Childhood & Early Years
Rod Taylor was born on 11 January 1930, in Lidcombe, a suburb of Sydney, Australia. His father, William Sturt Taylor, was a steel construction contractor and a commercial artist. His mother, Mona née Thompson, was a reputed writer. He was his parents’ only child.
He had his schooling at Parramatta High School. After graduating from there in 1944, he enrolled at East Sydney Technical and Fine Arts College. Concurrently, he also started boxing and became a member of a surf club.
After graduating from Fine Arts College, he started working as commercial illustrator for a newspaper. It was during this period that he became acquainted with many actors at the surf club and became interested in acting.
In 1948, he decided to become an actor after watching Sir Laurence Olivier’s performance in an Old Vic touring production of ‘Richard III’. In the same year, he enrolled at Independent Theatre School for a one-year course, financing his education by designing and painting backdrops at Mark Foy's department store.
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In 1951, Rod Taylor began his professional acting career with George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Misalliance’. Also in the same year, he debuted on screen, appearing as George McLeay in the documentary, ‘Inland with Sturt’. Concurrently, he also started appearing in numerous radio productions.
In 1954, he debuted in films with Australian productions, 'King of the Coral Sea' and 'Long John Silver'. In the same year, he won Rola Show Australian Radio Actor of the Year Award and with that money he moved to Los Angeles with an intention to chalk out a career in Hollywood.
In 1955, he appeared in three Hollywood films; as Cpl. Gwilym (uncredited) in ‘The Virgin Queen’, John Brodie Evans in ‘Hell on Frisco Bay’ and Lem Sutter in ‘Top Gun’. Also in the same year, he debuted on television, appearing in productions like ‘Studio 57’, ‘Lux Video Theatre' and 'Cheyenne'.
Since he did not have any permanent work permit and had to rely on temporary ones, the first two years were very hard for him. However, his financial problems were solved when in late 1955, he received a long term contract from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s (MGM).
From 1956 to 1959, he appeared in side roles in number of MGM productions like ‘The Catered Affair’ (1956), ‘The Rack (1956), ‘Raintree Country’ (1957), and ‘Ask Any Girl’ (1959). Concurrently, he also continued to appear in guest roles in various television series.
In 1960, he got his first lead role, appearing as H. George Wells in the MGM science fiction film, ‘The Time Machine’. It was followed in the same year by ‘Colossus and the Amazon Queen’, in which he starred as Pirro.
In 1960-1961 season, he made it big on television, starring as Glenn Evans in the ABC drama series, ‘Hong Kong’, receiving $3,750 per episode. in 1961, he began voice work, giving voiceover for Pongo in ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’.
From 1962 onwards, he concentrated on films, appearing in a total of 19 films throughout the decade. Some significant works of this period were 'The Birds’ (1963), an Alfred Hitchcock horror-thriller film, ‘Sunday in New York’ (1963) and ‘Young Cassidy’ (1965), ’36 Hours’ (1965) and ‘The Glass Bottom Boat’ (1966).
Towards the end of 1960s, he began transforming his image, appearing in the title role in ‘Chuka’ (1967), a Western film that he also produced. Few other films in which he appeared as tough guy were ‘Dark of the Sun’ (1968), ‘Nobody Runs Forever’ (1968), ‘Darker Than Amber’ (1970) etc.
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In 1970s, he once again returned to the television, starring in several TV movies as well Western series like ‘Bearcats!’ (1971) and ‘The Oregon Trail’ (1977). Around this time, he returned to Australia after almost two decades, starring as Palmer in the Australian film ‘The Picture Show Man’ (1977).
In 1980s, he cut down his engagements, making limited number of films in the USA and Australia. However, he remained active on television, appearing in productions like ‘Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’ (1981), ‘Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story’ (1982), ‘Masquerade’ (1983), ‘Outlaws’ (1986-87), ‘Falcon Crest’ (1988–1990) etc.
In 1990s, he appeared in only six movies, ending the decade with the Australian black comedy film, ‘Welcome to Woop Woop’ (1997), starring in it as foul-mouthed Daddy-O. After that he virtually retired from films, making his last screen appearance as Winston Churchill in ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009).
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1951, Rod married Peggy William, a model. The couple divorced in 1954.
On June 1, 1963, he married his second wife, model Mary Beth Hilem, with whom he had his only child, a daughter named Felicia Rodrica Sturt Taylor. The couple divorced on September 18, 1969. Born in 1964, Felicia grew up to be a renowned financial correspondent.
On October 15, 1980, he married Carol Kikumura, remaining married to her till his death in 2015.
On January 7, 2015, he died of a heart attack at his home in Beverly Hills, California.