Don Taylor

Born into a solid working class background, Don Taylor spoilt it somewhat by studying at Oxford and then joining the BBC in 1960. At the time the old theatre-based practice whereby the producer would also edit and direct a play still held sway, and it was in this capacity that - after a couple of episodes of Scotland Yard and a Arthur Swinson drama documentary (The Road to Carey Street) - Taylor produced N.J.Crisp's The Dark Man (1960) and David Turner's The Train Set (1961). Both appealed to Taylor's left-wing sensibilities, the first being a fable about racial prejudice set in a small taxi firm, the latter a factory worker desperate to by the title toy for his train-spotter son. Taylor then began to develop a group of writers he would direct almost exclusively over the next four years: Crisp, Turner, Hugh Whitmore, and especially David Mercer, starting with his Where the Difference Begins in late 1961.

In January 1963 Sydney Newman was appointed Head of BBC Drama. His restructuring of the Department was anathema to Taylor and following artistic disagreements with Newman and producer James MacTaggert over the two plays he directed under the new system (George Target's Workshop Limits and Hugh Whitemore's The Full Chatter), he was moved off new plays. As an olive branch, Newman offered him producership of a project he'd been working on called Doctor Who, but he declined, the final months of his existing contract being spent working on a series of linked plays set in a new university which was not eventually produced. He returned as a freelance to direct Whitemore's Dan Dan the Charity Man (1964) and Mercer's And Did Those Feet... (1965), but from then on - he alleges in his book Days of Vision - he was effectively blacklisted from the BBC Drama Department.

For the next few years Taylor concentrated on his writing and theatre directing career, with his only work for the BBC being restricted to the Arts Features Department, more often than not directing his own scripts. He returned to Drama in 1972 to direct a television version of his own The Exorcism (for Dead of Night) and The Roses of Eyam in 1973. He also worked for ATV, directing Visitors and The Person Responsible by his wife, Ellen Dryden, in 1974, and two plays in Nigel Kneale's Beasts series in 1976. Since then, with the exception of existing works such as Arthur Miller's The Crucible and Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona, all the new plays Taylor has directed have been his own, including When the Actors Come (1978), In Hiding and A Last Visitor for Mr Hugh Peter (1981). He has also directed his own new translations of classic Greek drama.

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[Biography as submitted for inclusion in The Guinness Book of Classic British TV (1996, 2nd edition), with minor corrections]

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