Wagon Train, the American Western series that entertained audiences for eight years between 1957 and 1965, was undoubtedly one of the most popular Western series of the era of 50s and 60s. The series was inspired by the 1950 John Ford-directed film Wagon Master and premiered on September 18, 1957, on NBC with the episode The Willy Moran Story. Through its 8-year-run, the show occupied the number one spot on Nielsen ratings for a long, long time as well as inspired many creators of the era. Yes, Gene Roddenberry drew inspiration from Wagon Train while creating Star Trek.
The series format was such that it created space to guest-feature big stars as travellers travelling in the large wagon train. Each week, the show narrated the story of a traveller onboard the 1870’s ‘wagon train’ as they journeyed to California from St. Joseph, Missouri. During the length of the episode, the audience witnessed the series regulars advancing to their destination while fighting dangers on the way. The producers of the show roped in Ward Bond, the veteran actor who starred in more than 200 films during his career, as the wagon master. Though Bond was initially cast as a supporting actor, his role grew as the series advanced. Further, the series became so popular that it attracted many big names, including Bette Davis, Rhonda Fleming, Leslie Nielsen and Ernest Borgnine. In this video, we tell you some classic facts about Ward Bond and Wagon Train.
Wagon Train Had Three Theme Songs in Total
Yes, Wagon Train did not have one but three theme songs in total. The theme song that was used during season one of the show was written by Henri Rene and Bob Russell. However, during the second season, the creators of the show decided to go with a fresh theme song called (Roll Along) Wagon Train. This version was created by Jack Brooks and Sammy Fain. During the third season, another theme song called Wagons Ho! was introduced and this is the theme that stuck with the audiences and stayed with the show till the very end.
Writers on the Show Had to Get All Scripts Approved from NBC as Well as Ward
Frederick Shore, who was an associate producer on Wagon Train, wrote in his book titled Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond, Wagon Train that the writers had to submit each script in advance not only to NBC but also to Ward. Apparently, Ward was a right-wing man with strong family principles. Therefore, he made it a point to read each script and tone down any kind of violence to make the show suitable for family audiences.
Ward Has More Greatest American Films to His Credit than Any Other Actor
In his 30-year-long career, Ward Bond appeared in 200 films, which is a great feat in itself. However, what’s an even bigger achievement is the fact that he has more greatest American films to his credit than any other actor. The American Film Institute released its list of 100 Greatest American films in 1998 and it turns out Ward appeared in seven of these 100 films. These seven films are: Bringing Up Baby, Gone with the Wind, It Happened One Night, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Grapes of Wrath and The searchers.
Ward Decided to Use Crutches Instead of Cancelling Filming After a Car Accident
If you have seen Wagon Train, you may have noticed that in episode 13 titled The Clara Beauchamp Story of season one of the show, Ward Bond appears in one of the scenes with a pair of crutches. Well, those crutches were not a prop. Prior to the filming of the episode, Ward was in a car accident which had led to an injury. The actor, therefore, decided to use crutches but did not cancel the shooting.
Ward had another car accident while on his way to attend John Wayne’s wedding. However, instead of resting in a hospital, Ward chose to perform his best man duties on crutches. Are you surprised to hear Ward was John Wayne’s best man? Don’t be. Ward and Wayne were best friends. In fact, their friendship was so strong that it even survived a gun mishap. Don’t believe it? We will tell you all about it in just a short while, so stick around. Meanwhile, if you are enjoying this video, do not forget to like and subscribe to our channel.
Ward Worked Alongside Future First Lady Nancy Reagan in
General Electric Theater
General Electric Theater was an anthology series popular during the 50s and 60s. It was hosted by Ronald Reagen and was called so as it was sponsored by General Electric. In one of the episodes of General Electric Theater titled A Turkey for the President, Bond appeared alongside future First Lady Nancy Reagan. The episode revolved around a young California turkey farm boy who gets chosen to deliver a turkey to the President for Thanksgiving. Ward played the role of Grey Eagle in the episode.
