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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) Poster

Trivia

David Shire's score was chosen as one of the top 10 film scores of all time by NPR film music expert Andy Trudeau.
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Since the film's release, no #6 train has ever been scheduled to leave Pelham Bay Park Station at either 13:23 or 01:23 by the New York City Transit Authority. This was the practice for many years until the policy was discontinued. Trains are still not scheduled to leave the Pelham Bay Park Station at either 1.23 am or pm.
In a TVO (Ontario, Canada) interview, the producer said that this film did terrific box office in New York, Toronto, London and Paris--all cities with subways--but was considered a flop in the rest of the world.
One of Robert Shaw's favorite pastimes during breaks in filming was playing ping-pong on tables set up on the station's concourse. He reportedly badly beat all challengers.
The Transit Authority (TA) of New York at first refused to allow the film to be shot on the actual New York subway. They feared it might actually give someone the idea to commit such a crime (it didn't, but their position was shown to be reasonable when a later film, Money Train (1995), apparently did). Associate producer Stephen F. Kesten was equally adamant that no other city's subway could be credibly used. The TA finally did cooperate after Mayor John V. Lindsay intervened, but it required United Artists to buy anti-hijacking insurance at a cost of $75,000, in addition to paying $275,000 for the use of the subway. The film's closing credits have a disclaimer that states that the New York Transit Authority neither gave advice nor information for any use in the movie. It reads: "Although many of the scenes in this film were taken on transit property, the New York City Transit Authority is not responsible for the plot, story and characters portrayed. The Authority did not render technical advice and assistance".
Filming of the subway scenes began in late November 1973 and lasted through January 1974. Though the scenes were filmed on a track that had been out of use since the 1940s, they were close enough to the still functioning A and E lines that takes had to be done in between those trains coming through (to and from Hoyt-Schermerhorn station) because of their noise and lights.
The Pelham 1-2-3 subway train was an R21 Series subway car built by the St. Louis Car Co. in 1956.
The aliases of the four train hijackers were Mr. Blue, Mr. Green, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Brown. The color of the hats worn by each of the four villains, Grey, Green, Blue, Brown corresponded to their code names. They each boarded the train at different subway station stops, these were Mr Green at 59th Street Station, Mr Grey at 51st Street Station, Mr Brown at Grand Central Station, and lastly Mr Blue at 28th Street Station.
When frustrated by the situation on the subway train, the Mayor blurts out, "Shit, piss, fuck!" These are, in order, the first three of the seven words you can't say on television for which George Carlin is famous.
Filmed mostly in the tunnels leading to the decommissioned IND Court St. station in Brooklyn. The station itself served as Grand Central and 28th St., and it is currently the home of the New York City Transit Museum.
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Lee Wallace, who plays the mayor of New York in this film, bears a striking resemblance to the real mayor Ed Koch. Many reviewers thought he was playing Koch, but Koch would not be the mayor for another four years.
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The actor who played the role of Subway Guard was named Jim Pelham.
The reason for the large gap between the subway cars and the platform is that a large portion of the underground scenes was filmed on the unused Court St. stub of the IND subway, which uses wider cars than the IRT cars used in the film.
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One of three tough guy action movies that Walter Matthau made in the early to mid 1970s, prior to his bypass surgery in 1976, which prevented him from taking on such roles. The other two were Charley Varrick (1973) and The Laughing Policeman (1973).
Steven Spielberg was considered as director.
Composer David Shire was asked to extend the end credits piece of score to allow for extra time/credits added in. His then wife, Talia Shire, suggested that he write in an adaption of the theme that reflected a more romantic view of New York city, to contrast the gritty sounds used for the film's main score. David Shire adopted this approach in the extended passage.
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The meaning of "Pelham One Two Three" refers to the New York subway timetable terminus and time of departure schedule radio call sign. As explained in the movie, "Pelham" is the name of the station of origin where the subway train departs, and "One Two Three" refers to the time of departure--1:23 pm.
This film was based on the best-selling novel of the same name by John Godey, published in 1973.
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All the crew wore surgical masks to protect themselves from dirt and debris during the shooting of all the scenes down in the subway tunnels.
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Appearing in a small role was Lucy Saroyan, the daughter of writer William Saroyan and step-daughter of star Walter Matthau. Also appearing in a small role was Matthau's niece, Michelle Matthow.
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When the Mayor is in his bedroom a TV can be heard in the background. He is watching The Newlywed Game (1966). The host's voice you hear is that of Dennis James. James never hosted that show; Bob Eubanks was the actual host of the show in 1974. James is famous for hosting many game shows, including Name That Tune (1953), Your First Impression (1962), The Price Is Right (1972) and he was also Ted Mack's announcer on Ted Mack & the Original Amateur Hour (1948).
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Walter Matthau had not been on the New York subway in many years, even though he was born and raised in New York.
In the subway car can be seen a poster of Iron Eyes Cody, who portrayed the famous "Crying Indian" in the public service announcements from the 1970s.
In the novel, Grier gets the idea for the hijacking after reading in the newspaper about two men who stuck up a change booth at a subway station in the Bronx.
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We see some of the hostages in the aftermath in the novel. An in-joke in the novel is that someone wants to write up what happened as a novel.
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The motorman of Pelham 123, "Denny Doyle", is played by James Broderick, father of Matthew Broderick.
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The movie inspired two songs, Deadly Avenger's "We Took Pelham" and Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machines "The Taking of Peckham One Two Three". Moreover, the Beastie Boys' song "Sure Shot" features a lyric inspired by this film that says: "Well, it's the taking of Pelham, one, two, three / If you want a doodie rhyme then come see me".
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The film's first remake, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1998) kept the same wording of the title not numerating the "one two three" unlike the second remake, The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) which did. Billy Wilder, who frequently collaborated with this film's lead actor Walter Matthau, also made a film with this number combination, One, Two, Three (1961), the title's numbers also not numerated.
