Rod Taylor, ‘The Birds’ and ‘The Time Machine’ Star, Dies at 84

Rod Taylor Dead: 'The Time Machine'

Rod Taylor, the Australian-born actor who starred in George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” and in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” then decades later made a memorable swan-song appearance as Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” died Wednesday of a heart attack in Los Angeles. He was 84.

His daughter Felicia, a former CNN correspondent, confirmed the news Thursday.

Taylor made his feature starring debut in 1960 sci-fier “The Time Machine,” portraying a fictionalized Wells, who invents a time machine in Victorian England and travels to the distant future. He also starred in a brief ABC adventure series, “Hong Kong.”

The next year he voiced the lead canine, Pongo, in Disney’s “101 Dalmatians.” Even after an impressive performance in Hitchcock’s well-received 1963 “The Birds” (in photo above), the actor never quite made it into the first rank of Hollywood actors.

He was part of the starry ensemble of Liz Taylor-Richard Burton starrer “The V.I.P.s” and was second lead in “A Gathering of Eagles,” “Fate Is the Hunter” and “36 Hours.”

In 1965 he starred in “Young Cassidy,” about the early life of the Irish playwright Sean O’Casey, leading a cast that included Julie Christie, Maggie Smith, Michael Redgrave and Edith Evans.

Taylor starred in a couple of late-career vehicles for Doris Day, “Do Not Disturb” and “The Glass Bottom Boat,” then led the ensemble in “Hotel.” The actor starred opposite his “Time Machine” co-star Yvette Mimieux in the well-regarded actioner “Dark of the Sun” and had a supporting role in Antonioni’s 1970 drama “Zabriskie Point.”

He had another go at TV with the short-lived CBS series “Bearcats” in 1971 and NBC Western “The Oregon Trail” in 1976. But Taylor’s film career sputtered by the 1970s. He was second lead to John Wayne in “The Train Robbers”; starred in 1977 Australian effort “The Picture Show Man,” about the early film business in the country; and starred alongside Rex Harrison in bland Mario Puzo adaptation “A Time to Die” in 1982.

By the 1980s he was primarily a TV actor. Taylor played star Jaclyn Smith’s father in ABC telepic “Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy” and appeared in “Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story.” The actor starred in a pair of short-lived series, ABC’s “Masquerade” in 1983 and CBS’ “Outlaws” in 1986-87, and recurred on “Falcon Crest” as Frank Agretti.

Taylor was born in Sydney and went to art school, East Sydney Technical and Fine Arts College. He did commercial illustration for newspapers and a bit of boxing; he was interested in acting, but seeing Laurence Olivier in a touring production of “Richard III” sparked him to pursue a career in it.

During the 1950s he appeared in supporting roles in a number of prominent films, including George Stevens’ “Giant,” Civil War pic “Raintree County” and Delbert Mann’s “Separate Tables,” sometimes credited as Rodney Taylor.

Taylor worked only occasionally after the mid-1990s, appearing in a prominent role in Australian director Stephan Elliott’s “Welcome to Woop Woop” and recurring on TV series “Walker, Texas Ranger.” After an absence of seven years, he returned in 2007 for the Sci Fi Channel film “Kaw,” essentially an update of “The Birds,” but more prominently, he cameo’d as Winston Churchill in a key scene in Tarantino’s 2009 film “Inglourious Basterds.”

In 2010 the cast of “Inglourious Basterds,” including Taylor, won the SAG Award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture.

In addition to daughter Felicia Taylor, from his second marriage, the actor is survived by third wife Carol Kikumura, to whom he was married since 1980.

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  1. Gary DiNardo says:

    I always thought he would have made an excellent James Bond. I loved the show, “Bearcats”. It’s a shame that such a great war film as “Dark of the Sun” has been so overlooked by movie buffs. Taylor kicked ASS!

  2. Saundra says:

    Always a fan and still miss RIP

  3. fabio freitas says:

    a wonderful actor !!!

  4. Dorothy Rider says:

    Sorry to hear of Rod Taylor’s passing, I liked watching him as an Actor. I grew up in his acting days, prayers go out to his Family.

