Stock Show fans this year can visit the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall and shake the hand of an actor from a film nominated for Best Picture in this year’s Academy Awards.
“It’s just a cameo role,” actor and artist Buck Taylor says modestly of his part in Hell or High Water, a neo-Western set in Texas that received four Oscar nominations. The film stars Jeff Bridges, and was written by Paschal High School graduate Taylor Sheridan, an actor (Sons of Anarchy) and writer (Sicario) who received an Oscar nod for his Hell or High Water script.
“It’s kind of a pro-gun movie. So I’m not sure it is going to win anything,” says Taylor, 78, who is best known for being a regular on the seminal television Western Gunsmoke, playing the character Newly O’Brien. “But it’s a crowd-pleaser. And it is so well-written that you have to see it more than once, because you’re likely to miss some of the clever dialogue the first time through.”
At the Stock Show, Taylor’s work as an artist is on display. His booth at the main Stock Show vendors hall offers several of his watercolors, including many depicting scenes and fellow cast members from Gunsmoke and Tombstone. His other works include the current edition of a special poster Taylor has created for the Stock Show every year since 1996, in addition to other major rodeo and livestock event posters, including the National Finals Rodeo.
His booth is consistently busy with a mix of art lovers and fans of Taylor’s film and television work, especially those who fondly remember Gunsmoke. Taylor is gracious with his visitors, signing their purchases and sharing stories about his days on the set with Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty.
“I feel like I grew up with him,” says James Madewell of Haltom City, who dropped by Taylor’s booth with a copy of the Hell or High Water DVD for Taylor to sign. “He is so personable. He always talks to you like he’s known you your whole life.”
Taylor’s part in Hell or High Water is not a large one. His character does not even have a name and he shows up in the credits as “Old Man.”
“I get caught in a bank holdup in Olney, Texas,” says Taylor, who now makes his home near Abilene. His character exchanges some dialogue with a teller and the bandits, and survives the robbery. But then Taylor does something in the scene that he seldom did on Gunsmoke: he shoots at the fleeing bad guys and misses.
Being part of a Best Picture nominee has a special meaning for Taylor, because he is the son of legendary Western character actor Dub Taylor.
“I’ve never been in [a Best Picture nominee], but my dad was. He was in You Can’t Take It With You,” says Taylor proudly. The classic comedy was his father’s first film and the Best Picture winner at the 1939 Oscars. “So I guess I’m following my dad’s legacy.”
Taylor’s acting career was most active in the 1960s and 1970s, when he did 174 episodes of Gunsmoke, and appeared as a guest star on some of the most popular shows of that era, ranging from The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet to Bonanza.
But the Hollywood native also has a lot of film work on his résumé, including the 1993 classic Tombstone, and more recently Cowboys & Aliens, the 2011 sci-fi film produced by Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg. His recent television work includes several episodes of the Sundance TV series Rectify.