Thursday, January 08, 2015

RIP, Rod Taylor

Very, very sad news this evening: Actor Rod Taylor has passed away.

The Complete Rod Taylor Site reports Taylor died at his Los Angeles home on Wednesday, January 7th. He would have been 85 this Sunday.

This loss is especially sad for me. I haven't seen all that many of his movies, but what a wonderful impression he made! I adored him, especially in SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963). I have a lovely memory of seeing that film on a big screen at the TCM Classic Film Festival last April with an entire row of enthused Rod Taylor fans.

I wonder if he realized how many people, including young film fans, continue to enjoy and appreciate his work? Not to mention the fact that he continues to enchant new generations of children as the voice of Pongo in Disney's ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS (1961).

I paid tribute to Taylor on his birthday last year; that post includes links to all Rod Taylor films previously reviewed here.

Obituaries have been published by Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, the BBC, and People, while the Los Angeles Times has written about five of Taylor's most memorable roles.

Taylor fans will also enjoy a post at the TCM Movie Morlocks site from just a few weeks ago, "10 Things You Might Not Know About Rod Taylor" by Kimberly Lindbergs. (Update: This TCM site is no longer available.)

Taylor's daughter, former TV news correspondent Felicia Taylor, said, "My dad loved his work. Being an actor was his passion – calling it an honorable art and something he couldn’t live without."

The BBC quoted Tippi Hedren, Taylor's costar in THE BIRDS (1963), as saying Taylor was "a great pal to me and a real strength. He was one of the most fun people I have ever met, thoughtful and classy. There was everything good in that man."

Update: Turner Classic Movies will be paying tribute to Rod Taylor on Thursday evening, January 29th, with a five-film lineup consisting of THE TIME MACHINE (1960), THE BIRDS (1963), SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963), YOUNG CASSIDY (1965), and THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT (1966).

TCM has created a memorial video for Taylor which may be found at their Twitter account.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking at Rod Taylor's list of credits, I was really knocked out by his versatility -- from those romantic comedies to a Grant-ish, Hitchcock-ian lead in The Birds to the testosterone-soaked Dark Of The Sun. And he's great in them all.

Glad to see how much attention you've given him over the years.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Ms. Hedren's quote is quite a legacy for Mr. Taylor. One of the good guys.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Sad to hear the news. Wonder if he will ever be honored as a Disney Legend.

12:29 AM  
Blogger Bill O said...

He said once that Young Cassidy, started by John Ford, was his fav.

4:31 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all so much for your comments and sharing your admiration for Rod Taylor. It's great to be among friends as we mourn his passing. By all accounts he was a terrific guy as well as a wonderful actor.

Best wishes,

8:57 PM  
Blogger mel said...

I've read all the newspaper obituaries and not one of them, when discussing Rod's movies, mentioned one of your favorites, and mine - Sunday In New York.


9:06 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's interesting, Mel. He was such a charmer in it -- I saw a video interview today where he said he really enjoyed the high comedy. I wish he'd done more films of this type (and I wish his films with Doris Day were better -- what a cute couple). Seeing SUNDAY IN NEW YORK with an appreciative crowd is one of my favorite memories of last year's TCM Classic Film Festival.

Best wishes,

9:11 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I always liked Rod Taylor very much and appreciated this tribute, and also when you later linked that video interview which I finally had time to watch this morning and enjoyed tremendously.

I think he was the kind of actor who appealed to both men and women, handsome and masculine but not macho. He was certainly good in both drama and comedy and you can count me too as someone who always was delighted by SUNDAY IN NEW YORK.

I do think his best movie easily is THE BIRDS--one of the supreme masterpieces of Hitchcock. But I also agree with Rod Taylor himself in favoring YOUNG CASSIDY--for his own performance, this was hands down his best. Though I care not at all about Academy Awards, if I did and could have chosen for 1965, I'd have chosen him for Best Actor for this. Of course, it's not the kind of performance that ever wins--even though there are some very dramatic scenes, it's not showy. It simply shows how Sean O'Casey (this was from his autobiography) became who he was as a writer, his experiences and relationships.

It's a beautiful movie and still underrated. This is probably accountable to John Ford falling ill early in shooting and Jack Cardiff directing most of it. But I note that Taylor always described it as the movie he made with Ford or said it was "directed by John Ford" even though he worked with Cardiff later on two films, so plainly got along with him too. My sense is that Ford substantially created the movie while he was there, in preparing it and the scenes he did shoot (which I believe are a little more of the movie than most accounts suggest) and especially that he shaped Taylor's playing and interpretation which Taylor then sustained after Ford was gone. I also feel that Cardiff (whose greatness was as a cinematographer in earlier days) did a very good job taking over, and it's the best film credited to him (more than the well-regarded SONS AND LOVERS of a few years earlier). If Ford had directed it all, in this great last phase of his career, I'm sure it would be a masterpiece. But it's not so far off as it is.

Can't recommend enough to anyone who likes Rod Taylor and hasn't seen it, but I don't think it's necessary to do so since, as pointed out here, he himself favored it and would want you to see it.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Blake, I'm so glad you enjoyed the video and am delighted you were able to share your own thoughts on Rod Taylor. SUNDAY IN NEW YORK is such a fun movie, I could watch it again tonight if I had time. :) I think you're right about his appeal for both sexes.

I enjoyed and am also saving your comments on YOUNG CASSIDY to refer to later. I videotaped it from TCM quite a while back but had never gotten around to seeing it. Think I may upgrade my recorded to a DVD-R when it airs during his tribute next week. Very interesting insight into how Ford's influence may have continued to shape the film after he left. And I really like the idea he "would want you to see it." :)

Best wishes,

11:04 PM  

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