Don Taylor

Don Taylor

The Pennsylvania-born Taylor broke into movies with a bit part in "Girl Crazy" (1943) then, as part of his military service during World War II, appeared in a stage production of "Winged Victory" and soon found himself co-starring in the 1944 feature based on the show. The career of the handsome, though somewhat bland, Taylor picked up steam in mostly supporting roles. He was among the troops in William Wellman's unglamorous look at men at war in "Battleground" (1949) before being chosen as the fiance of Elizabeth Taylor (no relation) in "Father of the Bride" and her husband in its sequel, "Father's Little Dividend" (1951). Often cast as military men, Taylor won critical kudos for his turns as Robert Ryan's brother-in-law in "The Flying Leathernecks" (1951) and had a rare lead as a soldier married to a "Japanese War Bride" (1952). He played Lt. Dunbar, the American POW William Holden ultimately rescues, in "Stalag 17" (1953), and remained working as an actor in features into the late 50s. Moving behind the camera, Taylor began his directing career with the silly "Everything's Ducky" (1961), which teamed Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney with a talking duck. He directed George Hamilton as a suave burglar in "Jack of Diamonds" (1967), and the sequel "Escape From the Planet of the Apes" (1971). The quality of Taylor's vehicles improved somewhat in the late 70s with "The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday" (1976), a broad Western comedy that allowed Oliver Reed to shine. Fantasy-horror films offered Taylor some of his best opportunities. He helmed the well-executed remake "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1977), featuring Burt Lancaster as the title character. "Damien: Omen II" (1978), while not as effective as the original, nevertheless had its moments and reteamed the director with former co-star William Holden. "The Final Countdown" (1980), his last feature, was a modest variation on a somewhat familiar tale: a nuclear-powered battleship that is transported back in time to just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is perhaps more recalled as the first producing effort of its star Kirk Douglas.Taylor had already established a foothold as a TV director, helming episodes of such popular series as "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Rifleman" and "The Wild, Wild West." His longform debut was "Something for a Lonely Man" (NBC, 1968), starring Dan Blocker as an outcast blacksmith. Taylor worked with Dick Van Dyke on "Drop-Out Father" (CBS, 1982), which cast Van Dyke as an ad agency executive who leaves his white collar world. The pair reteamed for "Ghost of a Chance" (CBS, 1987), in which Van Dyke was partnered with Redd Foxx. Taylor took on Hollywood with the biopic "My Wicked, Wicked Ways...The Legend of Errol Flynn" (CBS, 1985) and his last assignment, to date, was the caper yarn "The Diamond Trap" (CBS, 1988).