Utah Development Co. ads (1977)
Rod Taylor and opera star Joan Sutherland took part in a
million-dollar-plus promotional campaign for Utah Development
Company, a U.S.-controlled operation that was the biggest exporter
of coal from Australia.
Rod made a series of four 60-second television commercials with the
theme "Utah: We are backing Australia." They started airing Sunday
night, Jan. 16, 1977.
Rod also participated with Sutherland in promotions for a special
televised performance of "Aida," hailing the company's sponsorship
of the national opera.
The foreign company's huge profits drew scrutiny, and the
promotional activities were designed to prompt Australians to look
more favorably upon the good things the company did for their
economy and culture.
Rod was paid handsomely for the ads -- a sum amounting to about
one-third of the entire budget of "The
Picture Show Man," which he had just finished shooting.
He also was treated to first-class travel and accommodations
during the six days of shooting in Moranbah, Queensland. "Rod few up
there in the company's Lear jet and stayed in the guesthouse
reserved for Utah bigwigs," author Stephen Vagg wrote in "Rod
Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood."
The series of ads had been scheduled to run for a year, and Utah
had an option to use Rod for a further year if it decided to film a
However, the ads were not received well and were pulled. The ads,
Vagg wrote, produced a "sour taste that came from an American
company making money out of an Australian natural resource [and]
paying an American-based Australian star to tell Australian
audiences how good the company was for Australia."
Utah's mining operations and financial dealings were the subject
of an hour-long Australian news program, "Four Corners," on Nov. 4,
1977. The report includes three clips of Rod's promotional messages
for the Utah Development Company -- one at a port, one on horseback
and another at the opera.