A leading actor in about twenty films; writer of short stories, radio plays, TV playlets, and a film script; and director of film ventures and over 400 television shows, Don Taylor was one of the most experienced and talented people in the industry. He was born in Freeport, Pennsylvania, and studied law, speech, and drama (in that order) at Penn State University. He hitched to Hollywood after graduating, signed an MGM contract, and became their 79th star. After a hitch in the Army, he returned in the film, The Naked City, and went on to play in such films as Father Of The Bride (opposite Elizabeth Taylor, directed by Vincente Minnelli), Battleground, Stalag 17, The Bold And The Brave, and I'll Cry Tomorrow. Thanks to his friend, Dick Powell, he directed segments of TV shows like Four Star Playhouse and went on to do The Alfred Hitchcock Show, M-Squad (with Lee Marvin), Zane Grey Theatre, Dr. Kildare, and Night Gallery. His first feature film direction was for Ride The Wild Surf (1964), and after favourable reviews of his spaghetti western Un Esercito di 5 Uomini (Five Man Army, 1969), he went on to direct Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Tom Sawyer (1973 - another Arthur P. Jacobs production), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977), Damien: Omen II (1978) and The Final Countdown (1980). He said of his two professions: "[I prefer directing to acting], but on the stage, I'd rather act. I miss the theatre. In motion pictures, it is a director's medium. I was never satisfied as a film actor, and found it very unrewarding. Directing, I find very exciting and rewarding. But you work twice as hard directing. You have to fight for every inch." He was married to Hazel Court, who acted in several Roger Corman films, including The Raven and Masque Of The Red Death.
Speaking about directing Escape, Taylor said: "It went off like clockwork. No problems at all. Small items like bad weather once in a while. We came in a day under schedule. There was one problem. The whole first day's work was destroyed because we weren't running the camera at the right speed. We had to re-shoot the whole first day's work, after we shot the rest of the picture."
Taylor praised his cast and writer for the success of the film: "I consider it a love story. I didn't try to hammer the sociological overtones, I just let it happen. Being an actor myself, I know what they're thinking before they think it. I had a good cast, everyone was truly professional. It was a joy making 'Escape'. The first problem of doing a film is to get the script right, and we had it right way before I started. So I was able to do many more things that you don’t get time to do, because you're usually worrying or working over the script even while you're shooting. I never had to worry about the script. You knew that the scene would play, and didn't have to re-write on the set. Every scene just worked beautifully. And I did very little cutting, about two feet of film altogether after the preview." "It had charm. I got Paul Dehn to write in all the stuff about the prizefight and the hotel room because it was so lovely, and it paid off!"
Screenwriter Paul Dehn repayed the compliment: "'Apes 3' was shot and directed almost exactly as I wrote it, and my relationship with the director, Don Taylor, who guided me brilliantly through the second and third drafts, was the best I have ever experienced."