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Rod Taylor, the suave Australian native who came to Hollywood and starred in such films as The Birds and The Time Machine, has died. He was four days shy of turning 85.
Taylor died Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles, his daughter, Felicia, confirmed to The Los Angeles Times.
Taylor’s big breakthrough came with his starring turn in The Time Machine, director George Pal‘s 1960 adaptation of the H.G. Wells 1895 sci-fi classic.
He also played the heroic Mitch Brenner in Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1963 classic The Birds, coming to the aid of Tippi Hedren, and starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in another 1963 release, The V.I.P.s.
Most recently, he played Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglorious Basterds (2009).
The Sydney native made an early mark when he starred on the ABC 1960-61 series Hong Kong. At $3,750 per episode, he was said to be the highest-paid actor in a one-hour show.
His film résumé also includes the romantic comedy Sunday in New York (1963), playing a bachelor opposite the virgin Jane Fonda; 101 Dalmatians, where he was the voice of Pongo; and Do Not Disturb (1965) and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), both with Doris Day.
Taylor tested for the role of middleweight boxing champion Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), but the part went to Paul Newman. Still, he impressed MGM studio chief Dore Schary, who gave him a contract and cast the actor in the Bette Davis-Ernest Borgnine comedy The Catered Affair (1956) in which he is engaged to Debbie Reynolds‘ character.
During this time, Taylor also landed supporting roles opposite top-flight casts in Giant (1956) and Separate Tables (1958).
“To a large degree, those early lean days were self-imposed,” he told Screenland magazine in 1961. “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.”
Taylor was also memorable in the 1964 films Fate Is the Hunter and 36 Hours; as the title character in the biopic Young Cassidy (1965); and in Dark of the Sun (1968).
Later, he had regular roles on the TV series Bearcats!, The Oregon Trail and Outlaws, and he played Frank Agretti on the CBS primetime soap Falcon Crest.
In 1977, he returned to Australia to star in the nostalgic The Picture Show Man. He also starred in the 1982 Australian thriller On the Run and was Daddy-O in Welcome to Woop Woop (1997).
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