Great one Paula. Old Son looks really good! KP
I was a big fan of George Plimpton, the writer, so I couldn't wait for Rio Lobo to come out with him and his small part. I always enjoy the movie but never considered it on a par with El Dorado or Rio Bravo. El Dorado is still just a bit ahead of Rio Bravo to me, but probably only because I knew Tony the specialist doctor, LOL! I love hearing Dino and Ricky and Walter sing together. So....pretty much a toss up for me. I watch the two fairly often. KEITH
Well Irish, Knowing your Youth and the fact that you are relatively "New" to all of this stuff, every once in a while you really surprise me! Keep it up Kiddo.............before you know it, you will be surpassing all of us old "fogies". I love it that your comments are not "stuck" on the main theme. Keep "looking around"and as The Major would say to Flint, "Keep yer eyes open, Son!"! HAGO, KEITH
AHA! You GOT IT. I am so glad. Hope you didn't wipe out Rich and your back account, LOL! And you are right.........one of the best with them. Not sure of the movies, though......I thought they were in more than 10,though. But then YOU are the expert. Good deal, Paula! KEITH
This publicity shot was on my "most wanted" list and it finally showed up at an auction site a few weeks ago, so I managed to snag it. lasbugas posted this one before but the one I got has a different text at the bottom, so I thought I'd post again. It's such a nice photo so it deserves a second post. The publicity blurb exaggerates the number of movies John Wayne and Ben made together -- my count is 10, and that includes four movies in which Ben worked as either a wrangler and/or stuntman, not an actor.
The Angel and the Badman
Tall in the Saddle
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
The Train Robbers
That's 10. Am I missing anything?
Love this one of Ben, Paula...the expression on his face...going into my "To be sketched" folder. KEITH
I've collected six more Train Robbers photos and I'll be posting them for the next week or so at my Ben Johnson webpage. There are still a few Train Robbers photos with Ben I haven't found yet for my collection, but fortunately Lasbugas has posted scans of his copies here so I can enjoy them in their scanned versions on this forum.
Here's the first.
what wooden performance??
Don't remember, Paula, it was long ago and probably just a line or two when he was "moving up" from stuntman to actually having bit parts. I very much enjoy him now. Was not meant to be anything other than what I had seen and read of his steadily improving acting ability. He worked great with Duke. Wish he had been in more of his movies! KPKEITH
These are old quotes dating back to 2007, but I found them to be quite good. One part Robbie relates Duke's decision not to stop for the night because he heard the crying of a baby. Robbie states that no one could get away with the line Duke had "Did you ever bury a baby? Well, neither did I, and I'm not about to start now. Ride on." Well, I agree, can't think of anyone in those days who could've delivered it. But in the old days, that was a typical Ward Bond line....he got away with lots of them like that and the patriotic ones. Also agree with peoples' assessment of Rod Taylor. He was a fine actor and was great with Duke and Ben. If he had been used more, I think he could have taken Ward's place and the special comraderie that was between Duke and Ward may have been preserved in a manner. Too bad he was not given credit due.....I always liked him when I was young....just never got to see enough of him.
Thanks for the pictures Paula...they are great. So glad I was "forced" into watching Ben after seeing him give that wooden performance so long ago. I have enjoyed him greatly ever since. I seem to like him more every time I see him..........he grows on you, yep, he does!
The Train Robbers is free of pretensions. It doesn't have to be more than it is. The film is focused on telling a straightforward story and depicting western characters in a certain way. Simplicity, not simplistic. Simplicity is not a bad thing, certainly not a flaw.
I don't often find myself agreeing with Roger Ebert even when I find him interesting, which I usually do. But this is a fair review. I agree that Burt Kennedy's writing is not his best, but his story is sufficient, and it operates on traditional values that seem like virtues today because they are scarce and, if I may say so, needed. The Train Robbers harkens back to the late 1950s when Kennedy wrote those genuinely rugged, stoic, lean and terse westerns for Boetticher and Scott. Those were impressive films because they were so straightforward, minimalist, and austere. Dramatically The Train Robbers wants to unfold like Comanche Station (1960), Ride Lonesome (1958) and The Tall T (1957). That is how it's written. But it is timed longer and paced slower. It's a 75-minute western stretched out to 93 minutes. Perhaps it's just in the editing. The film is about fifteen-to-twenty minutes longer than it needs to be. If it were shorter, it would seem fuller and play out with more suspense. You wouldn't notice the holes. But you couldn't release a film that short in the 1970s, not with a major star in it.