  5. I loved watching Rod in all his movies. The birds is one of my favorites and of course ” Glass bottom boat”. My prayers go out to him and his family . I will truly miss him and his acting in wonderful movies. R.I.P Rod and god bless you for all the years of great talent and movies. You will be missed

  6. DENIS WHITBURN says:

    April, 1995 I was invited to lunch with Rod in Sydney, a real kick for me, a big fan since before ‘Time Machine’ – he carried the flag for we Australians back then devoid of a film industry. Rod was 65, and in great shape, heads turning when he entered the restaurant, still blessed with that Hollywood star magic, sharing wonderful tales of his movie career and very Australian even after 40 years over there. Have a treasured foto of just we two in conversation. Three weeks later, I met Ben Johnson – Ben F———ing Johnson!! no less, at Cannes Film Festival, there for a tribute to John Ford. So, got to shake hands with two of ‘The Train Robbers’, a real treat. Looking into those old eyes of ‘The Last Show’s’ ‘Lion’ was like peering into Monument Valley and seeing the ghosts of Ford’s riders heading off into the sunset. The scenes between Rod and Ben in ‘Train Robbers’ are delightful, touched with an aging ‘Butch and Sundance’ flavor. We will not see their like again, sadly so.

  7. Cynthia Taylor says:

    You forgot to mention the movie he made with Jane Fonda and Cliff Robertson and Robery Culp “Sunday in New York”, one of my favorites.
    Cynthia Taylor
    A California Native and fellow Capricorn

  8. MISSUMUCH says:

    I had a crush on the actor Rod taylor when I was little. I own some of his movies. Chin and all. Too bad. He in my eyes was a good actor.

  9. IT 2 IT says:

    TIME MACHINE and BIRDS still hold up.

    Wish we could say the same for Hollywood’s
    franchise slum output POST the RED CHINA handover op.

  10. macd says:

    I first took notice of this fine young actor when I was 11 and he was 25 as Debbie Reynolds’ groom in “The Catered Affair” (1956). Unlike the Hollywood pretty boys and aging male superstars of that era, Rod Taylor projected a gentle masculinity, a droll sense of humor, and dashing good looks that I was certain would assure him stardom in the near future. And a mere 4 years later came a series of classics that still resonate with his singular charm: “The Time Machine”, “Sunday in New York”, “The Birds” (his and Suzanne Pleshette’s performances make this classic haunt one’s memory even though they have no scenes together but watch his anguish when he gently carries her corpse into her cottage), “The Glass Bottom Boat” (supreme silliness and a boxoffice smash thanks to Taylor’s delightful chemistry with Doris Day, six years his senior). Then came Taylor’s Oscar-worthy finest hour as “Young Cassidy” but the film was not only a commercial failure but demoted Taylor to grade-B tripe for the rest of his career. Was Rod Taylor underrated? Absolutely. And will he now be forgotten? Never. In fact, I miss him already.

  11. A. Rodriguera says:

    I can’t believe Rod Taylor has died. Only yesterday I watched “the Birds”. I had seen that film so many times that he seemed like an old friend. We’ll miss you Rod.

  12. M. F. Sibley says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that Rod Taylor has passed away. He was such a dependable actor, and like others who have posted, my first viewing experience with him was in “The Time Machine” when I was a child. What an impression he made upon me! I want to extend my deepest sympathies to his family. He was a true gentleman and an inspiration for many.

  13. KayFlyte says:

    It’s Raintree COUNTY, Dagen. Not Country.

  14. Dave J says:

    It’s unfortunate “The Time Machine” wasn’t a major success on it’s initial release to garner a sequel, otherwise we would have another opportunity seeing Rod Taylor playing this memorable character all over again!

  15. petey says:

