Thursday, August 6, 2009

For Your Consideration: Ward Bond

Ward Bond
April 9, 1903 - November 5, 1960

Caftan Woman has been watching movies again, and again she has found a performance overlooked at Award time. This time back in 1952 by prolific character actor Ward Bond.

Nebraska born Bond was attending the University of Southern California when he and a fellow footballer and lifetime friend, John Wayne, spent some larking time at Fox Studios. John Ford was doing a football picture and hired the kids. They worked on Salute starring George O'Brien and worked props. Bond certainly had a talent for acting. You cannot watch classic movies without stumbling across Ward Bond in roles big and small. He's the bus driver in It Happened One Night, the doorman in Dead End, a Union officer in Gone With the Wind. He's cop and thug, hero and coward, and he's everywhere.

Many of his best roles were in John Ford movies. Apparently he was a favourite whipping boy of the curmudgeonly director, but thick-skinned enough to do some fine work including the repentant "Yank" in The Long Voyage Home, the gallant Sergeant Major O'Rourke in Fort Apache, the comic Father Lonergan in The Quiet Man, the trustworthy Rev. Clayton in The Searchers and director "John Dodge" in The Wings of Eagles.

Cagney, Powell, Fonda, Bond & Lemmon
The cast of Mister Roberts relaxes.
Who wants to be a fly on the wall?

Bond seems able to give any script its due whether it be the cowardly marshal in Frontier Marshal, the villainous Honey Bragg in Canyon Passage or that "family man", Bert the cop in It's a Wonderful Life.

The outstanding role of his career, for me, is in Nicholas Ray's On Dangerous Ground. Robert Ryan stars as an embittered police officer driven to his breaking point. Ordered off the mean city streets to the country in pursuit of a killer, he finds redemption.

Bond plays Walter Brent, the father of a murdered girl. Grieving for his loss and suspicious of the cops, he tags along in the hunt for his daughter's murderer. He is looking for vengeance and what he finds gives him no solace. Bond is heartbreaking in this movie and his performance made me realize that I have spent most of my life taking him for granted. It seems his peers did as well by overlooking the performance.

Robert Ryan, Ward Bond

After all his years as a featured player in movies, Ward Bond achieved true stardom as the star of  TV's Wagon Train. Major Seth Adams is an image many viewers recall fondly. His last film role was fitting, as John Wayne's friend, in Rio Bravo. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1960. Ward Bond was married twice. He was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 2001. A park was named in his honour in his hometown of Benkleman, Nebraska.

My late father used to say that if he saw Ward Bond's name in the credits there was a good chance he would enjoy the movie. When I started seriously introducing my daughter to classic movies she told me she'd only watch if Ward Bond was in it. Gotcha! He's in everything!


  1. I remember watching 'On Dangerous Ground' and being very impressed with Ward Bond. Why should I be surprised, he always delivered.

  2. An impressive movie and performance. I think I have to watch it again soon.

  3. It's a classic. I love the way your blog reminds me to see such a great movie again. Oh yeah, Ward Bond was in my dream last night and I think that was down to you as well!

  4. I'll try to keep that dream business in mind when I'm blogging, Miss McCrocdile.

  5. Ward Bond was terrific, a solid supporting player who could steal scenes with subtle ease. So much fun to watch.

  6. Nice tribute. I'd say he really was as great a movie actor as there is. And that's why he turns up with so many great directors and in so many great movies over a long, full career.

    It interested me that you chose his performance in "On Dangerous Ground"--can't really argue since I deeply love that movie and he is indeed great. But he is so often great, I'd find it very hard to choose. Probably I'd have to choose one of the Fords in the end. Maybe "Wagon Master"--but now, even saying that I feel like I'm not giving him his due in so many others. He's always believable--inhabits a role as if that person was him. And that's the main thing in movies

  7. also in the 5 Sullivan brothers



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