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Birth name Wardell Edwin BondNationality USABirth 9 april 1903
at Benkelman (USA
)Death 5 november 1960
(at 57 years) at Dallas (USA
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 films and the television series Wagon Train. He is remembered for his roles as Bert, the cop, in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Captain Clayton in The Searchers (1956), among many others.
Bond was born in Benkelman, Nebraska, a small town located in the southwestern corner of the state near the Kansas and Colorado borders. The Bond family, John W., Mabel L., and sister Bernice, lived in Benkelman until 1919 when they moved to Denver. Ward 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 Robert 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. During the filming of this movie Bond and Wayne befriended Ford, and appeared 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, It's a Wonderful Life and Riding High 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 platform 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.
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 12 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), Long Voyage Home (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Sergeant York (1941), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), The Quiet Man (1952) and Mister Roberts (1955).
Bond made 23 films with John Wayne. These films are the following:
Rio Bravo – Pat Wheeler (1959)
The Wings of Eagles – John Dodge (1957)
The Searchers – Reverend Captain Samuel Johnson (1956)
Rookie of the Year – Buck Goodhue, Alias Buck Garrison (TV drama 1955)
Hondo – Buffalo Baker (1953)
The Quiet Man – Father Peter Lonergan (1952)
Operation Pacific – Commander John T. "Pop" Perry (1951)
Fort Apache – Sgt. Major Michael O'Rourke (1948)
3 Godfathers – Perley "Buck" Sweet (1948)
They Were Expendable – BMC "Boats" Mulcahey (1945)
Dakota – Jim Bender (1945)
Tall in the Saddle – Judge Robert Garvey (1944)
A Man Betrayed – Floyd (1941)
The Shepherd of the Hills – Wash Gibbs (1941)
The Long Voyage Home – Yank (1940)
Conflict – Gus "Knockout" Carrigan (1936)
College Coach – Assistant Coach (un-credited) (1933)
Three Girls Lost – Airline Steward (un-credited) (1931)
Maker of Men – Pat (un-credited) (1931)
The Big Trail – Sid Bascomb (1930)
Born Reckless – Sargeant (1930)
The Lone Star Ranger – Townsperson at the Dance (un-credited) (1930)
Salute – Midshipman Harold (1929)
Words and Music – Bit Part (un-credited) (1929)
Death and legacy
Bond died on November 5, 1960 from a massive heart attack; he 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 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 between SMU and Texas A&M at the Cotton Bowl. In addition, since Bond was only the star of Wagon Train and not a producer, he was not responsible for casting.