    rest in peace

  16. Kevin says:

    I’m a 54 year-old guy who’s been a rabid sci-fi and horror movie and television fan since I was about 7. E-
    ven at the rate of sounding like a self-proclaimed know-it-all, Mr. Taylor had the enviable distinction of star-
    ring in two of the most iconic film classics of either genre,”The Time Machine” and “The Birds”, not to men- tion being the lead in an episode of another truly awesome Rod’s ultimate in scii-fi/horror TV series-or any other such related media for that matter-“The Twilight Zone”.
    And as quick as I usually am to recognize an actor or actress in a role, even camouflaged by the heaviest makeup effects, I had no idea that was Rod portraying Winston Churchill in “Inglourious Basterds”. So much
    for Mr. Taylor not measuring up to “the first rank of Hollywood actors”. Just ask his fellow Aussie and su- perstar thespian Hugh Jackman his thoughts about Rod Taylor and I’m absolutely certain that he would go
    on enthusiastically-even glowingly-at length about how phenomenally gifted an actor he was and that he embodied the most inspiring and admirable qualities and virtues in his portrayals of the lone-wolf reluctant hero who ultimately has to face almost unimaginable circumstances, which is a lot like Logan/Wolverine- minus most of his surly charm.
    Over the past few weeks, we’ve lost some wonderful people from movies and television, who represent some of my favorite memories from when I was just a kid and cherish just as much as a middle-aged adult.
    First there was Ken Weatherwax, Pugsley on the “Addams Family”. He was only two years older than me. Then came the loss of Donna Douglas, Ellie May on “The Beverly Hillbillies”. Of all of my boyhood TV-babe
    crushes she was and will always be No.1 on my list. And now even more sad news about Rod passing.
    Everybody has to face their own mortality some day-with or without any warning-but you still feel some
    sense of sadness the first couple of times that you watch a movie or a TV show featuring a recently de-
    ceased actor or actress that you were particularly fond of. Although, it’s much more difficult to watch
    anything at all involving acting performers that you especially admired when their deaths were both un-
    timely and tragic-such as Paul Walker, who had completed a recent theater release and was working on
    “Fast and Furious 7”, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who completed “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Pt.1.”
    Of course, the one that hurts the absolute most of all is wrapping one’s thoughts and emotions around
    the very hurtful fact that we will never again see Robin Williams unleash his manic comedic genius on any
    entirely too mellow audience. As much as I want to see “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”, it’s
    going to be a definite downer seeing him in his last roll ever on the big screen and doing my best to laugh
    it up while thinking about his anguished final days and moments. Sure, some were quick to pass judge-
    ment and say that he took the coward’s way out, but how many of you are aware that the sick kids that
    he clowned around for in “Patch Adams” were actual cancer patients. That’s how he became involved with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital . One of them was a young girl featured prominently in the movie who made a full recovery and is now a successful clothing and accessory designer. After news
    of his passing, she credited Robin with giving her and all of the other critically ill children the best medicine of all-the simple joy of laughter.
    Usually I don’t go on this long, but I fell behind on leaving comments when the other celebs passed away.
    My heart goes out to Rod Taylor’s family as well as to the families of all of those lost who I just mentioned.

  17. S. A. Matheson says:

    An actor that was under-estimated, for sure. He was strikingly handsome, with an incredible physique back in the day. I have enjoyed everything he’s done. What a loss.

  18. Kathleen C. says:

    The photo is not captioned as being The Time Machine, it’s just the first picture mentioned. Loved Rod. Even as a young girl growing up in the 60’s it was clear he was special. Unfortunately, extremely underrated. Really recommend Young Cassidy and 36 Hours (also includes James Garner) if you have not seen them. Best to his family.

  19. Rod W. says:

    R.I.P. Rod Taylor, a fine actor.

  20. Michael says:

    “Bearcats” was a series that was only 14 episodes, but was terrific. The obit should have noted he got an Emmy nomination for his role as Jackie Kennedy’s father in the 1981 biopic. Rod Taylor and Maggie Smith outshined Liz and Dick in “The VIPs”. We’ve lost a talented favorite.

  21. fanofclassicmovies says:

    Sad to hear, condolences to his family, remember him from the ‘Birds’, good movie, seen it more than once, also remember him in ‘Time machine’, also the movies with Doris Day, have to agree that he never seem to have a big career in movies, I thought he could of been another Cary Grant.

  22. I must have seen The Time Machine a thousand times. Thanks, Rod. And, Mr. Taylor was in a great, but obscure sci-fi film from the 50’s, World Without End. If you ever get a chance to see it, it’s a must!

  23. JOHN RUTHERFORD says:

    I feel very sad because Rod Taylor was definitely one of my favourite actors from the fifties and sixties. So charismatic with his tough but dapper appearance and a distinctive voice that seemed to be a cross between Australian and American.
    I always had to sit down and watch whenever his movies came on TV and I hope they show some of his best, such as The Birds,The VIPs and Hotel, in tribute.

  24. WEJ says:

    Another one of my favourites gone. Old Hollywood is leaving us and I feel very sad about this. I watch The Birds quite often simply for Rod Taylor. I also love Sunday In New Yoork, 36 Hours and his movies with Doris Day. Very underrated but not by his fans. Thank God for film that captures these performances forever. And thank you Rod Taylor for your performances. RIP.

  25. IT OP says:

    Great flicks.

    TIME MACHINE should have been remade by DAVID LYNCH.

    CGFX –are NOWHERE.

