Rod Taylor

RIP actor Rod Taylor, 1930 - 2015

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Jan 9, 2015, 5:30 PM EST

The star of two of the best genre films of the 1960s has passed beyond the realm of human understanding.

Australian-born actor Rod Taylor died on Wednesday (Jan. 7) at his home in Los Angeles, just four days short of his 85th birthday. Taylor will forever be immortalized in sci-fi and horror history by the two roles that were arguably his most famous: As the time traveler H. George Wells (a homage to author H.G. Wells) in George Pal's 1960 classic The Time Machine, and as lawyer Mitch Brenner in Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 horror masterpiece, The Birds.

Taylor's other genre credits included an early role in the 1956 B-movie World Without End and a featured part in the 1959 Twilight Zone episode "And When the Sky Was Opened." He made his film debut in 1954 and was most active during the 1960s and 1970s on the big screen, transitioning later to TV movies and series. His final performance was as Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino's 2009 World War II film Inglourious Basterds (which almost counts as sci-fi since it's an alternate-history tale).

Born in Sydney, Taylor was originally interested in becoming an artist but decided on acting after seeing Laurence Olivier in a touring version of Richard III. He traveled to Los Angeles in 1954, where his early work included a supporting role in James Dean's last film, Giant

The Time Machine was his first leading role, as his time traveler journeyed into the far future -- the 8,000th century, to be exact -- and battled to free the gentle Eloi from the domination of the monstrous Morlocks. The movie is considered one of the great sci-fi spectacles of its time. 

Three years later, he was the male lead again in Hitchcock's The Birds. His small-town lawyer brings a hedonistic heiress (Tippi Hedren) back home to Bodega Bay, Calif., just as the town comes under siege from hordes of aggressive avians. Taylor appeared in a, shall we say, much less revered variation of this theme, a Sci-Fi Channel movie called KAW, in 2007.

Although he never quite became a huge star, Taylor's place in cinematic history is secure. He is survived by his third wife and his daughter from a previous marriage.

(via The New York Times)