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Ward Bond.WARD BOND

Wardell (Ward) Edwin Bond was a gruff, burly actor whose rugged appearance belied an easygoing charm. The wide-shouldered, 6' 2" Bond was in 11 films Academy Award nominated for Best Picture, which may be more than any other actor. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the OKC Museum in 2001.

Born April 9, 1903, to a lumberyard worker in Benkelman, Nebraska (in the SW corner of the state), the family lived in Benkelman until 1919 when they moved to Denver. Ward graduated from East High School in Denver, then attended USC (University of Southern California) and played football on the same team as John Wayne who became a lifelong friend and colleague. Bond was a starting lineman on USC’s first national championship team in 1928.

Bond, Wayne and the entire USC football team were recruited to appear in John Ford’s “Salute” (‘29), a U.S. Naval Academy football yarn starring George O’Brien. Both actors became friendly with Ford and appeared in many of Ford’s later films. In fact, Bond worked with Ford on 26 films. Few, if any, actors appeared in so many films for a single director.

Bond appeared, uncredited, in nearly 20 movies in the early ‘30s, then began working steadily throughout the mid to late ‘30s, usually as a heavy, in the Columbia Westerns of Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Ken Maynard, and at RKO with George O’Brien. At the same time, he worked in dozens of non-westerns, his acting status continually growing.

An epileptic, he was rejected by the draft during WWII. It was during the years just prior to the war and during the war that he appeared in several classic A-Westerns, “Oklahoma Kid”, “Dodge City”, “Union Pacific”, “Frontier Marshal”, “Drums Along the Mohawk”, “Gone With the Wind”, “Virginia City”, “Kit Carson”, “Santa Fe Trail”, “Shepherd of the Hills”, “Tall In the Saddle”, “Dakota”.

Described as an arrogant man of little tact, yet fun-loving to the extreme, Bond was either loved or hated by all who knew him. An ardent but anti-intellectual patriot, during the ‘40s Bond was a member of the Conservative Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals whose major role was opposition to Communists in the film industry. His ultra right-wing leanings made him a vehement and outspoken proponent among the Hollywood community of blacklisting during the witch hunts of the ‘50s.

Onscreen during the late ‘40s-‘50s he co-starred in more classic westerns, “My Darling Clementine”, “Fort Apache”, “Singing Guns”, “Great Missouri Raid”, “Only the Valiant”, “Hondo”, “The Searchers”, “Dakota Incident”, “The Halliday Brand” and “Johnny Guitar”, which was ironic considering the director, Nicholas Ray, was a prominent leftist who had been shielded from the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) by millionaire producer Howard Hughes. Additionally, many considered “Johnny Guitar” a thinly-veiled attack on HUAC’s drive to uncover Communist sympathizers. Strange then 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. On the other hand, due to his heavy involvement with blacklisting so-called Communists, many liberal directors would not hire Bond.

Ward Bond as Seth Adams on "Wagon Train".In 1957, at the age of 54, Bond made an enormous comeback starring as Major Seth Adams on NBC’s “Wagon Train”. He was finally a star in his own right. Tragically, on November 5, 1960, shortly into the 4th season of “Wagon Train”, Bond, 57, died of a massive heart attack at the Town House Motor Hotel on Hines Blvd. in Dallas, TX. He was in Dallas to attend the Cotton Bowl. John Wayne gave the eulogy at Bond’s funeral. Bond’s will bequeathed to Wayne the 20 gauge shotgun with which Wayne had accidentally shot Bond while on a quail hunt in Idaho in the ‘30s. Bond’s ashes were scattered at sea, spread in the Pacific between Newport Beach and Catalina Island.

When in the area, be sure to stop by Ward Bond Memorial Park in Benkelman, Nebraska, and give a silent, thoughtful “Thanks” for the enormous output of solid performances Bond entrusted us with over a 30 year career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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