Saturday, April 6, 2019

THE FOURTH ANNUAL BETTE DAVIS BLOGATHON: Wagon Train, The Ella Lindstrom Story (1959)


Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood hosts her Fourth Annual Bette Davis Blogathon running April 5 - 7, 2019. Click HERE to join in the fun.


THE ELLA LINDSTROM STORY
Written and directed by Allen H. Miner
Guest starring Bette Davis
February 4, 1959 (Season 2, episode 18)

Major Seth Adams (Ward Bond): "To most of us ordinary human beings travel on a wagon train is sheer hard work. You eat equal parts of dust and sunlight and measure the miles with pounding headaches, spiced nicely with backaches. That's us ordinary human beings, but not the Lindstroms. They enjoyed every moment as though it was made only for them. They sucked in the dusty air and made music of it. And they shouted it out like the whole world was a stage for an Italian opera. Sometimes the Lindstrom kids made a brassy kind of a sound that reminded me of a thousand crows or the screech of a wagon wheel runnin' dry. That is, all except their oldest daughter who had found a man and if there was any sound at all, it was like the birds."


Bette Davis

Ella Lindstrom (Bette Davis) and her husband set west on the Adams Wagon Train with their seven children. Early in the trip, Mr. Lindstrom was stricken ill and passed away, yet the family put on a brave face and journeyed on. As the train neared Dodge City, the Major informed Mrs. Lindstrom that he would return her fare and that their friends on the train had taken up a collection to see them settled.

Bette Davis, Bobby Buntrock

Ella held a meeting with her children and it was decided that they would continue with the train. The children do not miss the city where people laughed at the youngest child, deaf and dumb Bo, and they want to see the ocean. Mrs. Lindstrom only requested of Major Adams that he take her into Dodge City to see a doctor, as she is expecting her eighth child.

Mrs. Lindstrom is concerned for the new baby after what happened with Bo following her bout of measles while pregnant. Dr. Monroe (Alex Gerry) told her half a lie and half a truth, that she need have no worries for her unborn child. Finding she had no near adult relative in whom to confide, the doctor advised Major Adams that Mrs. Lindstrom was not pregnant, but had only a few weeks left to live.

Bette Davis, Ward Bond

Ella's hurry to return to the train and her children left it to Major Adams to deliver the sad news in place of the doctor. It is a truly heartwrenching scene to see the Major struggle with what must be said, and Ella's breakdown at the thought of leaving her beloved children.

Bette Davis and Ward Bond had over 60 years of combined screen experience behind them at this point in their careers. The scenes between these old pros moved and impressed me with their skill and artistry.

It is the children on whom she and the Major focus. Ella is honest with them all as they decide what should be done. Oldest daughter Inga (Cindy Robbins) and teenager Stig (Harold Daye) are mature enough to be practical, and the other children follow suit. They know they are too many to stay together and decide to find suitable foster parents among the friends they have made on the wagon train.

Ella: "I think you should all look as far ahead, as far across the horizon as you can. If you look a big way, you'll be big people. If you look a little way, you'll be unhappy, little people."

The biggest worry for Ella is who will take her beloved Bo with his problems. This has been a worry for the Major as well, and he knows that even though his constant traveling would make him an unsuitable parent, he offers to be a guardian to the boy and find a suitable school. Ella appreciates that the Major's heart is in the right place, but money is not the issue. If Bo can't have love, she would rather he be dead.

Cindy Robbins, Robert Fuller

Inga, as the Major told us in the opening narration, has found first love with another traveler, Fitz played by Robert Fuller. The young man wanted to marry his girl yet was deterred by her secretive manner until set straight by Major Adams about the family's troubles. Fitz made his proposal to Inga with the condition that little Bo becomes a part of their family. Upon this bittersweet conclusion, the Major recites a verse from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's A Psalm of Life as a farewell to brave Ella Lindstrom.

"Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul."


Connections:


The Ella Lindstrom Story was written and directed by Allen H. Miner, who wrote all three of Bette's appearances on Wagon Train, an episode each of the anthology programs Telephone Time and Studio 57 for her, plus the Perry Mason episode The Case of Constant Doyle.


Robert Fuller's guest appearance as the smitten James Fitzpatrick was the first of two on this season of Wagon Train prior to beginning his years as Jess Harper on Laramie and then joining Wagon Train regularly as scout Cooper Smith in 1963.












