Actor Rod Taylor dies

Rod Taylor from the main titles of the Masquerade television series.

Rod Taylor from the main titles of Masquerade.

Rod Taylor, who often had leading man parts in 1960s and ’70s films and dabbled in spy roles, has died at 84, according to an obituary in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

The Australian-born Taylor actually had a varied career, including the lead role in 1960’s The Time Machine and Hitchcock’s The Birds as well as his voiceover work in 101 Dalmatians.

But spy-related entertainment was also part of his resume.

He played Boysie Oakes in 1965’s The Liquidator, based on a novel by John Gardner, who’d later write James Bond continuation novels.

In 1983, Taylor played mysterious spymaster Lavender in Masquerade, a Glen Larson-created series. In each episode, Lavender would recruit a team of “innocents” to take on the KGB and other menances. For helping out, each participant in a mission would be paid one year’s salary. The show didn’t catch on and lasted only 13 episodes on ABC.

In later years, Taylor took on character roles. His last role was Winston Churchill in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds.

1983: ABC attempts a TV spy revival

The year 1983 was a big year for spy entertainment. Two James Bond moves, Octopussy and Never Say Never Again came out, prompting an outburst of Bondmania.

ABC, looking to cash in, gave the goahead to a new series, Masquerade, in which spymaster Lavender (Rod Taylor) recruits people who’ve never done intelligence work to perform missions.

Series creator Glen A. Larson drew upon two ’60s spy shows. The episodes were often constructed like Mission: Impossible, where the audience would get intriguing glimpses of the plan but not the entire blueprint until the end of the story. William Read Woodfield, one of the ace writers of M:I ended up contributing scripts for the show. And The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had already used the “innocent” idea where ordinary people (in effect a surrogate for the audience) were recruited to assist the heroes.

Masquerade was short lived. But if you want to get a sense of the show, here’s the start of the pilot, where KGB bad guy Oliver Reed is knocking off U.S. agents, prompting Lavender to begin Operation: Masquerade. Note: the director of the pilot was Peter H. Hunt, NOT the same Peter Hunt who directed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and a major figure in the early 007 films.