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The Train Robbers (1973)

Rod Taylor plays Grady, one of the old buddies that John Wayne calls upon to help recover some hidden gold. It was shot in Durango, Mexico, from March to June 1972.

Writer/director Burt Kennedy specialized in Westerns with a comic touch. Here he sets a mood of amiable adventure among colorful, well-drawn characters -- and winds it all up with a surprise ending.

Ann-Margret stars as Mrs. Lowe, a widow who wishes to recover some gold her late husband stole from a bank. She says she wants to return it and clear her family name.

She persuades Lane (John Wayne) to ride into Mexico with her and recover the loot, which is hidden in a train engine laying on its side in the desert. Lane recruits help, including longtime compadres and fellow Civil War veterans Grady (Rod Taylor) and Jesse (Ben Johnson). Additional helpers are young guns played by Bobby Vinton and Christopher George.

Once they cross the border, however, they discover two very different pursuers: a large group of bandits and a Pinkerton Agent (Ricardo Montalban).

After recovering the gold, Lane and his friends decide to let Mrs. Lowe keep the reward money -- $50,000. Lane is told that the gesture was touching but... the woman wasn't who she said she was.

Rod is billed third in the credits, right after John Wayne and Ann-Margret, but it's definitely a supporting role. But his performance elevated the part and drew praise. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that "Rod Taylor manages to squeeze the most from his lesser role, mugging his way as best he can through the film's cliche-ridden ... comedy."

The New York Times had another take:

The cast is for the most part quite lovely, led by a gentle Wayne, too old for romance but not for regrets, and well supported ... in fine restrained performance by Ben Johnson and Rod Taylor.

Rod's best scenes indeed are a couple he shares with Ben Johnson, as the two old friends bond with their memories and at their chagrin at growing older.

These scenes were an asset to the movie, and likely were added because Wayne had demanded them from director Burt Kennedy. Wayne used his box office stature to insist on Kennedy casting Rod and making the director add heft to the role so that it would appeal to Rod.

Rod and Duke had missed out on previous opportunities to work together, and in "Pulling No Punches," Rod said:

We finally got together on a thing called "The Train Robbers," and it wasn't a very good part but I was going to do anything to get it over with and be with Duke. He insisted that they rewrite that part. He sat Burt Kennedy down -- "You write that part for Rod. You make sure he wants to do it." And he did!

Even with the enhancements, biographer Stephen Vagg wrote that "Rod's role is only small, and it would have been a better film had he been given something more to do."

Variety magazine reviewed this movie as...

An above-average John Wayne actioner, written and directed by Burt Kennedy with suspense, comedy and humanism not usually found in the formula. ... Kennedy has provided a series of rich, deep individual characterizations, plus some intriguing red-herring plot twists.

In his book about John Wayne, author Scott Eyman said that Rod Taylor seemed to recall more about poker than filming, but he did share this about the rapport they had while acting.

As with any actor, you had to get on a wavelength with Wayne. You alter the game of tennis to suit your opponent, and he enjoyed that – the back and forth. With other people he could be very impatient – one day he told another actor, 'why don’t you learn your fucking lines?' right on the set, in front of everybody – but he was fine with me, even if I changed things. And I think that was because I had been under the baton of Jack Ford [from 'Young Cassidy'], which meant that I knew what I was doing.

For more about the Wayne/Taylor friendship and near-misses in their movie-making, visit the John Wayne page.



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IMDb // Wikipedia

Turner Classic Movies

Rod and the Duke
About their friendship, poker and movie-making

Ann-Margret show: Rod's appearance in film clip

Pressbook items (PDF)

The last of the Hollywood hell-raisers: Coronet magazine, September 1972 (PDF)

Roger Ebert review



DVD on

Trailer on YouTube

Film clips on YouTube:
Introducing Mrs. Lowe

Film clips on YouTube



Wayne Train (1973)

Rod Taylor appeared in this promotional film for "The Train Robbers," which is included on the DVD edition of the movie. It also features director Burt Kennedy as well as John Wayne, Ann-Margret and Ben Johnson. 

The segment features behind-the-scenes and on-screen footage.