Rod Taylor's Radio Roles

Rod Taylor's acting career evolved from his work as an artist and started in radio, which was booming in Australia during the 1950s.

While still attending East Sydney Technical and Fine Arts College, he saw Sir Laurence Olivier and the Old Vic company in "Richard III," and was inspired to become an actor.

But ... I didn't know anything about acting. I had to earn some money to pay for tuition at the Independent Theatre, where I planned to study. So I faked my age [he was 17] and got a job with Mark Foy's department store, designing and painting backdrops for window displays and fashion shows. ... I worked at Mark Foy's during the day and studied drama at night. ...

After a year or a bit more, I managed to get into radio. ... I did about 20 different daytime shows a week, hopping from studio to studio, playing every imaginable character in soap operas and stuff.

-- People magazine (Australia), Jan. 25, 1967

It was a radio honor -- the
Rola Award as actor of the year -- that sent Taylor on his way to Hollywood.  "The Rola Show" was a half-hour program featuring local actors in original Australian dramas. Each week, listeners nominated an actor who would go into the running for the final prize. In 1954, Rod won that prize for his performance in the dual role of a father and son in the drama "O'Sullivan's Bay." The award provided him with 500 and a round-trip ticket to London. He made a stop in Hollywood and stayed there!

Following are some of Taylor's radio roles in his native Australia, when he was billed as Rodney Taylor. 

 

Rod Taylor and John Meillon
check over a radio script.

LINKS

Sources of info for Rod's radio roles on this page include:

The National Film and Sound Archive, Australia

Trove, an online archive of digitized newspapers from the National Library of Australia

Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, by Stephen Vagg

 
     

The Bader Story / Reach for the Sky (1954)
Taylor played heroic British airman Douglas Bader in this radio serial on Australian station 3DB. The show told the story of Bader, who was a real-life World War II flying ace despite having lost both legs in a 1931 aviation accident.

"The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama" calls this "probably the finest work Rod did in Sydney radio." In that book, veteran Australian actor John Ewart also recalled:

In his early days in radio, Rod was a very inventive actor. He did something "different." The day we started Bader ... we were all sitting around the studio first thing in the morning ... doing the things you do while you're waiting around. ... And then, Rod was doing the first part of a page, and I became conscious of something happening, and we all lifted our heads. Rod was performing. It was like a shot in the arm, everyone could feel it, and you got off your butt and worked instead of coasting.

There were 52 half-hour episodes of this show, which was one of three series adapted by scriptwriter Morris West from novels by Paul Brickhill. The other two follow ...

The Dambusters (1954)
Taylor played pilot David Shannon in this dramatization of Paul Brickhill's best-selling novel about World War II. The documentary series focused on the 617 Squadron and is full of air force adventure. There were 26 half-hour episodes, and the cast also featured Charles "Bud" Tingwell.

The Great Escape (1954)
Taylor took part in this dramatization of Paul Brickhill's factual account of the efforts of Allied prisoners to break out of a German prison camp. There were 26 half-hour episodes that aired at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on 2UE. (Yes, it's the same story that was dramatized in movie form, starring Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, etc., in 1963.)

 

Rodney Taylor dramatizes
a scene from "The Bader Story"
for this 1954 publicity photo.

LISTENER'S GUIDE

The Dambusters:

CD from Radio of Yesteryear

Download from Internet Archive

     

Tarzan (1954)
Taylor became famous across Australia for his performance as Tarzan. The show aired at 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. It was one of many action-adventure serials for young listeners that were so popular in the 1950s. Other actors took over the Tarzan role after Rod left the show -- and Australia.

 

LISTENER'S GUIDE

Tarzan:

Audio clip with Rod

     

ALPHABETICAL LIST

   

A Place Where You Whisper: Rod played an Australian sheep shearer.

Abe Lincoln in Illinois: Rod played Abraham Lincoln and drew praise from Adelaide Advertiser critic James Cramond, who raved in the Aug. 15, 1953, edition about Abe's "soul stirring" long speeches. "They sufficiently moved actor Rodney Taylor to such emotional heights that he keyed the rest of his character study of Lincoln to them and earned himself the award for this week's best performance."