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Walter Matthau wears a multi-colored shirt and a yellow tie in this movie. In the film's second remake, The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009), Denzel Washington wears a similar color-schemed wardrobe.
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An element of racism was part of the novel because of the time if was written, but not the 2009 remake where Garber was recast with a Black actor.
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The only time that Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw appeared together, Matthau had beaten Shaw for the Best Supporting Oscar in 1966 for his role as Whiplash Willie in The Fortune Cookie (1966) over Shaw's vigorous portrayal of Henry VIII in A Man for All Seasons (1966). In addition, Matthau appears with Martin Balsam, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor the year before Matthau did, for A Thousand Clowns (1965).
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Peter Stone came up with the idea for Mr. Green's constant sneezing.
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In the novel, some of the cops think about pocketing some of the money for themselves.
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Walter Matthau convinced Hector Elizondo to stop smoking during the shooting of this film.
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In the novel, one of the hostages asks the hijackers to let him off at their stop while making an escape. There is also a disobedient boy wanting to be let off that has to be chastised by his mother.
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The ransom demand is for $1,000,000, like in the novel, but in the 2009 remake, the ransom has been upgraded to $10,000,000, because a million was considered a corny asking price.
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In the novel, Grier is a methodical criminal mastermind, like Robert Shaw, but in the 2009 remake, John Travolta plays it differently and his name is Ryder like in the novel.
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In the novel, the Mayor (Sam) considers letting the hijackers keep the train because New York doesn't have a million dollars, which was a lot of money in 1973, when the book was written.
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In the novel, Grier's men come from criminal backgrounds that were recommended to him.
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Walter Matthau wore a curly hair wig as a joke for his audition as Garber.
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The patrol car that carries the money is a 1972 Plymouth Fury III.
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Inspector Daniels' unmarked command car is a 1973 Ford Galaxie 500.
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The equivalent of Garber in the novel is a man called Prescott, an operations lieutenant and a minor character who views the escape from transit police headquarters.
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In the novel, Grier gets off the train to plant two grenades on the track to release the levers on the track.
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In the novel, Grier shoots one of the robbers and another winds up paralyzed.
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Grier's men wear disguises in the novel, and they do in the film but not the 2009 remake.
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The guns the hijackers' had were 9mm that could fire 750 rounds per minute.
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In the novel, the NYPD assumes Grier and his men are small-timers for wanting a $1-million ransom instead of a $10-million ransom, which is what they want in the 2009 remake.
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There were 17 hostages on the train.
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Grier is calmer in the novel and in the film, but in the 2009 remake, he's a lot angrier and his name is Ryder like in the novel.
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Three cast members were later on Tim Allen sitcoms. Two were on Home Improvement (1991) (Earl Hindman as Tim Taylor's neighbor Wilson and Dick O'Neill as Tim's old metal shop teacher, Mr. Leonard) and the third was on Last Man Standing (2011) (Hector Elizondo as Mike Baxter's boss, Ed Alzate).
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It has been noted that Walter Matthau had won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor of 1966 for The Fortune Cookie (1966) over Robert Shaw for A Man for All Seasons (1966). But in addition, Matthau shares scenes in the movie with the actor who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor the year before he did - Martin Balsam (A Thousand Clowns (1965)).
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Robert Shaw is shown holding a 1911 pistol in a widely circulated poster for this film. But the pistol his character uses in the film's climactic shootout is a Browning Hi-Power.
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At least five people connected with this film are (or were) related to a notable person. Walter Matthau was the stepfather of Lucy Saroyan. Jerry Stiller is the father of actor Ben Stiller. Carol Cole was the sister of singer Natalie Cole. James Broderick was the father of Matthew Broderick. Composer David Shire was the husband of actress Talia Shire.
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After filming was completed, Robert Shaw and Hector Elizondo appeared together in a Broadway revival of August Strindberg's "Dance of Death" from April 4th to May 5th of 1974.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

When the hijackers get the money they asked for, the one played by Martin Balsam says "I'm gonna die today!". Ironically, he's the only one of the hijackers who does not get killed during the film.
Body count 5.
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Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992), made 18 years later, also gives the gang members colors as names in order to keep their identities secret.
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In the novel, motorman Denny Doyle is one of the hostages and the one who gets gunned down by the hijackers later when they decide to execute one of them while the conductor, Bud Carmody, is released at the outset to lead the passengers in the other cars back to 28th Street Station. The film reverses this with Doyle being ordered to lead the other passengers back while Carmody is kept hostage and is the one executed. This was done so that way, with the motorman released at the beginning before the train moves further along, Lieutenant Garber could correctly deduce that one of the hijackers had been a motorman previously.
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In the novel, an off-duty cop is one of the hostages and takes matters into his own hands at the climax. He shoots Ryder in the tunnel (named Grier in the film) but dies by electrocution in the film. Ryder is killed by Garber outside in the 2009 remake.
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The ending is different in the novel to this and the 2009 remake; in this film, the last remaining robber says something incriminating to Walter Matthau, and in the remake, Garber kills Ryder and the cops kill the last two robbers.
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