February 1958: American actor Montgomery Clift (1920 - 1966) is startled by a make up experts' method of keeping Australian actor Rod Taylor's hair in place on location in Indiana for the filming of the American drama Raintree County. (Photo by BIPS/Getty Images)

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Rod Taylor, got his start in Hollywood around the mid 50’s, acting in some in some of the biggest films of the mid 50’s giving him incredible exposure, and a spot light on the Australian actor. He was in Giant 1956; co starring with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean. He was also in another very big movie, that also starred Liz Taylor called Raintree County 1957, with Montgomery Clift, and Eva Marie Saint. These were big old Hollywood technicolor blockbusters, that did very well at the theaters of the day.Raintree grossing almost $6 million dollars alone. Rod Taylor was young suave, with an Australian accent. He should have shot to super stardom in the late 50’s, The next year 1958, he had a good role in the film Separate Tables 1958 again starring some very heavy weight big of the day. Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, and David Niven, also with Rita Hayworth, great company small black, and white film not the big blockbuster, but a good film lots of press.

 

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Rod Taylor was offered the Role of James Bond in 1961

Rod Taylor’s career after Separate Tables from 1958 till 1963; He bounced around from medicare live TV. The Dupont Show of The Week, Goodyear Theater,GE Theater, and episode of The Twilight Zone, and things like the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. In between all that he did get The Time Machine 1960, which was a big hit, and a starring role for Taylor, and should have catapulted his career to major heights. As did The Great Escape 1963, and The Magnificent Seven 1960 did for Steve McQueen. The year 1963 proved to be the busiest year of Rod Taylor’s his career.

The biggest mistake I would say that contributed to Taylor’s down fall. Was is rejecting the role of James Bond. He was offered the Role to play 007 by the Bond Producer Cubby Broccoli, with Taylor famously saying it was beneath him. The James Bond franchise went to a relatively unknown actor with the only well know role he had to his credit at this time, was in the big war movie the Longest Day 1962; was the Scottish actor Sean Connery. This  made Connery a mega international super star, and the rest is history. Rod Taylor in 1960; was only 30 years old. He was the same age as Sean Connery, Steve McQueen, 5 yrs, younger than Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Paul Newman, and Rod Taylor had been in some of the biggest movies of his young career, and came to a complete stand still by the early 60’s; Taylor works one finial time with Elizabeth Taylor in the film The V.I.P’s from 1963

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Rod Taylor was considered for the role of Taylor in Planet Of The Apes 1968

The year 1963 should have been Taylor’s, all out break out mega year. Rod Taylor either starred, or c0 starred in The V.I.P’S, The Birds, A Gathering Of Eagles, and Sunday In New York. A combo of action adventure, horror,romantic comedy films. The most memorable role of that year was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. I can never get tired of watching that movie, all the others were largely forgettable. We can go all day with the bad movies he did in the swinging 60’s; Just to name a few duds from that decade, don’t get me wrong he tried hard to be this big action star. We had Fate Is The Hunter 1964;Chuka 1967;The Dark Sun 1968;The Hell Is For Hero 1968; now do you remember any of these films.

He did get a big Hollywood shot at Authur Hailey’s Hotel 1967; with Karl Malden, great book crappy film. Taylor should have been patient, and got in another Hailey book the movie Airport 1970;  I think his last gasp of a major serious dramatic actor, was in a big John Ford movie called Young Cassidy 1965; frankly he was miscast wrong actor good movie. A better film for Albert Finney, or an unknown newcomer in my opinion.

 

Rod Taylor played Tarzan on Children’s radio in Australia

Some actors have it, like Steve McQueen in the 60’s, or Paul Newman, but  Taylor, and other actors who got a real good head start just bottomed out fast. Like I mentioned in the Tony Curtis article. The 1960’s was hard on every actor, or actress. The times were changing very rapidly. The old Hollywood studio system was dead, and it took a lot of actors, and actresses down with it, and by surprise. The real great ones with real deep talent made it, and managed to flourish.

 

 

I’m a big fan of Rod Taylor still to this day. He had some very good memorable roles. I remember his daughter the news anchor with WNBC channel 4 in New York for years. Taylor is one of those actors I would have like to have met personally. He I’m sure had lots of great old Hollywood stories to tell. He worked with the greatest male, and female leads, and directors of his day. He worked with John Wayne,Montgomery Clift,Elizabeth Taylor,Eva Marie Saint,Rock Hudson,James Dean,Deborah Kerr, Richard Burton, Richard Harris,Doris Day, Burt Lancaster,David Niven, and Some of the best directors such as, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford,Edward Dmytryk, and George Stevens.

