Best House in the Valley"
- Playhouse 90 (1958–59) – "Verdict of Three", "The Long March", The Great Gatsby, "The Raider", "Misalliance"
- The Twilight Zone (1959) – "And When the Sky Was Opened"
- Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre (1960) – "Picture of Sal"
- Goodyear Theatre (1960) – "Capital Gains"
- General Electric Theater (1960) – "Early to Die", "The Young Years"
- Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse (1960) – "Thunder in the Night"
- Bus Stop (1961) – "Portrait of a Hero"
- The DuPont Show of the Week (1962) – "The Ordeal of Dr. Shannon"
- Tales of the Unexpected (TV series) (1980) – "The Hitch-Hiker"
- Falcon Crest (1988–1990) as Frank Agretti
- Murder, She Wrote (1995)
- Walker, Texas Ranger (1996-1997, 2000) – "Redemption", "Texas vs. Cahill", "Wedding Bells"
- Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (Independent, 1950)
- Home of the Brave by Arthur Laurents (Independent, 1950)
- Misalliance by George Bernard Shaw (John Alden Company, 1951)
- Twins by Plautus (Mercury, 1952)
- The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare (Mercury, 1952)
- The Witch by John Masefield (Mercury, 1952)
- They Knew What They Wanted by Sidney Howard (Mercury, 1952)
- The Happy Time by Samuel A. Taylor (Mercury, 1953)
- Sydney Morning Herald, Birth Announcements, Saturday 18 January 1930, page 16
- "Rod Taylor obituary". The Guardian. 9 January 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
- Stephen Vagg Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media, 2010
- "ROD TAYLOR" (PDF) – via University of Kentucky.
- "The Complete Rod Taylor Site: Radio". Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- Saragossi, Steve Taylor-Made Cinema Retro Vol. 7 Issue 19
- Mark Juddery, "Rod Taylor, the Hollywood star, who never forgot he was an Aussie", Sydney Morning Herald 13 January 2015 (access: 7 September 2018).
- City On Fire (audio commentatary)
- "THE WEEKLY ROUND". Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982). 19 June 1963. p. 2. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
- "The Complete Rod Taylor Site: John Wayne". www.rodtaylorsite.com. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
- Eyman, Scott (23 August 2009). "Tarantino Comes Calling with a Role For Rod Taylor". The Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 5 October 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- "Radio actor free with fists, wife claims". Truth. No. 3372. New South Wales, Australia. 12 September 1954. p. 11. Retrieved 7 September 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Rod Taylor". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
- "Sydney actor Rod Taylor meets the Swedish "ice-berg" and says Cold? Not "sweet Anita"" (PDF). Sun Herald. 19 November 1961.
- "Anita Ekberg, Rod Taylor Announce Marriage Soon". Desert Sun. 25 April 1962.
- Clemens, Samuel (2020). Pat: A Biography of Hollywood's Blonde Starlet. Sequoia Press. p. 102. ISBN 978-0578682822.
- Meeks, Eric G. (2014) . The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe. p. 21. ISBN 978-1479328598.
- "The Complete Rod Taylor Site: Husband and Father".
- Courier-Mail, 9 January 2015, Australian actor Rod Taylor dead at 84, legendary star suffers a heart attack at Beverly Hills home
- "Rod Taylor, 'The Birds' and 'The Time Machine' Star, Dies at 84". Variety. 8 January 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
- "Rod Taylor, 'The Birds' Star, Dead at 84". 8 January 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
- Rod Taylor official site
- Rod Taylor at IMDb
- Rod Taylor at the TCM Movie Database
- Rod Taylor at Rotten Tomatoes
- Rod Taylor at AllMovie
- Rod Taylor Australian theatre credits at AusStage
- Rod Taylor at Emmys.com
- Rod Taylor at National Film and Sound Archive
- Rod Taylor at Aveleyman.com
- Rod Taylor at Find a Grave