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T–V Entries
George Takei
Rod Taylor
Marshall Thompson
Kenneth Tobey
Ivan Tors
Thomas Tryon
Sonny Tufts
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Sir Peter Ustinov
Robert Vaughn
Jules Verne
Gore Vidal
Thea von Harbou
Max von Sydow
 
TAYLOR, ROD
(Rodney Taylor 1930–2015). Australian actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: World Without End (Edward BERNDS 1956); 'And When the Sky Was Opened' (1959), episode of The Twilight Zone; The Time Machine (George PAL 1960); Colossus and the Amazon Queen (Vitorio Sala 1960); One Hundred and One Dalmatians (animated; voice) (Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton S. Luske, and Wolfgang Reitherman 1961); (The Birds (Alfred HITCHCOCK 1963);  Gulliver's Travels (animated; voice, uncredited) (Peter Hunt 1977); 'The Hitch Hiker' (1980), episode of Tales of the Unexpected; Outlaws (tv movie) (Peter Werner 1986); Outlaws (tv series) (1986-1987); Time Machine: The Journey Back (Clyde Lucas 1993); The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy (Joe DANTE 1998); Kaw (Sheldon Wilson 2007).

Appeared in documentaries: The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal (Arnold Leibovit 1985); All About 'The Birds' (video) Laurent Bouzereau 2000); Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (Mark Hartley 2010).

 
Prodded by a regular reader, I added Rod Taylor to this volume, though there was a reason why I long hesitated to include him; for it felt strange to honor a performer in an encyclopedia of science fiction film when he so visibly struggled to disassociate himself from the genre. Consider his story: at the peak of his popularity, Taylor acted credibly in two of the most prominent and successful science fiction films of his era, The Time Machine and The Birds, and once someone has distinguished himself in the genre, he most assuredly will never be forgottenóbecause if you were a science fiction star, it doesn't matter how precipitously your career declines; there will always be nostalgic science fiction filmmakers who will be happy to give you a job. Thus, the fact that Taylor's own precipitous decline during the past forty years so rarely involved science fiction films indicates a definite desire to avoid science fiction and concentrate instead on westerns and action dramas.

Why should this be the case? One answer would be that Taylor seemed to believe in brawn, not brains, as the proper attribute of a successful hero, even though science fiction films sometimes require their heroes to outwit, and not outslug, their adversaries. So it must not be forgotten that Taylor first made an impression on the film world as the muscular, sometimes shirtless hero of World without End, ready to provide the frail men of humanity's future with lessons in masculine toughness. Indeed, he may have had some influence in diverting the subsequent adaptation of  H.G. WELLS's The Time Machine into similar territory; for in the opening scenes, Taylor was far from convincing as a brilliant scientist explaining the mechanics of time travel to his friends, and once arrived in the future, he could not muster the proper aura of pain and anguish when his casual gesture causes a shelf of ancient books to turn into dust, a tragedy from the perspective of an educated man. But Taylor came to life when he recognized that the attractive but effete Eloi needed to become fighting machines to fend off the monstrous Morlocks and proceeded to inspire them to acts of gleeful mayhem, oblivious to the sacrilege being perpetrated in the name of a noted pacifist's novel. Clearly, if you prefer carnage over cerebration, you would understandably gravitate toward the Wild West, not the far future.

Still, Taylor was effective when cleverly cast in roles which deliberately prevented him from being the sort of brawler that he wished to be. In the Twilight Zone episode 'And When the Sky Was Opened,' he was quite moving as one of the subdued astronauts who discover that, as an unintended effect of their space flight, they are being erased from existence. And it was an act of sheer genius for Alfred HITCHCOCK to cast Tippi Hedren and Taylor in The Birds: as an inexperienced actress who wasn't quite sure about what to do with her role, Hedren persuasively conveyed the uneasiness of a woman in an unfamiliar environment, and as an action hero who can't quite manage to do anything genuinely heroic in response to Hitchcock's unconventional menace, Taylor persuasively projected the sense of frustration that people would actually feel if suddenly attacked by legions of ferocious birds.

What else is there is mention? Taylor embarrassed himself in the inane Colossus and the Amazon Queen; competently spoke for an heroic dog in One Hundred and One Dalmatians; and was modestly engaging as a nineteenth-century cowboy transplanted into the present in the television movies and series Outlaws (a rare instance where his interest in westerns overlapped with science fiction). Of greater interest to science fiction fans would be his appearance in Time Machine: The Journey Back, both a documentary about and an expansion of his most famous film. In his declining years, Taylor even emulated other science fiction veterans by accepting roles in a Joe DANTE film and a mindless Sci-Fi Channel rip-off of The Birds, suggesting that the elderly Taylor had finally accepted such fare as the inevitable destiny of any actor no longer in demand who had once been a part of the genre. But he probably had more fun playing Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009), allowed to be verbally irascible at an age when he could no longer beat the crap out of his opponents. Still, he probably died ruefully recognizing that he would always be best remembered for his roles in science fiction films, embraced by fans who will always cherish their performers even if they struggled to escape from the fold.

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