Ward Bond

Wardell Edwin Bond (April 9, 1903 November 5, 1960)[1] was an American film character actor who appeared in more than 200 films and 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).

Ward Bond
Wardell Edwin Bond

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

Mary Louise May
(m. 1954)


Early life

Bond was born in Benkelman in Dundy County, Nebraska. Benkelman is a small town located in the southwestern corner of the state near the Kansas and Colorado state lines. 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 Michael 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.


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 as a friendly policeman or as a brutal thug. 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), in which he was atypically cast as Captain La Hire, Rio Bravo (1959), and Raoul Walsh's 1930 widescreen wagon train epic The Big Trail, which also featured John Wayne's 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 requested Terry Wilson for the role of assistant trail master Bill Hawks and Frank McGrath as the cook Charlie B. Wooster. Wilson and McGrath stayed with the series for the entire run on NBC and then ABC from 1957 to 1965. Upon Bond's death in 1960, the trail master role passed in 1961 to John McIntire.

An epileptic, he was rejected by the draft during World War II.

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 the Republican presidential nominee Richard M. Nixon. Bond died three days before Democrat John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Nixon.

Bond appears in more of the films on both the original and the tenth anniversary edition of the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies lists than any other actor, albeit always as a supporting player: 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 is also in 13 films that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, which may be more than any other actor:[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 made these 23 films with John Wayne:

Personal life

Bond wed Doris Sellers Childs in 1936, and they divorced in 1944. He married Mary Louise Meyers in 1954, and she survived him.[2]

Death and legacy

Bond died on November 5, 1960, from a heart attack; he was 57. John Wayne gave the eulogy at his funeral. Bond's Will bequeathed to Wayne the shotgun with which Wayne had once accidentally shot Bond.[6]


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.[7] In 2001, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.[8] Also, a Ward Bond Memorial Park is in his birthplace of Benkelman, Nebraska.

Debunking legend

A legend has developed 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 on his way 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 (which ended in a scoreless tie).[9] Additionally, since Bond was only the star of Wagon Train, he likely had little, if any say about casting.




See also


  1. "Ward Bond's Boyhood Home". Nebraska State Historical Society. 12 December 2006. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
  2. Aaker, Everett (2017). Television Western Players, 1960–1975: A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland. pp. 41–43. ISBN 9781476628561. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  3. "1928 USC Football Roster". Fanbase.com. Archived from the original on 2011-09-10. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  4. "1926 USC Football Roster". Fanbase.com. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  5. "Actors and how many best picture nominees they've been in". The Sophomore Critic. 2007-02-18. Retrieved 2007-06-12.
  6. Sehnert, Walter (2011). "Benkelman's Ward Bond", McCook Gazette, May 2, 2011, McCook, Nebraska. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  7. "Ward Bond". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on 29 September 2017. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  8. "Great Western Performers". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  9. "The Legendary Tillman Franks". TillmanFranks.com. Virginia Franks. Archived from the original on September 6, 2011. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  10. "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. May 4, 1952. p. 50. Retrieved May 8, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
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