All My Sons (April 1953): Rod played the son of the jailed partner of Willie Loman. The [Adelaide] Advertiser called it "modern American drama at its peak."

Assignment Paris: The story tells of the detention of an American citizen in Communist Hungary. The task of finding him is given to young reporter Jimmy Race, played by Rod, in the The General Motors Hour Play, July 28, 1954.

Because of the Lockwoods: Constance Cox dramatized Dorothy Whipple's best-selling novel for the General Motors Hour Play, Jan. 14, 1953. Coralie Neville and Rod Taylor had the starring roles in the play, which was produced by Harry Dearth.

Black Lightning (1952):

Blue Hills: Rod played upright character Anderson Roberts, making him one of more than 1,000 actors who played a part in "Blue Hills" over the years. The world's longest-running radio serial had 5,796 episodes that ran on Australia's ABC Radio for 27 years from Monday, Feb. 28, 1949, until Thursday, Sept. 30, 1976.

Captain Singleton: The children's serial was among Rod's earliest performances.

Chips: Story of Outback: An adventure story during which Rod worked with Lee Robinson, who later directed and wrote "King of the Coral Sea" and cast Rod in his first feature film role.

Contraband: Crime/mystery series.

Crime and Punishment: Dramatization of Dostoevsky's classic novel.

Crispin's Day: This war drama was performed in front of a live studio audience. The drama critic of The Listener In said the audience gave Rod "the most spontaneous ovation I have heard given to an individual actor," and that the production "was a personal triumph for the young Sydney actor." Rod played an air force pilot and The Listener In said, "His emotional breakdown following his successful landing of the plane was a masterpiece of naturalistic acting."

Danger in Paradise: Taylor was a cast member in this radio adaptation of Octavus Roy Cohen's popular mystery novel. It's a story of romance and murder set against the backdrop of glamorous girls and fast-talking men in New York's biggest ad agency. There were 52 episodes in 15-minute segments.

Frenchman's Creek: Adaptation of a Daphne DuMaurier novel.

Golden Boy: Rod played the title role of a young man torn between becoming a boxer or violinist.

Gulliver's Cousin (1954): This was a Radio Repertory Play starring Rodney Taylor that was billed as "Ruth Park's new radio play of William Dampier, pirate."

I Hate Crime: This half-hour program debuted in 1950 and featured the exploits of Larry Kent, played by Ken Wayne. Kent was a New York newspaperman who emigrated to Australia and set himself up as a private eye.

The Informer: It was while listening to this show that writer-producer Martin Rackin heard a young man playing the part of a Brooklyn hoodlum. The accent was so perfect that Rackin thought he'd found an American actor working Down Under. Instead, he had found Rod Taylor, who he soon cast in "Long John Silver" and sent on his way to Hollywood.

Madame Bovary (1951)

Morning Departure (1950): A submarine drama by Kenneth Woolard.

Nancy's Boy

Night Beat: This was broadcast nationally in Australia for nine years and featured the human interest stories of a newspaper columnist on the night beat.

Man Trap (1952): Features the adventures of a girl detective. Starred Patsy Shay and Rodney Taylor. Half-hour episodes each Monday.

No Lullaby for Lise (1954): A gripping serial of a mother's search for her child in troubled post-war Europe. From King's Cross to Cracow -- through Germany and across to America -- this exciting serial tells of two people's experiences of life behind the Iron Curtain.

Operation North Star: He supported visiting American film star Glenn Langan.

O'Sullivan's Bay: Rod played a dual role of a father and son in this drama, which was presented on "The Rola Show." His performance earned him the Rola Award as actor of the year -- the honor that sent him on his way to Hollywood.

Point of Departure (1951)

Remains to be Seen (1954): Rod was in the supporting cast of this comedy-mystery that was the General Motors Hour Play on June 30, 1954. The play, by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, contained the same type of amusing situations and odd characters as their earlier successes, "Arsenic and Old Lace" and "Life with Father."

