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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 usually 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:

Sample clip (.wav file)

CD on Amazon.com

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. More than 1,000 12-minute episodes were produced. Once Rod left the show to go to Hollywood, other actors took over the Tarzan role.

The first two 12-minute episodes are available on a CD titled "Heroes of the Radio Waves: Australia's Radio Favourites from the 1930s, 40s & 50s," produced by the National Film & Sound Archive. The episodes feature Rod as Tarzan, Marcia Hathaway as Jane Porter and Roger Climpson as the serial's announcer.

 

LISTENER'S GUIDE

Audio clip of Rod as Tarzan (.mp3 file)

Two Tarzan episodes from "Heroes of the Radio Waves" (.mp3 files):
Episode 1 // Episode 2

Tarzan Revisited: Radio documentary. Rod comments briefly at about the 16:30 mark

     

Blue Hills (1953-54): 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.

 

     
     

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."

Air Hostess (1953): Rod starred in this serial with Barbara Brunto and Len Bullen.

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 Lamp (June 1952): In this presentation by Caltex Theatre, Rod played Andy Mitchell, a new recruit to the London police force. Andy and his partner are on the search for a missing young woman (Barbara Brunton). They spot her in the street with a young crook, Tom Riley (lead actor Bruce Stewart), but cannot persuade her to return home. A holdup, a shooting and further exciting events ensue.

Call Me Code (Oct. 7, 1951): Barbara Woodward's play was broadcast as part of the "Actor's Choice" radio series. Sheila Sewell, Allan Trevor and Rodney Taylor had chief roles in the play, which is set in a remote Indian airport.

Cape Forlorn (Feb. 7, 1954): This radio play, broadcast on Caltex Theatre, is a drama by Australian actor-producer Frank Harvey. The action takes place in a lighthouse on the South Island of New Zealand. Tom Farley starred as Captain Kell, the lighthouse keeper. Also in the cast with Rod were Margaret Christensen and Alan Trevor.

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 (Sept. 19, 1954): This war drama was performed in front of a live studio audience on Caltex Theatre. 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." The drama is based on an RAF operation film unit's precarious flight during WWII. The operation on which the story centers is conceived in a moment of bravado by a young flying officer. Rod had the starring role of Candy.

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.

Deirdre of the Sorrows (Nov. 2, 1953): This play-idyll, in lilting prose rhythms, tells the ancient story of deirdre and Naisi and King Conchubor of Ulster. Stars are Lyndall Barbour, Lloyd Berrell and Rodney Taylor.

Drama of Medicine (May 1, 1953): Rod was among the cast in the story of the inspiration for Louis Pasteur's discovery of a vaccine to combat rabies.

For Art's Sake (April 4, 1954): Comedy about a London "spiv" who decides to make a "racket" out of the Arts. Rod plays "Butch."

Forbidden Cargo (1954): Rod had a leading role.

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

Full Cry (April 4, 1954): Rod starred in this thriller that was part of Caltex Theater.

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. Upon its conclusion, it was replaced by Man Trap, also featuring Rod.

I'm a Dutchman (Sept. 10, 1951): Part of the Radio Repertory series, this play by Alexander Turner was a prize-winner in an ABC play competition. Story centers on Hans Maartens (played by Robert Cubbage), a Dutch painter who comes to Australia in search of a young woman (Lyndall Barbour) he first met in a Sydney suburb. Rod plays Plulih.

It Never Rains (March 11, 1953): The General Motors Hour play of the week was a domestic comedy about the misfortunes of a Yorkshire family.

It Remains To Be Seen (June 30, 1954): Rod co-starred with musical comedy star Evie Hayes, who was playing her first drama role in radio. Hayes played Jody Revere, a singer who through her association with the naive Waldo Walton, becomes involved in a murder. The play was written by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, and it contains the same type of amusing situations as their earlier success, "Arsenic and Old Lace."

Madame Bovary (1951)

Man Trap (1952): This half-hour series of self-contained dramas replaced I Hate Crime. The novelty was that the central character was an American "girl detective." Tracey Taylor, played by Patsy Shay, is sent to Australia on a government case and decides to stay. She joins a detective agency run by Hartley Forrister (Rod). Each episode dealt with a case tackled by the two detectives.

Mary Jane (1954): Rod played Jamie and Wendy Playfair was Belle in this Sunday-night serial about life on the Murray River in the 1880s. The cast also included John Tate, June Salter and Queenie Ashton.

Morning Departure (Aug. 12, 1950): Kenneth Woolard wrote this tragic story of nine men trapped on the sea bottom when their submarine hits a mine during exercises off the south coast of England. Extremely realistic, it has been a success as a stage play, newspaper serial and film. Bill Stewart starred as the skipper of the sub, supported by Rod Taylor, John Cazabon, John Barnard, Alan White, Rupert Chance and George Simpson Lyttle.

Mr. Denning Drives North (June 28, 1953): Rod played "Gypsy" in this mystery.

Nancy's Boy ( Nov. 30, 1950): A drama starring Marshall Crosby, Madi Hedd, Rodney Taylor and Guy Doleman. When one member of a family has a very real and honest dislike of war and killing, can he stand back and be called a coward when the threat of war looms?

