Rod Taylor, the Australian born actor and star of Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, The Birds, died on Wednesday at the age of 84.
Rod Taylor was born near Sydney, Australia, on January 11, 1930. An only child, Taylor’s father was a steel contractor and his mother was a writer. Taylor attended a fine arts college and a theater school in Sydney, before heading to Hollywood to become a movie star in the 1950s.
Once in Hollywood, Rod managed to acquire television parts quickly on such shows as Studio 57 and Cheyenne, and was considered for the lead role in the Warner Bros. television series Maverick. In 1955, Taylor appeared in the film Hell on Frisco Bay, and in 1956 he starred alongside James Dean, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Dennis Hopper in Giant. Rod made an impact with a guest-star appearance in an episode of The Twilight Zone, titled “And When the Sky Was Opened,” based on a short story by Richard Matheson and scripted by Rod Sterling. “And When the Sky was Opened” tells the tale of three astronauts who crash land back on Earth after flying into space. Once back on earth, the three slowly find that they don’t exist… and never did. Taylor played the part of Lt. Col. Clegg Forbes.
Taylor’s big break came in 1960 when he played the lead character in The Time Machine — George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ science-fiction classic. Rod plays a time traveller who ends up at first decades, and then thousands of years in the future. The film was lauded for its ingenuity and special effects.
Between 1960 and 1961, Taylor did some more stints on television as a foreign correspondent in the ABC drama Hong Kong, and his voice returned to the big screen as the voice of Pongo in Walt Disney’s 101 Dalmatians.
In 1963, Rod Taylor starred in what could be considered his biggest film, when he was cast as the co-lead in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Rod plays a man whose small town is suddenly beset by hostile birds of all types. Taylor co-starred with Tippi Hedren.
Throughout the remainder of the 1960s, Taylor worked well and often with MGM. In the 1970s, Rod returned to television, playing roles on such shows as Bearcats! and The Oregon Trail. In the 80s and 90s he appeared on Masquerade, Outlaws, Falcon Crest, Murder, She Wrote, and Walker, Texas Ranger.
Rod Taylor’s Final role was in 2009, when a played Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
Rod Taylor died at his home on Wednesday, January 7, just four days shy of his 85th birthday. He is survived by his wife, Carol, and his daughter, Felicia. The family reports that he was surrounded by love ones when he died, but no cause of death was revealed.
Felicia Taylor released 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.”
Rod’s co-star in The Birds, Tippi Hedren, spoke fondly of Taylor.
“There are so many incredible feelings I have for him. Rod was a great pal to me… we were very, very good friends. He was one of the most fun people I have ever met, thoughtful and classy, there was everything good in that man.”