Why Did Ward Bond Leave Wagon Train? A Must-Read
Why did Ward Bond leave Wagon Train? If you are a fan of Wagon Train and don’t understand the reason behind Bond’s decision to leave the show, continue reading this article.
The Wagon Train lasted for eight seasons, having more guest appearances than any other Western series in that period. The regular characters were few, and only two stayed from the first season through to the last.
It wasn’t easy getting attached to the actors on the series because of the transitory nature of the show’s casting. However, some actors were so good and endearing that not getting attached to them would be regrettable.
Ward Bond was one of those actors. He played the lead role so well that it was almost impossible not to admire or love him. He was a viewer’s favorite, and they expected him to ride with them to the show’s end. Unfortunately, that wasn’t able to happen.
Why did Ward Bond leave Wagon Train?
The reason Ward Bond no longer appeared in Wagon train after the 4th season. Ward Bond died of a heart attack while the Wagon Train was still on its fourth season. The show was at it’s height of popularity so the network finished playing the 7 recorded episodes with Ward Bond and then intoduced John McIntire into the series. Bond was on the show for four years, between 1957 and 1961.
The network didn’t do what many networks would have done. Usually, the networks try to find a natural transition to write off the character or add a tribute to the deceased actor to the end of their final episode but Ward Bonds character was left without a farewell.
Do you want to know more about this show? Keep reading!
Who Is Ward Bond?
Ward Bond was a famous American actor who had featured in over 200 films before he died. Some of his most famous roles in movies include Captain Clayton in “The Searchers” and Bert, the cop, in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Bond made his debut on the big screen with the movie “Salute.” After his role in that movie, there was no stopping Bond. If the term “booked and busy” were a person, it would have been Bond. For example, in 1935 alone, he got featured in 31 films.
Bond was a good actor, but he wasn’t getting as many TV lead roles as someone with his skills should have been getting until the Wagon Train series. He was the “Wagon Master” in the show, which was a big deal.
Additionally, he had a good working relationship with both Frank Capra and John Ford, so he got featured in quite a number of their films. For Frank, it was “Drums Along the Mohawk,” “They Were Expendable,” “The Quiet Man,” and “The Searchers.” On the other hand, Bond was in twenty-five of Ford’s films which includes “Riding high for Capra,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “It Happened One Night.”
After getting the lead role on the Wagon Train, Bond asked the production team to give Terry Wilson and Frank McGrath roles in the series. They both stayed throughout the entirety of Wagon Train, becoming the only recurring characters from the beginning ’til the final season.
What Was The Wagon Train About?
The Wagon Train, filmed at 21 different locations in the United States, was a huge success. It was one of the most successful American Westerns to date. The inspiration for the series came from the 50s film the Wagon Master by John Ford. The first episode of the Wagon Train aired on NBC in 1957, and in 1962, they moved to ABC.
The show was unique because every episode involved a new story with a guest character traveling with or meeting the wagon train. The series was mainly about the journey and adventures of the few recurring and main characters, traveling through the plains of Missouri to the Mountains of Sacramento, California.
Several stars graced the Wagon Train set. Some of the notable actors include Joseph Cotten, Ronald Reagan, and Ernest Borgnine.
What Role Did Ward Bond Play In The Wagon Train?
Ward Bond played the role of Major Seth Adam, the trainmaster. He was in charge of everyone traveling on the Wagon Train, alongside Scout Flint McCullough.
The Regular Cast of The Wagon Train
Aside from Ward Bond, there were other regular cast members, although they were few in number. Here are the other regular cast members:
John McIntire replaced Ward Bond after he died. He first came into the show as Christopher Hale, reappearing in the third season as Andrew Hale.
He fit into the role, and although viewers expected an explanation from the network regarding the changes made, they eventually got used to McIntire on their screens.
Robert Horton, who played scout Flint McCullough, was on the Wagon Train for five seasons before leaving the series to pursue his production (which didn’t face a huge success). As a result, Robert Fuller replaced his character.