Richard II (July 1952): Starred Alistair Duncan, with Rod among the cast.

Strange Life of Deacon Brodie (1950-51): Taylor played a character named Patterson in this 52-episode radio serial. The 15-minute episodes aired Monday to Thursday at 10:15 a.m. on Australian radio station 2UW. It's the true story of the man who inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Actor Bruce Stewart played Deacon Brodie, a pillar of the establishment who turned arch criminal and terrified Edinburgh in the late 18th century.

Such Men Are Dangerous (1954): Rod played Czar Paul I of Russia in this striking historical play by Alfred Dukes.

The Amazing Mr. Malone (1950-51): Taylor was a guest performer on this series about a New York criminal lawyer who trouble has a way of finding. The American were scripts carefully adapted for Australian radio. 

The Compelled People (Monday Night Theater, late August 1954): This was reviewed as a confusing play about two Berliners -- Hugo von Gerhardt and his actress sister, Friedl. Friedl has a chance to escape to America with Joe Mancini (played by Rod) if Joe can get a divorce. Hugo could go to England with Beatrice, a starchy aristocratic lady. But they both love Berlin so much and angst over leaving.

The Dance Dress (1953): Rod played an orphan from the slums determined to buy a dress for the girl he loves.

The Foolish Gentlewoman (1952)

The Happy Time: Reprise of a play Rod did on stage.

The Musician (1954): Rod starred in this installment of "The Rola Show," which featured plays by Australian writers. This one was by Jean James of Bondi.

The Sundowners: Rod played Paddy Carmody in this adaptation of an Australian novel. Each Sunday night at 8:30 (November 1953).

This Happy Breed: Noel Coward play.

The Golden Fool: Rod was one of the cast members of this 1954 Australian radio show that was adapted from a novel by David Divine. Ads for the show billed it as "an exciting new action-adventure. The torrid romance of a lust for gold and the love of a women." It was the dramatic story of a family conflict in the High Veldt region of the Transvaal in South Africa.

The Octopus: Rod played the Frenchman, Saturdays at 6:30.

The Ridge and the River: Adaptation of an Australian novel.

The Right to Happiness (1954): This was billed as "a new serial for women" upon its debut on June 21, 1954. The story tells of a woman who marries the man she loves and strives for the right to happiness. Stars included Margo Lee and Rodney Taylor.

The Wages of Fear (1954): A review by Joyce Stirling in the Brisbane Sunday Mail on Sept. 19, 1954, called this "one of the tensest radio plays I've listened to." Stirling said the radio play "was all about two men who (for a suitably high fee) undertook to drive a load of nitroglycerine over a dangerous and rough road for 300 miles in a truck whose shock absorbers were not above suspicion. ... Rodney Taylor gave one of those nervous, high-tension performances of his as driver Gerard, and Ray Barrat just about matched this fine effort as the fear-ridden driver, Johnnie. The play had a fine ironic twist to its tail and kept you biting your nails with suspense to the final five seconds."

They Were Champions (1954): Rod played Bob Fitzsimmons, a New Zealand boxer who held three world titles.

Three Roads to Destiny: Rod played Tam in this colorful saga of a family in the 19th century. The story ranges from England, through America, across the Pacific to the Far East and ultimately Australia. There were 208 episodes of this 15-minute show.

Time Was My Enemy: Rod played an Australian POW.

Western Trail (1954): Rod played ranger Dick Mason. Charles "Bud" Tingwell played ruslter Wolf Castella, and wild Apache tribes provided added complication.

Wings Off the Sea: Taylor played Lt. Cmdr. Sherwood in a serial drama based on J.E. MacDonnell's Korean War novel.

Winterset (1951): Winterset is a play by Maxwell Anderson. Written largely in poetic form, the tragedy deals indirectly with the famous Sacco-Vanzetti case, in which two Italian immigrants with radical political beliefs were executed.

 

     
     

 

         
   

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