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Subject: Archive: Ward Bond, Nov. 5, 1960

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Date Posted: Thursday, November 05, 04:38:17pm

American actor Ward Bond was a football player at the University of Southern California when, together with teammate and lifelong chum John Wayne, he was hired for extra work in the silent film Salute (1928), directed by John Ford. Both Bond and Wayne continued in films, but it was Wayne who ascended to stardom, while Bond would have to be content with bit roles and character parts throughout the 1930s.

Mostly playing traffic cops, bus drivers and western heavies, Bond began getting better breaks after a showy role as the murderous Cass in John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln (1939). Ford cast Bond in important roles all through the 1940s, usually contriving to include at least one scene per picture in which the camera would favor Bond's rather sizable posterior; it was an "inside" joke which delighted everyone on the set but Bond.

A starring role in Ford's Wagonmaster (1950) led, somewhat indirectly, to Bond's most lasting professional achievement: His continuing part as trailmaster Seth Adams on the extremely popular NBC TV western, Wagon Train. No longer supporting anyone, Bond exerted considerable creative control over the series from its 1957 debut onward, even seeing to it that his old mentor John Ford would direct one episode in which John Wayne had a bit role, billed under his real name, Marion Michael Morrison.

Finally achieving the wide popularity that had eluded him during his screen career, Bond stayed with Wagon Train for three years, during which time he became as famous for his offscreen clashes with his supporting cast and his ultra-conservative politics as he was for his acting. Wagon Train was still NBC's Number One series when, in November of 1960, Bond unexpectedly suffered a heart attack and died while taking a shower.

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