Ward Bond

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Ward Bond
Operation Pacific-Ward Bond.JPG
Bond in Operation Pacific (1951)
Wardell Edwin Bond

(1903-04-09)April 9, 1903
DiedNovember 5, 1960(1960-11-05) (aged 57)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active1929–1960
Doris Sellers Childs
(m. 1936;div. 1944)

Mary Louise May
(m. 1954)

Wardell Edwin Bond (April 9, 1903 – November 5, 1960) [1] was an American film character actor who appeared in more than 200 films and starred in the NBC television series Wagon Train from 1957 to 1960. Among his best-remembered roles are Bert, the cop, in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Captain Clayton in John Ford's The Searchers (1956).


Early life

Bond was born in Benkelman in Dundy County, Nebraska. The Bond family, John W., Mabel L., and sister Bernice, lived in Benkelman until 1919 when they moved to Denver, Colorado, where Ward graduated from East High School. [2]

Bond attended the Colorado School of Mines [2] and then went to the University of Southern California and played football on the same team as future USC coach Jess Hill. [3] At 6' 2" and 195 pounds, Bond was a starting lineman on USC's first national championship team in 1928. He graduated from USC in 1931 with a bachelor of science degree in engineering. [2]

Bond and John Wayne, who as Marion Robert Morrison, had played tackle for USC in 1926 before an injury ended his career, [4] became lifelong friends and colleagues. Bond, Wayne, and the entire Southern Cal team were hired to appear in Salute (1929), a football film starring George O'Brien and directed by John Ford. During the filming of this movie, Bond and Wayne befriended Ford, and appeared in many of Ford's later films.

Film career

As Reverend Captain Clayton in The Searchers (1956) Ward Bond in The Searchers trailer.jpg
As Reverend Captain Clayton in The Searchers (1956)

Bond made his screen debut in Salute and thereafter was a busy character actor, playing over 200 supporting roles. He appeared in 31 films released in 1935 and 23 in 1939. Rarely playing the lead in theatrical films, he starred in the television series Wagon Train from 1957 until his death in 1960. He was frequently typecast in extremes, as either a friendly lawman or a brutal henchman. He had a long-time working relationship with directors John Ford and Frank Capra, performing in such films as The Searchers , Drums Along the Mohawk , The Quiet Man , They Were Expendable and Fort Apache for Ford, with whom he made 25 films, and It Happened One Night , It's a Wonderful Life , and Riding High for Capra. Among his other well-known films were Bringing Up Baby (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Sergeant York (1941), Gentleman Jim (1942), Joan of Arc (1948), Rio Bravo (1959), and Raoul Walsh's 1930 widescreen wagon train epic The Big Trail , which also featured John Wayne, in his first leading role.

Bond later starred in the popular series Wagon Train from 1957 until his death. Wagon Train was inspired by the 1950 film Wagon Master , in which Bond also appeared. Wagon Master was influenced by the earlier The Big Trail. For Wagon Train, Bond was assigned the lead role of the crusty but compassionate Major Seth Adams, the trail master. Bond specifically asked that Terry Wilson be given the role of assistant trail boss Bill Hawks and that Frank McGrath play the cook, Charlie B. Wooster. Wilson and McGrath stayed with the series for the entire run, from 1957 to 1965, first on NBC and then on ABC. After Bond's death, in 1960, the trail master role passed to John McIntire in 1961.

During the 1940s, Bond was a member of the conservative group called the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, whose major platform was opposition to communists in the film industry. [2] In 1960, Bond campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Richard M. Nixon. Bond died three days before Democrat John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Nixon.

With John Wayne in The Searchers (1956) The searchers Ford Trailer screenshot (9).jpg
With John Wayne in The Searchers (1956)

On the American Film Institute's “100 Years... 100 Movies” list—both the original and the tenth anniversary edition— Bond appears in the casts more often than any other actor, albeit always in a supporting role: 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).

Bond appeared in 13 films that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture: [5] Arrowsmith (1931/32), Lady for a Day (1933), It Happened One Night (1934) Dead End (1937), You Can't Take It with You (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Long Voyage Home (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Sergeant York (1941), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), The Quiet Man (1952), and Mister Roberts (1955).

Bond starred in 23 films with John Wayne:

Personal life

Bond married Doris Sellers Childs in 1936. They divorced in 1944. In 1954 he married Mary Louise Meyers. They were together until his death in 1960. [2] Bond had epilepsy which left him ineligible for military service during World War II.


Bond suffered a massive heart attack when he and his wife were at a hotel in Dallas. He was pronounced dead at a hospital on November 5, 1960 at the age of 57. His close friend John Wayne gave the eulogy at his funeral. Bond's will bequeathed to Wayne the shotgun with which Wayne had once accidentally shot Bond on a hunting trip. [6]

An urban myth states that country singer Johnny Horton died in an automobile accident while driving to see Bond at a hotel in Dallas to discuss a possible role in the fourth season of Wagon Train. Although Horton was indeed killed in a car crash at 1:30 am on November 5, 1960, and Bond died from a heart attack at noon that same day, the two events were unrelated. Horton was enroute from Austin to Shreveport, Louisiana, not Dallas. Bond was in Dallas to attend a football game between SMU and Texas A&M at the Cotton Bowl (the game ended in a scoreless tie). [7]


For his contribution to the television industry, Bond has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6933 Hollywood Boulevard. It was dedicated on February 8, 1960. [8] In 2001, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. [9] The Ward Bond Memorial Park is located in his birthplace, Benkelman, Nebraska.



Jean Rogers, John Wayne, and Bond in Conflict (1936) Conflict (1936) 1.jpg
Jean Rogers, John Wayne, and Bond in Conflict (1936)
Bond (r.) with Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon (1941) Maltese-Falcon-Tell-the-Truth-1941.jpg
Bond (r.) with Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon (1941)
John Wayne and Bond in Tall in the Saddle (1944) John Wayne and Ward Bond in Tall in the Saddle.png
John Wayne and Bond in Tall in the Saddle (1944)
Publicity image of Robert Horton and Bond for Wagon Train, c. 1957 Robert Horton Ward Bond Wagon Train.JPG
Publicity image of Robert Horton and Bond for Wagon Train, c. 1957



See also


  1. "Ward Bond's Boyhood Home". Nebraska State Historical Society. December 12, 2006. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Aaker, Everett (2017). Television Western Players, 1960–1975: A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland. pp. 41–43. ISBN   9781476628561 . Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  3. "1928 USC Football Roster". Fanbase.com. Archived from the original on September 10, 2011. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  4. "1926 USC Football Roster". Fanbase.com. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  5. "Actors and how many best picture nominees they've been in". The Sophomore Critic. February 18, 2007. Retrieved June 12, 2007.
  6. "Benkelman's Ward Bond". McCook Gazette. May 2, 2011. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  7. "The Legendary Tillman Franks". TillmanFranks.com. Virginia Franks. Archived from the original on September 6, 2011. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  8. "Ward Bond". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on September 29, 2017. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  9. "Great Western Performers". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  10. "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. May 4, 1952. p. 50. Retrieved May 8, 2015 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg

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