Friday, January 09, 2015

Taylor’s Time Runs Out

I’m still assembling a record of all the people--important within the crime-fiction community--who died in 2014. Meanwhile, though, I must get about the sad business of marking deaths in this brand-new year. The first prominent passing is that of Rod Taylor, the Australian film and TV actor who suffered a heart attack and died on January 7 at age 84. He would’ve turned 85 this coming Sunday.

Here is The Hollywood Reporter’s brief on Taylor’s long career:
Taylor’s big breakthrough came with his starring turn in The Time Machine, director George Pal’s 1960 adaptation of the H.G. Wells 1895 sci-fi classic.

He also played the heroic Mitch Brenner in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic
The Birds, coming to the aid of Tippi Hedren, and he starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in another 1963 release, The V.I.P.s.

Most recently, he played Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino’s
Inglorious Basterds (2009).

The Sydney native made an early mark when he starred on the ABC 1960-61 series
Hong Kong. At $3,750 per episode, he was said to be the highest-paid actor in a one-hour show.

His film résumé also includes the romantic comedy
Sunday in New York (1963), playing a bachelor opposite the virgin Jane Fonda; 101 Dalmatians, where he was the voice of Pongo; and Do Not Disturb (1965) and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), both opposite Doris Day.

Taylor tested for the role of middleweight boxing champion Rocky Graziano in
Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), but the part went to Paul Newman. Still, he impressed MGM studio chief Dore Schary, who gave him a contract and cast the actor in the Bette Davis-Ernest Borgnine comedy The Catered Affair (1956) in which he is engaged to Debbie Reynolds’ character.

During this time, he also landed supporting roles opposite top-flight casts in
Giant (1956) and Separate Tables (1958).
The Reporter dutifully mentions that Taylor starred, with Dennis Cole, in the 1971 CBS-TV Western adventure series Bearcats!, but he also took the lead in the 1983-1984 espionage series Masquerade on ABC. More importantly, he played “salvage consultant” Travis McGee in Darker Than Amber, the 1970 cinematic adaptation of John D. MacDonald’s 1966 novel of the same name. More than a few people have said he filled that challenging role best. (Critic Roger Ebert remarked that “As McGee, ... Taylor is vulnerable and funny and even slightly Celtic. He inhabits the role easily; if you’re a John D. MacDonald fan, you won’t question the casting.”) If you’ve never seen Dark Than Amber, the entire 92-minute flick can be enjoyed here. Or you can click here to see its opening sequence as well as a late fight scene between Taylor and William Smith, which apparently became much more violent than the director had intended.

The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Taylor’s daughter, Felicia, a former CNN News correspondent, as saying, “My dad loved his work. Being an actor was his passion--calling it an honorable art and something he couldn’t live without.” I think we would all have been poorer had Rod Taylor not made his contributions to big- and small-screen entertainments over the years.

(Hat tip to Keith Raffel.)

READ MORE:Another Childhood Hero Leaves,” by Christopher Fowler.

1 comment:

John said...

Thanks for the link to DARKER THAN AMBER. Never knew any of the McGee novels were filmed. I can't wait to see Taylor in the role. He's a perfect choice.