Fans of the classic Western series Wagon Train will certainly be familiar with the men who played two of the leads of the show: Ward Bond and Robert Horton. The two were excellent actors who helped make the show the hit it became. But, as sometimes happens on film and TV sets, or any workplace for that matter, Bond and Horton were not fond of each other. And that’s putting it lightly. In this video, we’re taking a look at the reasons why these two stars didn’t get along, how it affected the set of the show, and how they both left the show before it ended. So stay tuned, as Facts Verse presents: Wagon Train Co-Stars Hated Each Other (Ward Bond and Robert Horton)
Wagon Train aired for a total of eight seasons, from 1957 to 1965. It started out on NBC, before being cancelled and snatched up by ABC for in 1962. It told the story of a wagon train that was on its way westward in the old West. The group started in Missouri, and the show followed their trials and tribulations as they made their way to California. The show’s inspiration was a John Ford-directed movie called Wagon Master, which came out in 1950. That film coincidentally had Ward Bond as one of its actors. It also drew from The Big Trail, a film from 1930 that is most notable for being the first lead role that John Wayne ever performed. And, once again, it was another film that featured Ward Bond.
As such, it wasn’t too surprising when Ward signed on to play the lead role as the wagon master, Major Seth Adams, on the 1957 series. Clearly he was experienced in playing roles in this genre and setting, and had a rugged appeal that fit perfectly with both. Alongside him, playing the scout, Flint McCullough, was Robert Horton. However, as we’ll soon discover, neither actor made it through the entire series, though for distinctly different reasons. Regardless, the show was an immediate hit when it began airing, and garnered millions of fans over the course of its eight season run.
Bond and Horton hated each other
It’s not that uncommon for coworkers to not get along. And the same dynamics that come into play in the corporate world, or any industry, are present on a film or TV set. While the product might feel more glamourous, and certain entertainment industry job are highly sought after, the process is susceptible to workplace beefs just like any other. Such was the case, almost from the start, on Wagon Train. But there doesn’t seem to be any consensus on just why these two didn’t get along.
There are some who have claimed that it had to do with the seemingly trivial issue of fan mail. Reportedly, Bond, who was the bigger star coming into the show, got upset early on that Horton was receiving more fan mail than him. Because of this, he held a grudge against Horton, though obviously this was nothing that Horton had control over. And while that might seem petty (and it is) it’s the kind of thing that does get noted by many folks in Hollywood. Perhaps it’s more relevant these days, in the world of social media followers and mentions, Q ratings, and the like. But even back then, fan mail was one of the best ways for actors to gauge how much they were liked, and studios could see who they should put their energy towards promoting. So for Bond, the fact that he was getting less fan mail perhaps signified a lack of interest in his work from fans. Of course, even if that frustrated him, there was no reasons to take it out on his costar, Horton.
Another theory about why the two didn’t get along on set was simply a personality clash. And, like other office settings, that can happen, but usually people are expected not to take aim at each other when it happens. But according to some sources, Bond reacted poorly to them not getting along. He actively spread rumors about Horton’s sexuality, which in those days was a much bigger deal than it would be now.
Bond also took out his anger at Horton by intentionally stepping on any good lines that Horton had, and by trying to convince the producers to cap Horton’s screen time.
On screen vs off
It should be noted that their feud didn’t really show up on screen. They were excellent costars and scene partners, whose on screen chemistry really popped. It could be argued that their relationship on screen was the engine that really drove the show. So that makes it all the more interesting that off screen they couldn’t stand each other. In fact, they reportedly got so fed up with each other, that they both decided they would refuse to be on screen together. This was after one particularly huge blowup they had on set. But the powers that be didn’t take that request seriously at all, since these two were the driving force behind the show. Instead, they continued to write scenes with both of them as usual. So within a couple of weeks, scenes necessitated them to be on camera together, and they were forced to go back on their vow not to work together again.
Horton and the writers
Ward Bond wasn’t the only person who Robert Horton fought with, however. Horton was what we’d likely now call a ‘method actor.’ Or at the least, someone who took the role very seriously. He apparently did tons of his own research on the Old West, the type of person his character would be, and on and on. He created a large backstory for his character, so he could play him more effectively. And while this process isn’t all that unusual, it can cause issues when the choices that the actor makes about the character’s backstory are different from the ones the writing staff makes. Such was the case on Wagon Train. Apparently Horton’s vision of his character was a very specific one, which he didn’t think the writers were able to capture accurately. He also didn’t think much of the writing in general. So that meant he was constantly fighting with the writers and trying to get aspects of the scripts changed or rewritten. And according to him, his input was invaluable. He was once quoted as saying that if he hadn’t rewritten half of the scripts, he would have been “laughed off the screen.”
Why They Left The Show
Neither Ward Bond nor Robert Horton lasted for all eight seasons of Wagon Train. However, this was for distinctly different reasons. Bond only was on the first four seasons because he died in 1960. He was in Dallas with his wife at the time, ready to go watch a college football game at the Cotton Bowl between Texas A&M and SMU. But the night before, he had a massive heart attack in his hotel room, and was soon pronounced dead at a local hospital. This was on November 5th, 1960, when Bond was only 57 years old.
One interesting thing to note is that he left John Wayne a shotgun in his will. The two were long time friends, having played college football together at USC. They then continued in Hollywood together, starring in 22 TV shows and movies alongside each other. But some found it odd that Bond left a shotgun for Wayne in his will. It turns out that the two went on a hunting trip years earlier, and Wayne accidentally shot his buddy with that gun. He’d borrowed it from Bond, and then wound up shooting him right in the rear end. Clearly the mishap did nothing to ruin their close friendship. And perhaps there’s no better example of it than the fact that he jokingly gave the shotgun to Wayne in his will.
One interesting thing to note is that by the time Bond died, he and Robert Horton had reportedly patched things up. This was exemplified by an interview that Horton gave after Bond’s death. Instead of badmouthing him, or staying silent, he talked aobut him in nice terms. When one interviewer asked him what type of man Ward had been, Horton said that he was very similar to his character on Wagon Train. And considering Major Seth Adams had a lot of positive character attributes, that was a lovely compliment. Horton reportedly had a big smile on his face when he remembered his former costar. So clearly things had been patched up between the two. Horton made no mention of their previous feuding.
Horton left Wagon Train for decidedly different reasons. After six seasons starring on the hit show, he simply wanted to expand as an actor. He was concerned that by playing the scout of Wagon Train for the forseeable future, he’d be typcast, and denied some potentially great roles down the road. So, despite the nextork offering him a sizable contract, he walked away. He mused in an interview later that there is a lot more to the acting world than getting rich. He said he had no interest in get loads of cash and then siting on an island somehere. He was more interested in actually using his talent in a variety of ways. After leaving the show, Horton spent the next decade performing in musical theater. He died in 2016 at the age of 91.
Wagon Train was a classic show that thrived during the years when Western TV shows were all the rage. It ran for eight successful seasons, despite the feud between Bond and Horton. And even continued after both men exited. Now it’s time to hear from you. Do you think Bond and Horton would have had a better relationship if Bond hadn’t died after season 4? Let us know in the comments section below.