13 fascinating facts about Ward Bond and 'Wagon Train'

Saddle up and ride with one of Hollywood's toughest actors.

Ward Bond was as tough as they come. No wonder the Nebraska native would become best buddies with John Wayne. The two were true cowboys.

After a unfathomably successful film career, Bond settled into television on the popular Western series Wagon Train. He was no stranger to wagons, horses and dust. Sadly, the star died midway through the fourth season of the show. 

1. Bond played with John Wayne on the USC football team.


That young stud is Marion Morrison, soon to be known to the world as John Wayne. Before snapping his clavicle while body-surfing, Wayne played on the USC Trojans' offensive line alongside Ward Bond in 1926. Bond went on to play on the storied school's first national championship team, the 1928 squad.

Image: usctrojans

2. Bond appears in more films on the American Film Institute's 100 Greatest American Movies than any other actor.


Bond has perhaps the most enviable filmography of any actor, past or present. Just look at his credits. He acted in seven of the 100 Greatest American Films according to the AFI — It Happened One Night (1934), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941), It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and The Searchers (1956).

3. Bond appeared on 'Wagon Train' in crutches after injuring his leg.


At the end of "The Clara Beauchamp Story," Bond stands in a row of military men on a pair of crutches. It was no prop. The actor had suffered an injury in a car accident. The poor (but certainly tough) guy was also hit by a car on his way to John Wayne's wedding, but he performed his best man duties on crutches.

4. John Wayne accidentally shot Ward Bond on a hunting trip.


Even a gun wound could not break up the best friends. Ward left the shotgun to Wayne in his will.

5. Bond died of a heart attack on the fourth season of 'Wagon Train.'


Bond shockingly passed on November 5, 1960. John McIntire was brought in to replace the actor, acting as a new wagon master. No explanation was given for Major Adams' disappearance.

6. The conservative Bond approved scripts for 'Wagon Train.'


In the book Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond, Wagon Train associate producer Frederick Shore recalls, "We had to submit every script in advance to get approved by both NBC and the censors… including Ward Bond, who was very right-wing, and I'm sure part of the approval process." Bond toned down the violence and steered the show in a family-friendly direction.

Image: AP Photo/David F. Smith 

7. John Ford directed one episode of 'Wagon Train.'


Ward Bond worked with legendary director John Ford in a staggering 26 feature films. The Wagon Train series itself was based on their 1950 project Wagon Master. A decade later, Ford would helm the season four episode "The Colter Craven Story," one of his few television credits. Ford reportedly used footage from the earlier movie as stock shots in the episode.

Image: AP Photo

8. Bond appeared in an episode of 'General Electric Theater' alongside a future President and First Lady.


In "A Turkey for the President" a young boy on a California turkey farm is chosen to deliver a prize bird to the President for Thanksgiving. Nancy Reagan, née Davis, plays his mother, while her soon-to-be husband, Ronald, hosts as always. Bond, oddly, plays a character named Grey Eagle.

9. Ronald Reagan made one of his last acting appearances on 'Wagon Train.'


The Gipper was winding down his acting career by the time he appeared in 1963's "The Fort Pierce Story," episode two of season seven. Two years later, he announced his campaign for governor of California.

10. Leonard Nimoy portrayed Mexicans, a Native American and a Spanish man on 'Wagon Train.'


Before becoming Spock, the versatile actor could be seen as Bernabe Zamora, Cherokee Ned, Joaquin Delgado and Emeterio Vasquez in four episodes between 1959 and 1962. 

11. Gene Roddenberry pitched 'Star Trek' as "Wagon Train to the stars."


Speaking of Star Trek, it should be mentioned that creator Gene Roddenberry sold and explained his landmark sci-fi series as "Wagon Train to the stars," helping studio execs wrap their heads around the wandering, episodic concept.

12. There's a reason the Western series is mentioned in the classic film 'Stand By Me.'


Another member of the Star Trek universe, Wil Wheaton gave an unforgettable performance as Gordie in Stand by Me. At one point, he asks his friends, "Wagon Train's a really cool show, but did you notice they never get anywhere? They just keep wagon training." Wheaton supposedly asked Rob Reiner if the show could be worked into the script, as his grandfather was property master on Wagon Train.

13. 'Wagon Train' had three theme songs.


The instrumental first season theme "Wagon Train" was written by Henri René and Bob Russell. The following season, a fresh tune was introduced, "(Roll Along) Wagon Train," written by Sammy Fain and Jack Brooks and sung by Johnny O'Neill. Halfway through the season, the vocals were scrapped. The following year, yet another theme, "Wagons Ho!," would be introduced. That one stuck around until the end. We are fans of the vocal version. How about you?