Rod Taylor co starred with Montgomery Clift, James Dean and John Wayne

Rod Taylor his career fizzled for no real reason, that I can really put a finger on, which is odd. I don’t think he had a drug, or alcohol issue. Which is a certain career derailer. Maybe as I can see his mid 60’s string of just really bad movies, and just was not offered anymore meaty roles, and the studio’s had enough. It’s amazing by the mid 70’s Rod Taylor was the same age as Clint Eastwood, and Clint was as big a star as they get, and Rod Taylor got a mega jump start. A lot of actors, and actresses make very bad film choices that almost kill, or totally kill there acting careers. Kirk Douglas a Russian Jew playing an Italian in The Brotherhood 1968; or John Wayne playing an Asian in The Conqueror 1956; One of the worst films ever made by the way. How can we for get the major debacle of Heaven’s Gate 1980 the completely destroyed the career of it’s director Michael Cimino.  Then we have Marlon Brando’s entire decade of the 60’s; acting is tough no doubt even when your at the top of your game.

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Rod Taylor died January 7, 2014 four days before his 85th birthday

Lucky for us we got to see Rod Taylor one last time thanks to Quentin Tarantino pulling him out of retirement, because of his uncanny resemblance to Sir Winston Churchill in the film Inglorious Bastard 2009; I’m a big movie fan, not so much the big blockbuster movies, but all movies. Rod Taylor was one of those all movie guys, and you would say oh yes. I liked him in this, he was great in that.

 

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Tony Curtis was one of the white hottest stars of the 1950’s; and got his start very early, working side by side with other Hollywood heavy weights of the decade. He was under the same wing, and management company with Universal,who also brought us Rock Hudson, and Tab Hunter. Tony Curtis had roles in films in Jimmy Stewart’s 1950 classic Winchester ’73, and by 1953 he was starring in his own the technicolor Houdini. Tony Curtis would co star with Burt Lancaster in two films in the 50’s, Trapeze 1956; and The Sweet Smell Of  Success from 1957; His star was even brighter towards the end of the 50’s; plus he was close pals to all the rat packers, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and close friends with Sammy Davis Jr, and Jerry Lewis. Tony Curtis was especially close to Sammy Davis Jr. He knew everyone in the business, and was well liked. A true matinee idol, with the beautiful movie star wife Janet Leigh.

Tony Curtis brother Julius was hit by a truck, and killed in 1938

By the late 50’s Tony Curtis was co-starring with Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones 1958, and with Jack Lemmon, and Mariyln Monroe in Some Like It Hot 1959; The last really good film of Tony Curtis career in my opinion was The Rat Race 1960, with Debbie Reynolds, and Don Rickles. I saw this movie on network TV maybe in the late 1970’s; This is one of my Favorite films, and one of Curtis best, but for some odd reason like a lot of actors, and actress, things started to go down hill for him fast by the mid 60’s

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Tony Curtis was nominated for an Academy Award for the Defiant Ones in 1959

I have a theory why his career sputtered, and actors like Sean Connery, Steve McQueen, Sidney Poitier,Paul Newman, Richard Burton,and Jack Lemmon who were all close in age to Curtis flourished in the 60’s. Tony Curtis being the same age as Paul Newman, and Jack Lemmon, 5 years older than, Connery, and McQueen, and a few years older than Poitier. I would put Rock Hudson in the same boat as Curtis, but Hudson we will leave him to another article. Tony Curtis had all the matinee idol looks, but simply didn’t have the talent to be offered the real meaty roles of the 60’s, that Newman, McQueen, Lemmon, and even Walter Matthau were getting, or lets put Clint Eastwood, and Robert Redford of the later part of the 60’s in this group too.

I don’t believe Curtis had any real formal acting training which is a down fall of many actors, and actresses, with the method acting becoming the norm by the 60’s. He had a decent run till the mid 1960’s with ending with maybe The Great Race. You can’t say Tony Curtis did try one last hurrah as a serious actor, with The Boston Strangler 1968, but nice try. The film didn’t do well even with Henry Fonda as a co star. Don’t get me wrong great real life story, but just the wrong star . I can see Curtis trying very hard here to be a real big dramatic actor again, and it fail badly. It would have been like Elvis Presley playing Clyde Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde 1967; I would expect Elvis to Break out into song doing the twist with Ann-Margret as Bonnie Parker, rat a tat tat.

 

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Tony Curtis as we know it, his best time in Tinseltown as a leading man in Hollywood was long over by the late 60’s. That ring a ding ding cool, of the rat pack era, was not playing well with the new Easy Rider counter culture period. Tony Curtis had major substance abuse issues, and was an alcoholic. He just bounced from one horrible movie after another, and even more starring in horrible TV shows, that didn’t last more that a half a season, or less. There were shows like The Persuaders 1971 with Roger Moore, and even worse a show called McCoy 1975; I remember it got a lot of press. He went from talk show to talk show promoting it, and Tony was on the cover of TV guide. This show was part of NBC’S Mystery Movie series, part of a rotation of other shows. Which were more successful than his.

