Wagon Train is an American Western television series that aired for eight seasons, initially on the NBC network (1957-1962), and subsequently on ABC (1962–1965). Wagon Train premiered on September 18, 1957, and quickly rose to the top of the Nielsen ratings. It is a fictional adventure story about a vast westbound wagon train traveling from Missouri to California in the American Old West.
Its format drew many prominent guest stars per episode, either as travelers or as citizens of the villages they explored. The show originally starred Ward Bond as the wagon master (who was replaced following his untimely death in 1960 by John McIntire) and Robert Horton as the scout (eventually replaced by similar-looking Western television star Robert Fuller when Horton opted to leave the series).
Why did Ward Bond leave Wagon Train?
Ward Bond’s absence from Wagon Train after the fourth season. Ward Bond died of a heart attack during the Wagon Train’s fourth season. The show was at its peak of popularity, so the network aired the last seven recorded episodes with Ward Bond before introducing John McIntire to the cast. Bond appeared on the show for four years, from 1957 to 1961.
The network did not act in the way that many networks would. Normally, networks strive to find a natural transition to write off the character or add a memorial to the deceased actor to the end of their final episode, but Ward Bonds’ role was left without a proper send-off.
Were John Wayne and Ward Bond friends?
Ward Bond and John Wayne were really close friends in the film Wagon Train. According to the official John Wayne website, the two met while attending the University of Southern California and later collaborated on the film Salute. Wayne formed a close friendship with Salute director John Ford, but it appears that his friendship with Bond was equally strong. Bond and Wayne’s friendship began with Salute, and they went on to appear in 22 films and television shows together.
Wayne was allegedly distraught when Bond died. “When you lose a friend that closes after so many years together, you realize you’ve reached the period in life when the ghosts surrounding you are some of the most crucial people in your life,” he wrote about the loss in a book. “A part of me knows he’s gone; another part sees good parts for him. “Instincts live on long after friends have passed away.”
‘Wagon Train’ Carried on After Ward Bond’s Death
Great photo of John Wayne, John Ford, Henry Fonda and Ward Bond playing cards. To be a fly on the wall… pic.twitter.com/bUjb34twq1
— Kloppholic (@Kloppholic) January 5, 2019
While no one could ever replace John Wayne’s close buddy Ward Bond on Wagon Train, the production chose to continue without him. According to MeTV, John McIntire took over as Bond’s wagon master on the show. While the show could have provided an explanation for Bond’s character’s disappearance, none was ever provided. McIntire took over, and the show went on. On May 2, 1965, the final program aired. It lasted eight seasons in all.
Only two Wagon Train cast members are still alive, according to Western Writing: Michael Burns and Robert Fuller. On the show, Michael portrayed the adolescent Barnaby West, and he went on to become a historian and professor. Robert Fuller, who played Cooper Smith, went on to own a ranch in Texas.
What Was the Point of the Wagon Train?
The Wagon Train was a big success, having been shot in 21 different sites across the United States. It was one of the most popular American Westerns of all time. The series was inspired by John Ford’s film The Wagon Master from the 1950s. The inaugural episode of the Wagon Train aired on NBC in 1957, and it was moved to ABC in 1962.
Every episode included a new scenario with a guest character traveling with or encountering the wagon train. The series was primarily about the travels and exploits of a few recurring and important characters as they traveled through the plains of Missouri to the Sacramento Mountains in California.
Several celebrities appeared on the Wagon Train set. Joseph Cotten, Ronald Reagan, and Ernest Borgnine are among the noteworthy actors.