Wardell Edwin "Ward" Bond (April 9, 1903 – November 5, 1960) was an American film actor whose rugged appearance and easygoing charm were featured in over 200 movies and the television series Wagon Train.
Bond was born in Benkelman, Nebraska, a small town located in the southwestern corner of Nebraska just a few miles from the Kansas and Colorado borders. The Bond family, consisting of father John W., mother Mabel L., and sister Bernice, lived in Benkelman until 1919 when they moved to Denver. Ward Bond graduated from East High School in Denver.
Bond attended the University of Southern California and played football on the same team as future USC coach Jess Hill. At 6'2" and 195 pounds, Bond was a starting lineman on USC's first national championship team in 1928.
Bond and John Wayne, who as Marion Morrison had played tackle for USC in 1926 before an injury ended his career, 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. It was during the filming of this movie that Bond and Wayne became friendly with Ford, and both actors would appear in many of Ford's later films. Bond made his screen debut in Salute, and thereafter played over 200 supporting roles, rarely playing the lead in a theatrical release but starring 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, and Fort Apache for Ford, with whom he made 25 films, and It Happened One Night and It's a Wonderful Life 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), They Were Expendable (1945), 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 NBC western television series Wagon Train from 1957 until his death. Wagon Train was inspired by the 1950 film Wagon Master, in which Bond also appeared, and was influenced by The Big Trail. For Wagon Train Bond specifically requested Terry Wilson for the role of assistant trailmaster Bill Hawks and Frank McGrath as the cook Charlie Wooster. Wilson and McGrath stayed with the series for the entire run.
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 rationale was opposition to communists in the film industry. In 1960, Bond campaigned for the Republican presidential nominee Richard M. Nixon. Bond died three days before Democrat John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Nixon. The wide-shouldered 6'2" 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 has also been in 11 films that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, which may be more than any other actor: Arrowsmith (1931/32), Lady for a Day (1933), It Happened One Night (1934), You Can't Take It with You (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Sergeant York (1941), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), The Quiet Man (1952) and Mister Roberts (1955). Bond made17movies with John Wayne; Fort Apache (1948), Rio Bravo (1959). The Wings of Eagles (1957), The Searchers (1956), Rookie of the Year (TV drama 1955). Hondo (1953), The Quiet Man (1952), Operation Pacific (1951), 3 Godfathers (1948), They Were Expendable (1945), Dakota (1945), Tall in the Saddle (1944), The Shepherd of the Hills (1941), The Long Voyage Home (1940), Conflict (1936), and The Big Trail (1930). 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 a.m. on November 5, 1960, and Bond died from a massive 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. Bond was 57 at the time of his death; John Wayne gave the eulogy at his funeral. Bond's will bequeathed to Wayne the shotgun with which Wayne had once accidentally shot Bond.
For his contribution to the television industry, Bond has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6933 Hollywood Blvd. In 2001, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. There is also a Ward Bond Memorial Park in his birthplace of Benkelman, Nebraska.
A popular urban myth holds that on the day he died, Bond was scheduled to meet singer Johnny Horton in Dallas to sign a contract to appear on "Wagon Train" (1957). Horton died in an auto accident, hit by a drunk driver, at 1:30 a.m. and Bond died in Dallas at noon the same day. However, Bond was only the star of the series and not a producer, so he had no say in casting.
Many sources incorrectly quote 1905, and/or Denver, Colorado, USA regarding his birth.
Entered films in 1928 while attending the University of Southern California.
Family rumor is that Bond was a roommate at USC with John Wayne, who convinced him to go into acting. They were apparently best friends; one of their favorite activities in their youth was to go to bars, get drunk, and start fights. On a hunting trip, he was accidentally shot by John Wayne. Bond left Wayne the shotgun in his will.
In The Wings of Eagles (1957), Bond played his friend, director John Ford, under the character name John Dodge (the name itself was a play on American automobile names. Ford was a real-life friend of the film's subject character). The set dressing, wardrobe, and Oscars in the scene are all actually Ford's.
Often played a policeman or soldier.
Bond appears in the most films (seven) of the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest American Movies: 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).
Was an epileptic, a closely guarded secret not made public until many years after his death.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 2001.
Although John Ford mocked many actors mercilessly (including John Wayne), Bond probably was on the receiving end of the worst verbal punishment from the director (who counted Bond among his favorite actors). At Bond's funeral, Ford walked up to Andy Devine and said, "Now YOU'RE the biggest asshole I know."
Although his career was cut short by his premature death in 1960 at the age of 57, he was one of the most prolific of Hollywood's actors over a period of 30 years. He regularly appeared in 10 to 20 films per year, with the record year for him being 1935, when he acted in 30 movies.
Worked with director John Ford on 26 films. Few, if any, actors, have appeared in so many films for a single director.
On his way to John Wayne's wedding he was hit by a car, but performed his duty as best man on crutches. Due to his heavy involvement with blacklisting suspected Communists, liberal directors sought to finish Bond's acting career by keeping him unemployed. For some years he could only find work in the movies of his friend John Wayne or other right-wing stars. Then in 1957, at the age of fifty-four, he made an enormous comeback as Major Seth Adams in "Wagon Train" (1957), and was finally a star in his own right.
Bond has been officially remembered with a TV star on Hollywood Boulevard, by being inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and by a Ward Bond Memorial Park in his birthplace of Benkelman, Nebraska. However, he is probably most fondly remembered for his enormous output of solid work, with great respect by the industry.
Bond's involvement with Johnny Guitar (1954) was ironic considering the director, Nicholas Ray, was a major left-winger who had been shielded from the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) by millionaire producer Howard Hughes. In addition, Johnny Guitar (1954) was a thinly-veiled attack on the HUAC's drive to uncover communist sympathizers. It was strange that Bond, an activist member of the right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, should have chosen to work with Ray and stranger still that his character John McIvers eventually appeared to show remorse for the hate-mongering he had helped foster.
Died at the Town House Motor Hotel, 2914 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, Texas.
Campaigned for Republican Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election.
According to Orson Welles, one night at Chasen's Restaurant in Hollywood Bond cut off Welles's tie.
Once while on location, John Ford had a photo taken of himself and John Wayne standing on either side of the rear end of a horse. He sent the photo to Bond with the inscription, "Thinking of you"!.