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Melsh 34 months ago
In mid-July of 1944, Bond was a pedestrian leaving the Hollywood movie premiere of "Since You Went Away" when he was struck by an auto, suffering a severe compound fracture of the lower left leg. Bond refused amputation, which doctors felt would be necessary, but eventually recovered. The driver of the car was fined $25 and cleared of failure to yield right of way to a pedestrian. Although many stories say he was on crutches as John Wayne's best man at his January 1946 wedding to Esperanza Baur, at
least one biography of Wayne states that Bond was simply using a cane, as a result of the 1944 accident. All of this information comes from newspaper articles of the day. Man, would I love to be actually PAID to be a truth finder at ME-TV. It is obvious they have no one in that position now. Or maybe they aren't paid, and you get what you pay for.
Melsh 34 months ago
Ward Bond was on crutches in at least one episode of Season 1 of Wagon Train because he had suffered a hip fracture when two horses had recently collided on set. This injury was not due to a car accident.
Kdelucca1 51 months ago
I loved this about Ward Bond. After watching him all these years he’s almost like a old 2x removed family member that you know everything about, but never met. So funny about Roddenberry comparing Wagon Train to his Star Trek Series! Surprised they went for it, since Wagon Train had a final destination and did not pave the way to the West; a trip the Train made several times. (Only we just see them going West..) Star Trek was just about exploring brave new worlds and going where no man has gone before. Totally different, Gene! So glad you convinced them and that we still have them today. Thank you Gene and MeTV!
Defer 52 months ago
To the person who threw the liberal insult, when is having an opinion against your own a liberal insult? U r an idiot. Open your little commie, dictator , filthy, trump loving mind and embrace all opinions. I even have a modicum of respect for yours! Grew up in ultra conservative family, married into ultra liberal family. Love them both.
Ward Bond, ultra conservative, so what? He was a fantastic actor. I enjoy seeing his work. I had no idea he acted in so many great movies! It's fun to see him and pick him out! Sad he passed at a relatively young age.
If u don't like him because of things he did that u don't like, don't watch him.
Tagman Defer 51 months ago
U have the right to say that EXCEPT for the Trump coment.. Now u are going on that person's level
Thenamenoonehas Defer 28 months ago
The Leftists amaze me, sort of: They terrorized American blacks for hundreds of years, hate God, hate the Jews, butcher unborn children, are spendthrifts with America's money, believe in domestic terrorism in the burning and looting of businesses, murdering the police, defunding and removing the police, child rape------and they are abhorred to see or hear of a Conservative, who thinks rightly of such things. Reminds me of demons in the midst of Christ.
Riff60 Thenamenoonehas 21 months ago
I see why 45 loves the poorly educated. From the Civil War era until the Civil Rights era Republicans were liberals and the Democrats conservatives. They switched in the 60’s. It was the conservatives that were lynching blacks and Jews and burning and looting businesses. Unless you want to believe the leftists you’re accusing of those acts are the same ones that have sanctuary cities, are tree huggers, allegedly support open borders, support LGBQT, elected a Black President TWICE and a black VP. 45 is the one that hung out with Epstein and wants to date his own daughter. The right has a person in congress being investigated for trafficking a minor across state lines. Yes I can see why 45 loves the poorly educated…easier to manipulate
KarenHicks 55 months ago
Gone way too soon! Love. Ward Bond! Does anyone know if he had two different colored eyes?? Today is the first I've noticed that maybe he did!
rraypo 57 months ago
Omg your an idiot...you must be a narrown minded Liberal.
Narrow(n) minded liberal is an oxymoron.
fuqtrump rraypo 34 months ago
The word YOU'RE grasping for is YOU'RE. Funny how all Trumpsucks are illiterate racists.
Thenamenoonehas fuqtrump 28 months ago
You can't hide the truth about democrats, democrat.

You terrorized American blacks for hundreds of years: slavery, imprisonment, wanting to destroy the United States rather than be equal to them, lynching, starting and running the KKK, segregation, the longest filibuster in American history to prevent equal rights for the blacks, bribery of welfare for votes, and the lie that that bribery switched places with the Republicans who successfully saved the black man from you every time. You also hate the Jews.
LynCarceo Thenamenoonehas 26 months ago
Isn't this article and the comments supposed to be about the career of an actor, and not about calling people names and slamming them with labels? Or am I mistaken?
You are missing the central point: Those evil deeds were performed by CONSERVATIVE racists. Many were once Democrats, now they are the core of the Republican Party.
Riff60 rraypo 21 months ago
Hey we weren’t stupid enough to vote for a reality game show host. Narrow minded liberal? So you support Gay marriage? A woman’s right to choose? Interracial marriage? Voting drop boxes? Mail in votes? Yeah I didn’t think so Mr Open Minded Conservative, talk about oxymoron, emphasis on the moron lmao
IzzyWeitzman 58 months ago
Ward Bond: Oaf, Loudmouth, Anti-Semite

Ward Bond: Friend of McCarthy, Traitor to Orson Welles
Tagman IzzyWeitzman 51 months ago
Lol McCarthy was correct. U have People now in Hollywood that support Bernie Sanders... lol Who is a COMMUNIST
fuqtrump Tagman 34 months ago
Go to school, Trumpsuck.
Xsquid fuqtrump 26 months ago
You first bidengrope pedocrat.
Riff60 Xsquid 21 months ago
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?