Rod Taylor plays Grady, one of the buddies that John Wayne calls upon
to help recover some hidden gold.
Writer/director Burt Kennedy specializes 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). The young guns were played by Bobby
Vinton and Christopher George.
Once they cross the border, however, they discover two very different
pursuers: a large group of bandidos 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's best scenes are a couple he shares with Ben Johnson, as the two
old friends bond with their memories and at their chagrin at growing older.
The New York Times noted these performances:
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.
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.
ROD AND DUKE
The friendship between Rod Taylor and John Wayne started about a
decade before "The Train Robbers."
I was invited to dinner at Duke Wayne's
when he lived in the Valley. And he was going to make a movie
with Dean Martin, who also became a good friend. And I went over
and it was a lovely kind of 'in group' of guys who liked each
other, and I was allowed into the group and suddenly felt very
much at home.
Dukeís wife, Pilar, recalls a scene at their home in Encino in
about 1963 (in "John Wayne: My life with the Duke," by Pilar Wayne
with Alex Thorleifson):
Duke called one afternoon to announce that
Taylor would be our guest for dinner that night. The meal was a
convivial affair with lots of storytelling. Ö I retired at a
reasonable hour, leaving the two men to their drinks and
conversation. To my surprise they were still at it when I got up
the next morning. Our familyís activities swirled around them
all day as they continued drinking and talking.
Taylor stayed for supper that night, and
once again I retired early. The next morning Duke and Taylor
were still at it, drinking and talking, and, again, they kept it
up all day. I didnít even need to ask if Taylor would stay for
dinner that night Ė we just set and extra plate. The marathon
conversation ended that night while I slept. When I woke up in
the morning Duke was in bed beside me in an exhausted sleep.
Those three days were typical of Duke. When
he met someone he liked, he just had to know everything about
them Ė immediately.
As Rod is apt to say about friends, colleagues and leading
ladies, "We fell in love like a couple of drunken sailors." (And he
did say that about Wayne, in a 1998 interview for "60 Minutes" in
"I didnít feel that I would fit with him comfortably, but we
immediately liked each other," Rod told biographer Scott Eyman in an interview
for "John Wayne: The Life and Legend."
Rod may have felt hesitation because of Wayneís stature compared
with his own at the time. Or it may have been Wayne's notorious political
stances. But as he told Scott Eyman, Taylor found that you didnít
have to be conservative to be well regarded by Duke:
I would call him and Old Nazi, and he didnít care.
He didnít change his mind about anything, but he didnít care because
he didnít have rules or regulations about who was entitled to be his
One thing perplexed him, though. "He loved Nixon," Rod said.
"Jesus, how do you do that? Reagan I can understand, but Nixon?"
Politics may not have come between the two men, but poker surely
Christopher George, Rod
Taylor and John Wayne
playing cards on the set of "The Train Robbers."
A LOSING HAND
"Dukeís great joy in life was to beat the shit out of me in
poker," Rod told author Scott Eyman. "I never truly won."
That joy was on display during a 1975 Australian edition of "This
is Your Life" devoted to Rod Taylor. Host Mike Willesee introduced
family and old friends to pay tribute to Rod, including a taped message
from John Wayne. Duke gave a heartfelt message, praising Rod as a
good actor and a fine human being. But in closing, he called out,
"When it comes to playing poker -- Rod, don't stay away too
Murray Neidorf, Rodís business manager, also acknowledged that
Rod is creative and good at a lot of things Ė but playing cards is
not one of them.
"Wayne hustled him in cards," Neidorf said in an interview for
"Pulling No Punches." He recalled a time when Rod told him, "You gotta
write a check to John Wayne for $2,000." Neidorf was livid,
but sent the check. "The beautiful thing about Wayne," Neidorf said,
"he never cashed the check."
That was the good news about Rodís losing. Rod paid his debts,
but Wayne seemed only in it for the bragging rights.
"One of the last times I was at his house [on Balboa Island in
Newport, California], I was looking at this monstrous wall of
trophies and honorary diplomas,Ē Rod told Scott Eyman. "It was an
enormous display, and on the bottom was a line of my uncashed
checks, nicely framed, from all of our poker games."
While telling the story in "Pulling no Punches," Rod said Wayne
would point, with emphasis, "That's from Taylor. ... He loved it!"
Plenty of poker was played behind the scenes on the set of "The
Train Robbers," with cards and cash (liar's poker). A
September 1972 issue of Coronet magazine described the scene in
Duke Wayne had joined the party and everybody was
playing liarís poker. Taylor glanced at the assembly [Bobbie Vinton,
Jerry Gatlin, John Wayne]. "There are some of Hollywoodís greatest
liars sitting here right now," he laughed.
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