 

 

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Tony Curtis In 1945, Curtis was honorably discharged from the US Navy

Let’s go back to Tony Curtis in the 60’s for a minute. Now Tony Curtis could have been in a lot of great films of that period yes he was Kirk Douglas’s co-star in Spartacus 1960, but he was not the star. He didn’t get Hud, the Hustler, he was not in the Great Escape, or West Side Story, not even the Magnificent Seven. Tony Curtis was passed on in The Days Of Wine And Roses 1962. He didn’t get the lead in The Train 1965, or was not in any Westerns, Bernard Schwartz from the Bronx in a cowboy hat with that accent, not a gamble you want to make. So no The Sons Of Katie Elder, or The Appaloosa 1966

Tony Curtis was not one of the many big stars in The mega 1962 ensemble war film The Longest Day 1962 that starred just about every male actor, and singer of the day. There was no role for Tony Curtis in Judgement At Nuremberg, and he wasn’t Bullitt 1968, or The Thomas Crown Affair 1968, he missed out on Cool Hand Luke 1967. Tony Curtis was not in the big ensemble cast of the Dirty Dozen 1967;He could have gotten Harper 1966. Missed out on The Cincinnati kid 1965. He missed out co starring with Liz Taylor in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf 1966, no role even with friend Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment 1960 or any Hitchcock films.

Tony Curtis was Born Bernard Herschel Schwartz in The Bronx, NY

So is it just Hollywood turning there back on him ,or just like I mentioned he just lacked the acting chops to compete with bigger, and other up, and coming stars of the day. Tony Curtis in the 60’s here are some of the Curtis choices just what he was offered, or he settled for. He opted for Boeing, Boeing 1966 with long time pal Jerry Lewis, Sex and The Single Girl 1965 with Natalie Wood, Arrivederci, Baby! 1966, Don’t Make Waves 1967, all these movies didn’t do well at the box office. The Great Race was the big box office exception of the 60’s, perhaps the last great money maker of the Tony Curtis acting career. This movie did in upwards of $25 million which was a lot in 1965 America, plus movies stayed in the theater much, much longer than they do now. Back then no Netflix, or cable TV.

 

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Maybe for Tony Curtis he was winding down much like the Frank Sinatra rat pack era, by the mid 60’s all of those actors including Frank Sinatra, there acting careers were pretty much done. To be fair acting, and staying on the top of your game no matter who you are is tough. A lot of actors had a few years of making bad choices in there careers as well. Paul Newman not immune. Paul did some god awful films in the mid 60’s, and the late 70’s that almost tanked his career. Paul Newman did Lady L 1965,The Prize 1965,What A Way To Go 1964 will give him a pass on this one it was a cameo. Then we have A New Kind Of Love 1963, and the biggest failure in my option was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Torn Curtain from 1966, but he was able to successfully rebound very well in between these duds, with big successful films like. The Oscar winning Hud 1963, and hugely successful private Eye caper Harper 1965; These films did very well, and kept his career on an even keel. I will say the mid 60’s took a lot of actors by surprise with the Vietnam war in full swing, the, JFK assassination, fashion, Pop Art, and The British Invasion.

 

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This is what happend to a lot of actors that came up in the 50’s, and were still living, and acting in the 60’s, they had the old Hollywood way of making movies, and acting still in place. Old Hollywood of the 50’s, like Gene Kelly, Alan Ladd,Kirk Douglas, Rod Taylor, Charlton Heston,William Holden,and will put Marlon Brando in that mix. They could not come out of that old Hollywood studio system mentality way of making films, and jump full force into the method. The Late 1950’s and early 60’s was an odd time for Old Hollywood. Actors like Marlon Brando, and Tony Curtis should have. I hate to say capitalized on the death of many of Hollywood’s biggest stars in a short 5 1/2 year span. In 1958 we lost Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn died in 1959, The King Clark Gable dies in 1960, Gary Cooper, and Jeff Chandler both in 1961, and Alan Ladd 1964; In this short span you had some major box office stars who died, and this should have blew the door wide open for Tony Curtis.

Tony Curtis was Married 6 times

 

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I will make a small exception with the great Moses, Charlton Heston he had a seesaw up, and down period in the 60’s, and rebounded well like Newman. Tony Curtis was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the Defiant Ones 1958; I strongly believe if he had won for that film. He would have told Hollywood yes I’m bad ass, I can act send beefier roles my way, because this is exactly what happen to Frank Sinatra after his Academy Award winning performance as Maggio in From Here To Eternity 1953; There was no Oscar curse with him. He got the Otto Preminger Man With The Golden Arm 1955, Suddenly 1955, Guys And Dolls 1955, and High Society 1956; Tony Curtis would have been on that level heading into the 60’s with a big Oscar win under his belt, as did his co star Sidney Poitier achieved with Lillies Of The Field 1963; He gets his Oscar in 1964, and the rest is history for him, and Charlton Heston’s 1960 Ben-Hur win.

 

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Tony Curtis had a lot of great films in a short window under his belt, a lot of very good memorable technicolor roles, that I grew up watching as a kid, on late night movies, with my older brother. He was lucky to be part of the great golden era of Hollywood of the Swifty Lazar, Walter Winchell, Bogey and Bacall, James Dean, Stork Club,  Rat Pack, and Hedda Hopper era of 1950’s America. Personally I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at one of those big parties during that super cool time.