Technically, the craftsmanship on display is something you rarely see today. Visually, the film is real western, true western. I wallow in the hard light, the rich color, and the pristine scenery. There is dust, rain with thunder and lightning, mountains and rivers, and sunlight bouncing off surfaces and hat brims like some kind of blessing. Through these elements and nature ride men with honor. It's a photographer's western. Cameraman William Clothier was worth his weight in gold -- why don't people talk more about him? This is where his finest western photography resides for all time. The film is all about composition and movement, the pleasure of watching men and horses move across vast pictorial landscapes. It's eye candy, and I have thought so ever since I first saw it at the Hicksville Twin on Long Island on a freezing cold afternoon in early 1973. I was there for the first screening on opening day.
I enjoy The Train Robbers and I prefer it over The War Wagon, The Undefeated, Cahill, and Rooster Cogburn. I think Big Jake could have benefited from Burt Kennedy giving the script his once-over and narrowing the focus on what's important. And getting rid of those damn motorcyles.
This is one of John Waynes most forgotten movies, upon doing a search relating to this film I was surprised to realise how highly it is regarded by many who have watched it. Below is an interesting review by Roger Egbert which he did in 1973, his observation relating to the colour used in the movie is very interesting.
Burt Kennedy's "The Train Robbers" is a very curious Western, and it gets curiouser the more you think about it. I wonder if there's ever been a Western as visually uncluttered as this one. Most of the action takes place in the high desert around Durango, Mexico, and Kennedy goes for clean blue skies, sculpted white sand dunes and human figures arranged against the landscape in compositions so tasteful we're reminded of samurai dramas.
Aw, come on, you're probably thinking by now: What's all this crap about visual compositions? It's a John Wayne Western, isn't it? Is it any good, or not? Well, yes, it's fairly good, In a quiet and workmanlike sort of way, although there's a plot twist at the end that ruins things unnecessarily. But what's best about it, what makes it worth seeing, is Kennedy's visual approach to the subject of John Wayne. Wayne by now is an artifact, a national heirloom, one of the few immutable presences created by the movies. He is perhaps the only Western actor alive (maybe the only one ever) who can get away with scenes like this one: His group has been riding through the desert all day, pursued by a mysterious band of gunmen. They pull up at a small hacienda. Will they spend the night there? No, because Wayne hears a baby crying. There is likely to be shooting later on, and Wayne asks Ben Johnson: "Did you ever bury a baby? Well, neither did I, and I'm not about to start now. Ride on." They ride on into the night. Now this is honorable dialog; we agree with him; we're glad Wayne doesn't want to endanger the baby. And because it is John Wayne playing this scene, we never pause to realize that such a scene, and such dialog, would be ridiculously impossible in any other context. The audience would be howling if Steve McQueen or Paul Newman - or Robert Mitchum - tried the dialog.
Only Wayne can make plausible the morality in his Westerns. In the new Westerns, the ones by Sam Peckinpah, Sergio Leone and their imitators, the West is a place of anarchy, sadism and routine bloodshed. It almost has to be. Apart from Wayne, there are no actors left who can get away with being decent Western heroes. Am I making this up? Think for a moment.
So. The Wayne character in "The Train Robbers" agrees to help a widow (Ann-Margret) recover some gold her husband had stolen some years before. She wants to return the gold to the railroad it was stolen from, to clear her husband's name and allow her young son to grow up proud. This seems like a sensible plan to Wayne, and he raises a band of friends (Ben Johnson, Rod Taylor, and two younger guns) to help the widow. Their payment will be the $50,000 reward money - although at the movie's end, they forgo even this.
There is a lot of action in the movie - blazing gun battles and stuff like that - but the movie's core is in the campfire scenes, when the characters talk about each other and their beliefs. The Wayne character, not to our surprise, turns out to be heroic in war and noble in peacetime, a subscriber to old moral codes. And it is here that Burt Kennedy's visual strategy comes in.
His material (he also wrote the movie) is, in the context of a Western being released in 1973, a little old-fashioned. The moral drives of Western heroes were fashionable in the 1950s, especially in the movies where John Ford directed Wayne. But no longer. In 1973, any plot exposition at all in a Western seems to drag.
So Kennedy wisely decided to eliminate absolutely every trace of visual clutter, and to shoot his movie with almost abstract clarity. The "town" at the beginning of the movie, for example, consists of two stark structures, a railroad track and a mountain on the horizon. There is not even a railroad crossing sign. Once out of town, the characters inhabit a landscape of horizons and clean natural lines. Kennedy goes for silhouettes and, as I've mentioned, for the kind of carefully casual arrangements of figures we find in samurai films - the Japanese Western.
The result is a movie that isolates the John Wayne mystique and surrounds it with the necessary simplicity and directness. It's too bad that the scale of the plot is a little too small for the scale of the characters, and too bad that Kennedy got in an ironic mood at the end. But he understands John Wayne, all right.