Best known for his roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and in The Time Machine, George Pal’s adaptation of the sci-fi classic by H. G. Wells
King of the Coral Sea
Long John Silver
The Virgin Queen
Hell on Frisco Bay
World Without End
The Catered Affair
Step Down to Terror
Ask Any Girl
Colossus and the Amazon Queen
One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Seven Seas to Calais
A Gathering of Eagles
Sunday in New York
Fate Is the Hunter
Do Not Disturb
The Glass Bottom Boat
Dark of the Sun
Nobody Runs Forever
The Hell with Heroes
Darker than Amber
The Man Who Had Power Over Women
The Train Robbers
Gli eroi (a.k.a. The Heroes)
The Deadly Trackers
Hell River (a.k.a. Partizani)
The Picture Show Man
The Treasure Seekers
A Time to Die
On the Run
Terror in the Aisles
Marbella, un golpe de cinco estrellas
Mask of Murder
Point of Betrayal
Welcome to Woop Woop
Rod Taylor was never nominated for an Academy Award.
Rodney Sturt Taylor was born January 11, 1930 in Lidcombe, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, 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.
Taylor attended Parramatta High School and later studied at the East Sydney Technical and Fine Arts College. For a time he worked as a commercial artist, but 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 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 gain 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 traveler who, thousands of years in the future, falls for a woman played by Yvette Mimieux.
Taylor starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s horror/thriller The Birds (1963), along with Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright, and Jessica Tandy, 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 (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; and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) with 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 starred in 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 Taylor’s first starring feature film role as an Australian; and Darker than Amber (1970) as Travis McGee.
In 1973, Taylor was cast in The Train Robbers with John Wayne and Ann-Margret. The film was a box office success. Taylor also played in television roles throughout the 1990’s.
In 1993, he hosted the documentary Time Machine: The Journey Back. At the end of the special, came 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, he had moved into semi-retirement. He appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in 2009, portraying Winston Churchill in a cameo.
Taylor suffered a fatal heart attack on January 7 2015 in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 84, four days short of his 85th birthday.
In 2017, a documentary on Rod’s life, “Pulling No Punches”, was released and entered into the Beverly Hills Film Festival.