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
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 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
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