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Rod Taylor (1930-2015)

 

  1. Paul Newman, Somebody Up There Likes Me,  1956.    First serious test for Australia's top radio actor and quite a master of accents. He was teddibly English in his Raintree County debut. "But me as  Rocky  Graziano! Well,  I sure looked the part: a fire plug with funny hands and a broken nose!" Instead, his “impressive” n\test won him  The Catered Affair- opposite Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine. Helluva way to start!
  2. Jack Kelly, Maverick, TV, 1957-1962.     Taylor and Stuart Whitman were seen for  Bart Maverick. Kelly was the only one of the four Maverick boys to star in all five seasons - 83 episodes.  (James Garner was Bret in 60 shows,  Roger  Moore became Beau(regard) for 16, and Robert Colbert was Brent for the  final three). Kelly  ran for mayor of California’s Huntington Beach, California, with the campaign promise: "Let Maverick Solve Your Problems."  And he won. 
  3. Ricky Nelson, Rio Bravo, 1958.
  4. John Gavin, Psycho, 1959.    Alfred Hitchcock took his time finding Sam Loomis, lover of the shock shower-murder victim, Janet Leigh the low budget, “TV-style” Paramount movie #9401.   He saw Taylor, Brian Keith, Robert Loggia, Leslie Nielsen, Cliff Robertson, Tom Tryon. Hitch’s favourite was Stuart Whitman but loaning Universal contract actor John Gavin suited the cheaper budget - but not the role. Hitch called him… The Stiff. Hardly news as Gavin had made two Alfred Hitchcock Hourepisodes: Run For Doom, 1963, and Off Season, 1965.Oh and he kept Rod Taylor for his next one: The Birds. "As always," laughed Rod, "I thought: What the fuck am I doing here?”    
  5. Tab Hunter, The Pleasure of his Company, 1960.   A 1959  thought for the young cattle rancher marrying Debbie Reynolds, daughter of Lilli Palmer and Fred Astaire as her “peripatetic"  father, Pogo Poole.   Within two years,  Taylor was wanted for Robert Kennedy  in a take on RFK’s  book, The Enemy Within
  6. Sean Connery, Dr No, 1962.
  7. John Smith, Circus World, 1963.   "John Wayne and I talked for ages about doing a real man's picture.,” he told Hedda Hopper in the  Chicago Tribune, October. 5, 1963, when back  home  after quitting the Euro-shoot.   “When I arrived in Spain, it turned out to be a different story. I found I would be supporting Claudia Cardinale. [Didrector] Henry Hathaway promised to rewrite my part at night, but he had his hands full with trains, ships, animals and people, so I bowed out. Everybody understands - there were not hard feelings."
  8. Tony Randall, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, 1963.      Anyone but Peter Sellers, came the MGMissive. Producer-director George Pal surprisingly thought of Taylor, his 1959 Time Machine star, or Laurence Harvey (Wilhem in Pal’s Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, 1961). For reasons unknown to this day, he decided upon Randall, a lightweight comic actor. It was as if Pal was teaching Hollywood a lesson: yes, anyone can be made-up to look like seven different people but) it takes genius to inhabit them. Minus the unique Sellers magic, Pal’s final film sank. Without a trace. Well, Michael Jackson planned a re-hash in 1993.
  9. Mike Connors, Where Love Has Gone, 1964.  The pitch: A divorced couple's teen-age daughter stands trial for stabbing her mother's violent  lover to death… We all knew where this murky melo came from. Harold Robbins’ sleazy novel, of course. More essentially from the real, raw  Hollywod life he pinched it from. About poor Cheryl Crane, driven to kill the apallingly named  gangster Johnny Stompanato to stop  him beating to death her mother, Lana Turner.   Only here, the teen also loves the gangster, too, and was tryiung  to kill Mom when he iubntervened...and yaddda, yadda, yadda. After Taylor passed (who wouldn’t?), Connors  was the girl’s father in his usual wooden fashion while Susan Hayward and granny Bette Davis unfortunteky chewed the scenery rarher than the yucky script.
  10. Rod Steiger, Dr. Zhivago, 1965.     MGM trying to keep costs down by using pactees, however inappropriate they might be. "I've been in America since 1954 pretending to be an American movie star and half making it.  I don't know what the fuck I am now."

  11. Kirk Douglas, The War Wagon, 1966.   Rod was in the running until Douglas liked the script… And he owed Universal a movie. Taylor finally joined John Wayne in The Train Robbers, 1972. Or he did when Duke told Burt Kennedy to write him in and make them drinking buddies. Taylor had been agreeably surprised in Spain (when quitting Dukde’s Circus World) “at how he liked me and showed it. We immediately liked each other.”
  12. Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes, 1967.
  13. George Hamilton, The Power, 1967. George Pal kept trying to make movies with Taytlor, but either the actor of the studios rejected them. This one scraped through but pretty boy Hamilton was no substitute for the gritier Taylor.
  14. Gene Hackman, Marooned, 1969.     Another day, another NASAstronaut. Trapped in space this time - in a prophetic forerunner of Apollo 13. 
  15. Mick Jagger,  Ned Kelly, 1970.     All set for the $7m project of Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis when UK director Tony Richardson beat them to  the off. "Mick as Ned?  That's like getting him to play Jesse James," Rod complained to me in London. "I'm not saying an Australian should play it. Let's face it, there were no Australians back  then - I wasn't going to use my Australian accent,  more like  something  from Cornwall.  I just cringed a little because Ned Kelly was a tough sonuvabitch  and I don't know if Mick is."  He wasn't.
  16. Gene Hackman, The French Connection, 1971.     He thought it perfect for him. "Rough, tough, the usual Rod Taylor bullshit." The budget was as low as the expectations. Suggestions for the NYPD cop ‘Popeye’ Doyle (from director William Friedkin and Fox chief Richard Zanuck) also included writer Jimmy Breslin, Charles Bronson, Jackie Geason, Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, Paul Newman… and, cheapest of all, the Fox Batman, Adam West. Holy moley!!!!
  17. Michael Sarrazin, Caravans, 1977. First planned for an Afghanistan shoot in 1966 with eiither Taylor or Anthony Perkins as the hero Mark Miller. The James Michener tale finally began a decade later and just across the border in Iran, of all places. Then again, it was the not yet deposed Shah of Iran who bankrolled the $14m production. Michener hated it; there was less than half of his best-seller in the script.  Sarrazin was ten years younger than Taylor at the time.
  18. Frederick Stafford, Topaz, 1967.   The LA Times reported on August 31, 1966, and again on July 29, 1967, that Alfred Hitchcock had signed his Birds star for an unnamed movie.  It could only have been this one  - later  aimed at Sean Connery.  Stafford played the French 007, OSS 117; and, of course, Taylor was once offered the Broccoli Bond. Sadly, Topaz was Hitch’s unhappiest shoot, longest film (three endings!) and biggest flop. Budget: $4m. Box-office: $1m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





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