The network felt Robert Fuller was the perfect person to replace Robert Horton because of their resemblance. The two actors looked alike despite their age difference.
Fuller played scout Cooper Smith, a character the network developed to replace scout Flint McCullough, Horton’s character. Fuller stayed in the Wagon Train for two seasons, topping billings almost every week.
McGrath came on the show upon Bond’s request. They had worked on a previous Western together, and Bond formed a natural bond with him. McGrath played the role of Charlie Wooster, the train’s cook. He was one of two people who stayed in the show from its first season to the last.
Wilson, who played Bill Hawks, was the second member who stayed on the show from seasons one to eight. He was on the show as Bond requested.
Burns was Barnaby West on the Wagon Train. He was on the show for two seasons, seasons six to eight.
Miller played Duke Shannon for two seasons before the character got removed.
What You Should Know About Ward Bond and The Wagon Train
Ward Bond has many features in the American Film Institute’s 100 greatest: It isn’t shocking to hear that many people considered Bond a legend, given the fact that he has set some records that have remained unmatched to date. His filmography is admirable. He also has more films in the American Institute’s greatest 100 list than most actors considered alive or dead.
He was in seven of the 100 Greatest Films in America. The seven movies are as follows:
- Bringing up Baby
- The Maltese Falcon
- It’s a wonderful life.
- It Happened One Night
- Gone With The Wind
- The Searchers
- The Grapes of Wrath.
Bond used crutches in the Wagon Train after a leg injury:
Viewers thought it was prop when Bond stood with military men on crutches during the closing of “The Clara Beauchamp Story.” The truth is, it wasn’t.
The actor had sustained a leg injury in a car accident. He even had to fulfill his best man’s duties on John Wayne’s wedding, on crutches.
Bond approved Scripts for the Wagon Train:
Every script had to go through the NBC and Censor for approval. Bond vetted the writings too, and he brought some of his conservative ideas to the show. He steered the show away from violence to a more family-centered theme.
Gene Roddenberry’s idea for star trek came from the Wagon Train:
The show inspired Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry’s first pitch for Star Trek, his hit science-fiction television series, was “Wagon Train to the Stars.”
The two shows had a lot in common. They both show the unending journeys of the main characters and the different people they meet as they go.
Leonard Nimoy was in both shows.
The show had more than one theme song:
The show had three theme songs.
The most popular among the three was “Wagons Ho.” It is the most popular because the network has used it for the longest time.
The first theme song was a lyricless song titled “Wagon Train,” by Henri Rene and Bob Russell. The studio wanted a theme song that wasn’t so “traditional,” so they opted for a new theme song.
The second theme song was by Jack Brooks and Sammy Fain. The song, entitled “Roll Along-Wagon Train,” got airplay in the show’s second season. Johnny O’Neill performed it, but the network still wasn’t satisfied with the song, and they wanted something different.
Their dissatisfaction led them to “Wagons Ho” by Jerome Moross. The song went on to become the last and longest-used theme song on the show. The studio started using the music at the start of the third season. Jerome’s inspiration for the song was from the Jayhawkers songs he wrote for the film. The network found this new theme song satisfactory. That is, it was giving what they wanted it to “give,” so it stayed.
John Ford directed an episode of Wagon Train:
Wagon Train was such a massive success that the director of the Wagon Master, John Ford, directed one of its episodes. He ran “the Colter Craven Story” in season four.
Ward Bond was a huge deal in the film industry and the Wagon Train. It was sad to see Ward Bond leave the Wagon Train show, mainly because of death. He made a name for himself, and people continue to remember him for his great work as a character actor.
This post is an overview of Ward Bond— and the circumstances of his death and sudden departure from the Wagon Train series.
Now we know the answer to the question Why Did Ward Bond Leave Wagon Train? If you are looking for other great western books, check out these authors.