  26. occultology says:

    Thank you, Rod Taylor, the epitome of suave, cool and dignified in everything he ever did. He appeared in some marvelous motion pictures, but never in any as splendid and wonderful as himself. Rod Taylor was so gifted as an actor that he made every line he ever uttered on film seem natural and spontaneously organic. I’m too sad to continue writing, and, dang it, this is the last time that I ever crawl out of bed at 2 a.m. to surf the Net to see what’s going on in the world!

    • Bob Solomon says:

      So very sad to learn of Rod’s passage. I respected him since I was a boy in the 60s. Just happened to watch Time Machine two nights ago. It was probably the 25th time. Couldn’t get enough of him….everything a young man could aspire to. What a man. RIP Mr Taylor. Your life was one well lived.

  27. David says:

    As a fellow Aussie, I was sad to see this very good and under rated actor pass away. From his early success in Hollywood in the mid fifties right through to his final performance in Inglorious Basterds in his 80th year. Which reminds me, I must try and dig out my copy of the DVD of the first series of Hong Kong. Although I have a feeling I may well have lost it. R.I.P. mate.

  28. Niles says:

    Fond memories of the Birds.

  29. Mjkbk says:

    The TV series “Hong Kong” did not premiere the year AFTER “The Time Machine”. Both productions debuted in the latter months of 1960. In fact, I watched Rod in the TV show BEFORE the film ever made it into local theaters.

    He was a fine actor (and exceptionally pretty back in those days, too). RIP Mr. Taylor.

  30. Pretty dismisive comment on an interesting career and life, yet, we all have deadlines on a Fridy afternoon.

  31. Rui Pereira says:

    Rod Taylor was great in Sunday in New York.

  32. Daniel says:

    A timeless actor for some timeless cinema.

  33. Deborah DiClementi says:

    Very odd that he not only died a couple of days before his birthday but ON Yvette Mimieux’s (Weena) 73rd birthday….

  34. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    In my mind, I will always remember his great performance in The Time Machine surrounded by the earth shattering “time lapse” Oscar Winning Film effects and his “timeless” work. Maybe he is actually still with us, just gone for a little trip into our future of humankind!

  35. Marshall Silverman says:

    I feel very sad at hearing this news. The original TIME MACHINE is one of my favorite movies, and I saw it in theaters no less than 10 times when I was a young boy. Its magic inspired me to choose the movie business as a career. That made Rod Taylor one of my heroes. I never had an opportunity to meet him, but I am feeling a loss in my belly as I might for any old friend as if a cherished part of my own life just departed. I don’t know whether actors ever seriously think about just how many people they deeply touch with their work, people they have never met or heard of, complete strangers. Why would they spend much time thinking about that anyway? It seems so unproductive. Yet, if I had had the chance, I would have squeezed Rod Taylor’s hands and thanked him for bringing a part of me to life.

  36. A Fan For Many Decades says:

    Sturdy, engaging, movie-star handsome…a boyhood hero of mine thanks to THE BIRDS and, most especially, THE TIME MACHINE (his signature role). Only in the last few years did I discover him in YOUNG CASSIDY – wonderful in that, too! I feel like I’ve lost an old friend w/ the announcement of his passing. My condolences to his family.

  37. Glenn C. says:

    Great actor. His performance in The Birds was so believable. Outstanding. RIP.

  38. drakeca89 says:

    I loved these movies.

  39. tlsnyder42 says:

    Sad day. Love Rod Taylor. Saw “The Time Machine” when I was young. One of the best science fiction movies ever made. Great performance by Mr. Taylor and everyone else.

  40. PETER JAY says:

    Damn, this makes me sad and feel old. I’ve been following Rod Taylor’s career all these years. I remember him in THE TIME MACHINE, when it first came out and YOUNG CASSIDY with Julie Christie and always wondered why he didn’t become a bigger star with all the productions he was in and all those years that he worked.

  41. Deborah DiClementi says:

    That’s The Birds above not Time Machine–that’s Tippi Hedren. And he made several Australian & US films before The Time Machine

    • timgray2013 says:

      Yes, thanks to all who noted this. Originally a photo of “Time Machine” was attached to the story, but then a web editor found this (better) photo from “The Birds,” so we just now changed the text. thanks.

  42. Stephanie Lynn says:

    That above picture is from The Birds not The Time Machine. That’s where he meets Tippi Hendren’s character in the bird shop as you can see the black of her blind head and a bird cage in the background.

  43. I worked with I’m on a series called MASQUERADE FOR FOX — I AM VERY SADDENED BY THIS NEWS

  44. Sad to see another famous star fade away. Great actor!

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