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Thursday December 31 7:59 AM ET

Actor/director Don Taylor dies

By Eric Olson

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Actor-director-writer Don Taylor, who played Elizabeth Taylor's bridegroom in ``Father of the Bride'' and went on to helm such features as ``Escape From the Planet of the Apes'' and ``The Island of Dr. Moreau,'' died Tuesday at the UCLA Medical Center in L.A. of heart failure. He was 78.

Taylor starred opposite Barry Fitzgerald as the younger detective in the 1948 film-noir classic ``The Naked City.'' In 1950, he appeared in the comedy classic ``Father of the Bride,'' which starred Miss Taylor (not related) and Spencer Tracy.

Born in Pittsburgh, Taylor began acting in college stage productions at Penn State University, where he studied speech and drama.

On the recommendation of Penn State alumni Julius and Phil Epstein -- the screenwriters of ``Casablanca'' who had seen him in a college production -- Taylor made his way to Hollywood (by hitchhiking) in 1942 after graduation. MGM signed the clean-cut, all-American Taylor to a seven-year contract.

After several minor roles, Taylor enlisted in the Air Force, where he was recruited by Irving ``Swifty'' Lazar for a lead role in the Moss Hart-directed Army-Air Force production of Hart's play ``Winged Victory.''

Following his discharge from the service, Taylor resumed his motion picture work full time, landing a top role in the
trend-setting crime drama ``The Naked City.''

Taylor's other film acting credits include ``Stalag 17'' (1953), ``Father's Little Dividend'' (1951), ``Battleground'' (1949), ``Flying Leathernecks'' (1951), ``The Bold and the Brave'' (1956) and ``I'll Cry Tomorrow'' (1955).

After moving behind the camera, Taylor directed 15 motion pictures, including ``Ride the Wild Surf'' (1964), ``Escape from the Planet of the Apes'' (1971), ``Tom Sawyer'' (1973), ``Echoes of a Summer'' (1976), ``The Island of Dr. Moreau'' (1977), ``Damien: Omen II'' (1978) and ``The Final Countdown'' (1980).

Taylor's television directing credits include episodes of ``The Wild, Wild West,'' ``Night Gallery,'' ``Cannon'' and ``Alfred Hitchcock Presents.''

As a writer, Taylor was nominated for an Emmy for the NBC television show ``The Night They Tore Down Riley's Bar.''

Last year, Taylor wrote and directed the play ``Silver Buckles On His Knee,'' which starred Mariette Hartley when it was produced by the University of Las Vegas Theater Group.

Taylor is survived by his wife, actress Hazel Court Taylor; two daughters, Avery Taylor Moore and Anne Taylor Fleming; a son, Jonathan David Taylor; stepdaughter Sally Walsh; sister Janet Tuttle; and a granddaughter.