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Rod Taylor Biography:
His Hollywood Story

Rod Taylor came to the United States in 1954 and was naturalized in 1956. Those first two years were lean. Because of his own determination and his lack of an alien's work permit or Social Security card, Taylor spurned non-acting jobs. 

He lived near Malibu beach in a room that measured 8 by 10 feet, "with a piece of curtain across one corner for a wardrobe and a jug and bowl as bathroom," according to the narrative during Taylor's 1975 "This Is Your Life" appearance.

"In the beginning I had a real work problem. Every time I had job I had to convince the immigration authorities I was the only man for that job and get a special work permit until I went under contract to MGM," Taylor said.

A screen test for a part Taylor didn't get was the one that helped launch his film career. MGM chief Dore Schary tested Taylor for the Rocky Graziano story, "Somebody Up There Likes Me," but...

I didn't get the part; Paul Newman did. But the Brooklyn accent I put on so convinced Schary I was from New York that he cast me as a Bronx boy in "The Catered Affair." He didn't know I was just 18 months out of Australia until the movie was half finished.

-- TV Guide, Oct. 23, 1971

The screen test also persuaded MGM to put Taylor under contract (at $450 a week). He subsequently had several supporting roles with top-flight casts -- including "Giant" and "Separate Tables."

To a large degree, those early lean days were self-imposed. I would only do the good things. I wouldn't do anything I didn't consider prestige. I'd much rather turn down a starring role in a bad picture and do a small role in a very good picture.

-- Screenland magazine, March 1961

He broke through in 1960, when he became a big-screen leading man in "The Time Machine" and also hit the big time on the small screen with "Hong Kong." (At $3,750 per episode, he was the highest-paid actor in a one-hour show.)

From there, Taylor reeled off a string of successes, first and foremost as the stalwart leading man in Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller, "The Birds." A supporting role in "The VIPs" solidified his position as an international star.

He then deftly carried off romantic comedy in "Sunday in New York" and a pair of Doris Day pictures. He played complicated characters in imaginative films such as "Fate is the Hunter" and "36 Hours." He captured the tough, tender nature of a poet with the soul of a revolutionary in "Young Cassidy." And he epitomized the rugged man of action in "Dark of the Sun."

Although the peak of Rod's popularity was during the 1960s, he has been in show business for more than half a century. He has  built a long career filled with action and romance, sophistication and swagger. And if an actor is judged by the company he keeps, Taylor is among the very best.

He has worked for directorial giants Alfred Hitchcock, George Pal, John Ford and Michelangelo Antonioni. He has shared the screen with the likes of Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, James Garner and Jane Fonda. And he's part of a pair of beloved, enduring classics in "The Time Machine" and "The Birds."

Near the start of his rise to international fame, Taylor reflected on his craft:

The most important thing in my life is my work. I couldn't live without it. And I don't do it just for money. I love it. It is an honorable art. I am proud to be an actor. I pray and try every day to be a better actor. ... I am a poor student sitting at the feet of giants, yearning for their wisdom and begging for lessons that might one day make me a complete artist, so that if all goes well, I may one day sit beside them.

-- Motion Picture magazine, November 1961

Today, Rod Taylor should indeed sit beside them.



 More Biographies

Family Life
Husband and father

Rod's Artwork
The actor as artist

"This is Your Life"
Family and friends on 1975 TV show

"60 Minutes" 
1998 interview, Aussie style

"Movie Talk
Films, friends and leading ladies

The Book
An Aussie in Hollywood

Rod's life, illustrated


Apart from being interested in a good role, I think it's necessary to make up your mind as to whether it will make a movie that will entertain an audience all over the world and not just in your own backyard.

-- Rod-Lore newsletter,
October 1964


I want to go on and on until I'm 90. Acting is something I love. The fact that I'm going to be unsuccessful at times is pretty well-balanced by the fact that I'm going to be successful at others. It doesn't frighten me. I'm not doing my work for constant success. I'm doing it because I love it. When people think it's successful, I'm grateful. When they don't -- OK, I'll try again.

-- Screenland magazine, March 1961