Don Taylor, 78, actor, director LOS ANGELES -- Don Taylor...


December 31, 1998|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES — Don Taylor, 78, actor, director LOS ANGELES -- Don Taylor, an actor best known for war films of the 1940s and 1950s including "Stalag 17," and director of such science fiction favorites as "Escape From the Planet of the Apes," has died. He was 78.

Mr. Taylor died Tuesday at the University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center of heart failure, his family said yesterday.

During his prolific career behind the camera, Mr. Taylor directed 15 motion pictures, more than 400 television dramas and the 1970s series "Night Gallery" and "Mobile One."

The versatile entertainer also wrote one-act plays, radio dramas, short stories and the 1985 TV movie "My Wicked, Wicked Ways The Legend of Errol Flynn." He directed the Flynn biography, along with another biographical television movie the same year, "Going for the Gold: The Bill Johnson Story."

Mr. Taylor's script for an NBC show, "The Night They Tore Down Riley's Bar," was nominated for an Emmy.

Born Donald Ritchie Taylor in Pittsburgh and raised in Freeport, Pa., he began acting as a student at Pennsylvania State University. After graduation, he hitchhiked to Hollywood and quickly landed a contract with MGM.

He got his big acting break in the Army Air Corps stage production of "Winged Victory." An Army corporal, he repeated his role in the 1944 film version.

In addition to second billing to William Holden in 1953's "Stalag 17," Mr. Taylor was in several other war films -- "Battleground," "Flying Leathernecks," "Destination Gobi," "Japanese War Bride" and "The Bold and the Brave."

He also was remembered as the bridegroom in the 1950 version of "Father of the Bride" starring Spencer Tracy as the father and Elizabeth Taylor as the bride, and its sequel, "Father's Little Dividend," a year later.

His debut as a film director was 1961's "Everything's Ducky" featuring Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett and Jackie Cooper in a story about a talking duck.

He went on to direct films such as the 1973 musical "Tom Sawyer," the 1977 version of H. G. Wells' "The Island of Dr. Moreau" starring Burt Lancaster as the demented doctor, and 1980's "The Final Countdown," starring Kirk Douglas in a time-warp war story.

His 1971 "Escape From the Planet of the Apes," set in Los Angeles and starring Roddy McDowall, was third in the series and considered the best of the sequels to "Planet of the Apes."

Retired Marine Col. William A. "Ironman" Lee,98, one of the most decorated Marines in history, died of cancer Sunday in Fredericksburg, Va.

Colonel Lee was a World War I veteran who also fought in the Nicaraguan "Banana Wars" of the late 1920s and early '30s. He was a prisoner of war for nearly four years during World War II.

He earned three Navy Crosses -- more than any Marine in history except legendary Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, who earned five. He also was awarded three Purple Hearts and two Medals of Valor. He retired in 1950.

In 1918, when he was 17, he enlisted and sailed to France to fight at the end of World War I. From 1927 to 1932, Colonel Lee served with the Marine Expeditionary Force in Nicaragua. He fought rebel bandits alongside General Puller, who coined his nickname after recommending him for a Medal of Valor. General Puller wrote: "In the days of wooden ships, Lee would have been an ironman."

During World War II, Colonel Lee served as a chief gunner with the "Horse Marines" mounted infantry in China. The day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he and 200 other Marines in North China were taken prisoner by Imperial troops.

Ruth Clifford Cornelius,98, whose acting career began with silent films and later extended into big-screen "talkies" such as "Dante's Inferno" and "The Keys of the Kingdom," died Nov. 30 in Los Angeles.

Ms. Cornelius appeared in more than 50 films, including "Stand Up and Cheer" with Shirley Temple, "Dante's Inferno" with Spencer Tracy and "The Keys of the Kingdom" with Gregory Peck.

Her career began with the Thomas Edison Studio in 1914 before she signed with Universal in 1916. She appeared in 10 of director John Ford's movies, including "The Searchers," "The Face on the Barroom Floor" and "Wagon Master." She also was a regular on the television series "Highway Patrol" and "I Led Three Lives."

Johnny Moore,64, veteran singer with the Drifters soul group, died yesterday on his way to a hospital in London, his agent said.

Mr. Moore was lead vocalist on Drifters hits such as "Under the Boardwalk" and "Saturday Night at the Movies" in the 1960s and 1970s.

He had been suffering from breathing difficulties. He was last seen on stage in Britain when he appeared on television just before Christmas, performing "Come on Over to My Place."

Harmer E. Davis,93, founder of what is now the University of California Institute of Transportation Studies, died Dec. 24 in Walnut Creek, Calif.

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