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.

Mine Own Executioner (Feb. 4, 1952): Rod was among the supporting cast in this Radio Repertory installment. It's the story of Feliz Milne (Alexander Archdale), a brilliant psychiatrist who, while solving other people's problems, is unable to mend his own.

No Logic Before Breakfast (Dec. 5, 1950): A comedy by John Appleton, starring Rod Taylor.

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.

Off Finisterre (1950): Starring Rod Taylor, Lola Brookes and Guy Doleman. A strange tale about a ship that is believed to be bewitched and to which some mishap always occurs when near Finisterre.

On the Way to Niagara (Nov. 15, 1953): A light-hearted American farce starring Rodney Taylor and Georgie Sterling.

Opal of Destiny (1952): Rod Has a supporting role in this serial written by Anthony Scott-Veitch and set in Sydney and the Lightning Ridge opal fields. It's about a former U.S. naval pilot (played by Harp McGuire) who comes to Australia to start a new life.

Operation North Star (April 1954): This story of European espionage was presented as part of the General Motors Hour and starred visiting American film star Glenn Langan, Rod Taylor and Dinah Shearing.

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.

Out of This World (Dec. 15, 1952): Fantasy drama about people on other planets who send observation forces to report on Earth's activities. Frank Bennett starred, with Rod among the supporting cast.

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.

The Starlit Valley (Oct. 3, 1953): Rod played Robert Claire in this installment of the ABC's Saturday Playbill. It's an historical drama by Catherine Shepherd on the theme of a man's readiness to pursue images of his own making. Stars also included Alan White, Audrey Teesdale, Queenie Ashton.

Strange Last Words (1955): Rod played a leading role in this dramatic series.

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.

Tailormade (March 1, 1953): Comedy about an Australian tourist on the Adriatic coast and an unsuccessful attempt by a local racketeer to outwit the visitor. Rod played "vendor."

Tether a Dragon (Nov. 17, 1952): Rod played Bailey in this drama about Alfred Deakin (Kevin Brennan) and the federation of Australian colonies.

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 Boy David (Oct. 13, 1952): Sir James Barrie's last play. Rod played Eliab and First Slinger.

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 Crime That Changed History (Oct. 1951): Two episodes of "I Spy" dramatize the sensational story of the robbery of the atomic bomb secrets. Dr. Klaus Fuchs (played by William Eldridge) and Harry Gold (Rodney Taylor) are portrayed as human beings.

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 Golden Bridegroom (Sept. 21, 1952): Rod played Themison in this radio play based on a story of Lucius Apuleuis, author of The Golden Ass.

The Hands of Mary Clifford (Feb. 7, 1952): Rod starred as Harry Clifford in this installment of the Actors' Choice series.

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

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.

The Laughing Woman (Dec. 7, 1953): Rodney Taylor and Georgie Sterling starred in this drama by Gordon Daviot.

The Man Who Came to Dinner (Nov. 9, 1953): Comedy about a brilliant egotist. Rod plays "Bert Jefferson."

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 Petrified Forest (March 29, 1953): Drama about a group of people held captive at a wayside lunchroom by a fugitive gangster and his cohorts. Rod plays "Jackie."

The Starlit Valley (Oct. 3, 1954): Rod played Robert Claire in this Saturday Playbill production. It is a story of man's readiness to pursue images of his own making.

The Sundowners (Serial began November 1953): Rodney Taylor and Sheila Sewell had the leads as Paddy and Ida Carmody in this adaptation of a novel by Australian Jon Cleary.

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 (June 14, 1953): The radio play retains the essential strength, vitality and humanness of the story of an Australian commando patrol in New Guineau during the war. Rod plays Cpl. Shearwood.

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.

This Happy Breed (Jan. 4, 1954): Satire by Noel Coward.

Three Roads to Destiny (1955): Rod played Tam in this colorful saga of a family in the 19th century and concerns the hardships overcome by Australian pioneers. The story featured three brothers (played by Howard Craven, John Ewart and Rod Taylor) who meet in Australia after making their separate paths across the world. 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 serial that launched in July 1955.

Three Secrets (Nov. 29, 1953): Rod plays Del Prince in this adaptation of a film drama.

Thunder on the Hill (March 8, 1953): Mystery thriller about a nun who saves a young woman from the gallows and unmasks the real murderer. Rod plays "Willie."

Time Was My Enemy: Rod played an Australian POW.

To Live in Peace (Dec. 7, 1952): Story of a kindly old priest (Douglas Herald) in an Italian mountain village who suddenly discovers that his nephew is the Emperor Napoleon. Rod has a supporting role as Maso.

Trudy and the Quiet Life (Sept. 1953): This comedy presented on the ROLA Show starred Rodney Taylor and Myrna Dodd.

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.

With Cain Go Wander (July 18, 1953): Rod stars as Mark Lacey in this drama.

Within Rights (June 15, 1953): Police drama.

You An' Me, both (Feb. 9, 1953): The comedy of a girl who accidentally makes a date with three different men for the same evening. Rod plays "the Aussie."

 

     
     

 

         
   

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