Legendary Australian actor Rod Taylor has died. He was just two days shy of his 85th birthday. Taylor died in his home on Thursday from what appears to be natural causes. He is survived by his wife Carol of 35 years, and his daughter Felicia.
Taylor did a few features along with a lot of episodic television in the 50s before his big break came in 1960 when he played H. G. Wells in George Pal’s science fiction classic “The Time Machine.” He went on to voice Pongo in Disney’s animated family film “101 Dalmatians.” He also portrayed the iconic role as Mitch Brenner in filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic “The Birds” opposite Tippi Hedren.
“There are so many incredible feelings I have for him. Rod was a great pal to me and a real strength, we were very, very good friends,” Hedren, 84, said in a statement. “He was one of the most fun people I have ever met, thoughtful and classy, there was everything good in that man.”
A native of Sydney, Taylor made his way to the United States where he landed roles in the 1956 films “Giant” and “A Catered Affair” and in “Separate Tables” in 1958. He went on to play several different roles in the television series “Playhouse 90” and portrayed Lieutenant Colonel Clegg Forbes in the memorable “Twilight Zone” episode ‘And When the Sky Was Opened.’
After “The Time Machine,” Taylor starred in the ABC 1960-61 series “Hong Kong” where he was said to be the highest-paid actor in a one-hour show with a salary of $3,750 per episode. Taylor had this to say about his early work.
“To a large degree, those early lean days were self-imposed,” he told Screenland magazine in 1961. “I would only do the good things. I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t consider prestige. I’d much rather turn down a starring role in a bad picture and do a small role in a very good picture.”
In 1963, Taylor starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in “The V.I.P.s” and co-starred with Jane Fonda in the romantic comedy “Sunday in New York.” He went on to do two more romantic comedies “Do Not Disturb” (1965) and “The Glass Bottom Boat” (1966), both opposite Doris Day.
He had memorable roles in the 1964 films “Fate Is the Hunter” and “36 Hours;” as the title character in “Young Cassidy” (1965): and “Dark of the Sun (1968.)
Taylor ventured back into television with regular roles on the television series “Bearcats!,” “The Oregon Trail” and “The Outlaws.” He played Frank Agretti on the CBS primetime soap opera “Falcon Crest.”
In 1977, he returned to his native Australia to star in the nostalgic “The Picture Show Man.” He went on to star in the 1982 Australian thriller “On the Run” and portrayed Daddy-O in 1997’s “Welcome to Woop Woop.”
Taylor’s most recent role was as bulldog prime minister Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 World War II film “Inglorious Basterds.”
His daughter Felicia, a former CNN News correspondent, said in a statement.
“My dad loved his work. Being an actor was his passion – calling it an honorable art and something he couldn’t live without. He once said, ‘I am a poor student sitting at the feet of giants, yearning for their wisdom and begging for lessons that might one day make me a complete artist,” she continued, “‘so that if all goes well, I may one day sit beside them.'”
Rest in Peace Mr. Taylor. Your work will continue to be an inspiration for generations!