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This Is Your Life (1975)

Rod Taylor was saluted in an installment of this biographical show, which aired in Australia on Oct. 12, 1975.

Rod was in his native country to receive the inaugural Chips Rafferty Memorial Award, but a surprise was in store when he was introduced to Mike Willesee -- the show's host. Willessee quickly informed Rod that he was on national television for "This Is Your Life, Rod Taylor."

The first guests were Rod's parents, Bill and Mona Taylor. Bill Taylor, who used to do extra work as an architectural draftsman during the Depression, recalled that Rod would sketch alongside him for hours, "finishing up with faces and whatnot," Bill said. "And girls," added Mona.

Next up was Rod's daughter, Felicia, who was 11 at the time. It was an emotional reunion, with Rod saying:

"We haven't been able to see each other for two years. Daddy's been working." Willisee asked Felicia if she wanted to be an actress when she grows up. "No," Felicia said, "I want to be a doctor. Because people are sick and I want to help them."

The narrative and guests followed Rod from high school to East Sydney Tech, where he studied art. Pete McMurray, an artist and musician who knew Rod as a student said:

"He was a natural painter ... very good on 'figures'." But around 1948, he started to become interested in acting.

When he left East Sydney Tech, Rod was employed as a painter, doing backdrops for window displays. But his interest in acting has started to dominate, and he went to an agent who arranged for an audition.

"I read with him, and I new immediately that we had found magic," said the next guest, Queenie Ashton, a grand Australian actress.

While Willesee's narration traced Rod's budding radio and film career, Australian actors John Ewart, John Meillion, and "King of the Coral Sea" co-star Charles "Bud" Tingwell appeared. So did writers Peter Yeldham and Tony Scott-Beech.

However, Willesee noted that Rod's acting work was irregular, so he "washed floors at the Workers Compensation Court to sustain himself."

Some work in films came along, but it was a radio award in 1954 that gave Rod the chance to leave -- with the prize money and a six-week visa -- for Hollywood.

During the first two years, Rod lived in a room that measured 8 by 10 feet, "with a piece of curtain across one corner for a wardrobe and a jug and bowl as bathroom," Willesee read. "He found out that Malibu Beach can be a warm bed in the summer. He also found some friends."

With that, John Wayne appeared in a taped segment, saying:

"I've worked with Rod, and I know him to be a true professional and a fine actor. But more than that he's a real man and a great human being."

In another taped segment, Richard Harris also had praise for Rod.

"When I saw "Young Cassidy ... it probably was one of the best performances he's ever given and a brilliant insight into the Irish playwright. ... This Irishman is very appreciative."

Wilt Melnick, who shaped Rod's career for 15 years, also was a guest.

"At first it was a little slow," Melnick said. "Everytime his visa came up, we had to hustle up a new job for him to get it renewed."

Rod's business manager, Murray Neidorf, also was a guest and helped in planning the show -- and keeping it a surprise.

"This Is Your Life" wrapped up by noting that Rod Taylor had just finished filming the pilot for "The Oregon Trail," in which young actor Andrew Stevens plays Rod's son.

With that, Andrew's mother -- actress Stella Stevens -- was introduced and delivered kisses on behalf of many of Rod's leading ladies.  






Australian Women's Weekly article at the time of this show (PDF)

Willesee interview with Rod



The National Film & Sound Archive in Australia is where you may be able to obtain a copy this show.

Rod and Bud Tingwell