Ward Bond

Wardell Edwin Bond, known as Ward Bond (April 9, 1903 – November 5, 1960), was an American film character actor whose rugged appearance and easygoing charm were featured in more than two hundred film s and the NBC television series Wagon Train from 1957 to 1960. Among his best-remembered roles are Bert, the cop, in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and Captain Clayton in John Ford’s The Searchers (1956).

Bond was born in Benkelman in Dundy County, Nebraska. Benkelman is a small town located in the southwestern corner of the state near the Kansas and Colorado state lines. The Bond family, John W., Mabel L., and sister Bernice, lived in Benkelman until 1919 when they moved to Denver, Colorado, where Ward graduated from East High School.

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 Michael 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 film ing of this movie, Bond and Wayne befriended Ford, and appeared in many of Ford’s later film s.

Bond made his screen debut in Salute and thereafter was a busy character actor , playing over 200 supporting roles. He appeared in 31 film s released in 1935 and 23 in 1939. Rarely playing the lead in theatrical film s, he starred 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 film s as The Searchers, Drums Along the Mohawk, The Quiet Man, and Fort Apache for Ford, with whom he made 25 film s, and It Happened One Night, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Riding High for Capra. Among his other well-known film s 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.

Ward Bond in John Ford’s “The Searchers”

Reverend Captain Samuel Johnson Clayton, in the eye of multiple storms, sure am fond of those donuts.

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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.

 

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