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January 7 in Twilight Zone History: Remembering actor Rod Taylor ('And When the Sky Was Opened')

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Jan 7, 2018

Today, January 7th, This Day in Twilight Zone History remembers actor Rod Taylor, who passed away on this day in 2015 at age 84.

Taylor played U.S. Air Force colonel Clegg Forbes in "And When the Sky Was Opened," one of three returning U.S. astronauts (his compatriots are played by Jim Hutton and Charles Aidman). The only problem is that Forbes' fellow pilots keep disappearing into thin air.

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Hunky Rod Taylor made a huge impact as a leading man in Hollywood when he arrived in the 1950s from Australia.

An Australian by birth, Taylor made a huge impact when he arrived in California in the 1950s. Not only was he a terrific actor, but he was very comfortable in science fiction and fantasy roles. Before TZ, he played one of the space voyagers who blast through the time barrier and end up on a future Earth in World Without End. And just about the time he stepped into Rod Serling's 5th Dimension, he was making huge waves as another time traveler: H.G. Wells in George Pal’s 1960 masterpiece The Time Machine. This was a huge film event for me as a kid, akin to a Stars Wars opening today.

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In an era where studios did not devote their full resources to genre product, MGM's The Time Machine was a huge success. 

I fully remember standing in line at the Picwood Theater in West Los Angeles (one of the first movie lines I ever stood in) to see the first run, and how Taylor rocked that role – battling Morlocks and romancing gorgeous Ivette Mimieux's Weena. Three years later, his battles with time were replaced with a flying assault on humanity in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

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In The Birds, Rod Taylor brought his considerable acting skills to the role of lawyer Mitch Brenner, a resident of Bodega Bay, California who faces an overwhelming plague of predatory birds. 

Rod Taylor could sell dialogue with the best actors in Hollywood. He even played a very convincing German officer (disguised as an American medical officer) in the riveting 36 Hours.

So here's to an amazing import from Down Under, a true acting legend who brought his considerable gifts to a perfect role in The Twilight Zone.