The Fort Pierce Story
Was One of the Last Acting Jobs of Ronald Reagan
General Electric Theater, which made him a household name. The show was on air for a total of ten seasons between 1953 and 1962. During this time, Ronald took up several small gigs as a television host and performer. However, by 1963, he had started to wind up his acting career to pursue his political aspirations more seriously. Thus, the episode titled The Fort Pierce Story, which was episode two of season seven of Wagon Train was one of Reagan’s last TV jobs. Two years later, he ran for Governor of California.
Leonard Nimoy Guest-Starred in Four Episodes of Wagon Train
Leonard Nimoy will always be remembered as the half-human, half-Vulcan Spock from Star Trek, a role he played for almost 50 years. He first appeared as Spock in 1964. However, not many people know that Leonard Nimoy appeared in a total of four Wagon Train episodes between 1959 and 1962. He played Bernabe Zamora in the episode titled The Estaban Hamilton Story, Cherokee Ned in The Maggie Hamilton Story, Joaquin Delgado in the episode titled The Tiburcio Mendez Story and in the 1962-episode titled The Baylor Crowfoot Story, his character was called Emeteriod Vasquez.
Talking of Star Trek, we have already told you that Gene Roddenberry used Wagon Train as an inspiration for Star Trek. However, not many people know that the creator also used Wagon Train as a reference to explain to studio executives the wondering, episodic concept that was Star Trek. There is yet another Star Trek – Wagon Train tidbit you must know. Wil Wheaton of Star Trek was a fan of Wagon Train and paid homage to one of his favourite shows through the 1986 coming-of-age film Stand by Me. In the film, Wil Wheaton who played the role of Gordie is seen telling his friends: Wagon Train‘s a really cool show, but did you notice they never get anywhere?
John Ford Directed Only Four TV Episodes Ever and One of Those Was for Wagon Train
We have already mentioned that the Wagon Train was inspired by John Ford’s 1950 classic Wagon Master. After the show became a massive success, veteran film director and the only four-time winner of the Academy Award for Best Director Award, John Ford, agreed to direct one of the episodes of the show. Ford directed the hour-long episode titled The Colter Craven Story, which was aired as the ninth episode of the season 4 of Wagon Train. In his long career, John Ford directed only four TV episodes and this Wagon Train episode was the third of all four episodes.
Here’s another interesting fact: John Ford loved Ward bond and the two did 26 films together.
John Wayne and Ward Played Together on USC Trojan
We are all familiar with the extensive filmography of John Wayne. However, not many of us know that John attended the University of Southern California on a sports scholarship and was a member of the USC football club as well as the school’s first national championship team. Unfortunately, Wayne suffered an injury during a bodysurfing accident, after which he couldn’t play football anymore. He thereafter lost his scholarship and had to leave the university.
Very few people know that John Wayne was an accomplished football player and even fewer people know that Wayne played alongside Ward in 1926. They were both on the USC Trojans’ offensive line.
Wayne Once Mistakenly Shot Ward with One of Ward’s Shotguns
John Wayne and Ward Bond were best friends. They played football together, appeared together in 23 movies and Ward was John’s best man at his wedding. Their friendship was so deep that even a gunshot could not come in the way of their friendship.
The story goes that in 1929, during a hunting trip, Wayne accidentally shot Bond, surprisingly with one of Bond’s guns. Thankfully, Ward wasn’t hurt badly. The two often joked about the incident and when Ward died in 1960, he left the shotgun to Wayne.
Ward Was Shooting for the Fourth Season of
When He Died of a Heart Attack
On November 5, 1960, Ward and his wife Mary Louise were staying a Dallas hotel when Ward suffered a massive heart attack. He was 57 at the time and was filming the fourth season of Wagon Train. The show’s producers chose actor John McIntire to replace Ward. However, the audiences were given no reason as to why Major Seth Adams had suddenly disappeared from the series. Ward’s best friend John Wayne delivered the eulogy at Ward’s funeral.
Have you seen the Wagon Train? If not, we recommend you get down to it right away as you are missing out on some great television.Did you enjoy these lesser-known facts about one of the most popular Western series ever? Is there something you would want us to add to this list? If yes, please leave a comment. If you find Facts Verse videos interesting, please show some love and appreciation by liking and subscribing to our channel. Also, hit the bell icon to stay updated on all our latest videos.