28 comments:

  1. I know ROBERT FULLER from WAGON TRAIN when he was COOPER SMITH (in reruns in the mid-80s). Before that I knew him from the EMERGENCY reruns where he played a doctor. He was also in a really good episode of MURDER, SHE WROTE. It had to do with politics(mud-slinging). It also had guest stars EDDIE ALBERT, SHIRLEY JONES, GEORGE GRIZZARD, DAPHNE MAXWELL & JAMES SLOYAN (I hope I got his name right). Do you remember that episode very well? Thanks for a great post!

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    1. I'm a Robert Fuller fan as well, from Laramie, Wagon Train, and Emergency!. I do recall that episode of Murder, She Wrote as there were so many favourite guest stars. You are right, of course, it was James Sloyan.

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  2. That's interesting that Allen H. Miner seemed to be one of Bette's favorite TV writer-directors. I'm curious about they came to be collaborators, so to speak. Never knew that Robert Fuller was a guest star prior to becoming a WT regular. I'm not surprised, though, as WT ran so long and was a prominent showcase for so many TV performers in the 1950s and 1960s.

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    1. I couldn't find anything specific on the relationship between Miner and Davis, which intrigued me as well. I guess we can only assume that the first time they worked together (Telephone Time, 1957) they found they were simpatico. They certainly made some interesting television.

      I was surprised to see Robert Fuller, but as you say, I shouldn't have been. This was the era where if you wanted to be on TV you had to know how to ride a horse. In later decades, you would have to be willing to have your face hidden by sci-fi make-up.

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  3. I almost started crying by just reading this post. Ha! I'd love to see this. I've never seen Wagon Train.

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    1. Yes, if anything will touch your heart and bring the tears, it is The Ella Lindstrom Story.

      Wagon Train has many excellent stories and surprising guest stars. It is worth your taking some time away from the dark streets to explore the dusty TV trail.

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  4. I love that you chose WAGON TRAIN to write about Bette Davis for this blogathon (and sorry that I had to miss participating). Well done!

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    1. Thank you. Sometimes I think I may disappear into Wagon Train like Ida Lupino in The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine. Yikes!


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  5. BOBBY BUNTROCK played Harold Baxter on the comedy HAZEL starring SHIRLEY BOOTH. His parents GEORGE & DOROTHY were played by DON DEFORE & WHITNEY BLAKE. Don & Whitney weren't on the show the final season. RAY FULMER & LYNN BORDEN played STEVE & BARBARA BAXTER. (Steve is the brother of George.) The last season also had Steve & Barbaras daughter Susie (or Suzie) played by JULIA BENJAMIN. Besides Shirley as Hazel the only other person to be on the show the entire run was young Bobby Buntrock. Speaking of Whitney Blake did you know that her daughter is TV star MEREDITH BAXTER(once known as MEREDITH BAXTER-BIRNEY when she was married to DAVID BIRNEY). I really liked Meredith in her TV-movies that I saw. Of course she is also known for the TV series FAMILY and especially FAMILY TIES that began as a show for her until MICHAEL J. FOX hit big as ALEX P. KEATON, the son of ELYSE KEATON played by Meredith.

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    1. I only have vague memories of Hazel, but they are fond. Bobby was a cute kid and I don't believe I had ever seen him outside of the Hazel program until I saw this Wagon Train episode.

      I didn't watch Family Ties and Cosby (I believe that was the line-up) because, as I remember, it was opposite Magnum PI, and I was a Magnum gal. An interest in show business seems to run in families, doesn't it?

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  6. I only saw FAMILY TIES for the first year or two. I watched it because it was on after THE FACTS OF LIFE. When they moved TIES to Thursday I quit watching it because I didn't want to give up MAGNUM. FACTS starred CHARLOTTE RAE, NANCY MCKEON, KIM FIELDS, MINDY COHN & LISA WHELCHEL. Nancy was JO, a tomboy. I liked her really well on the show and in TV-Movies. Kim & Mindy were the funniest ones in my opinion. Lisa was also good on the show. She played BLAIR who was known for her looks. She had pretty blond hair. Also I need to mention Charlotte who played the warm housemother MRS. GARRETT. She was the only one of the bunch who got an EMMY nom for the show. Also NANCY MCKEON dated MICHAEL J. FOX when those shows were on. After they quit seeing each other they stayed friends. Back to MEREDITH BAXTER do you know any of her TV-movies? I mentioned once that DAVID BIRNEY (her ex-husband) was on the MURDER, SHE WROTE episode where Jessica goes to visit Lee (DALE ROBERTSON) on his ranch.

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    1. I didn't watch Facts of Life, but do know Charlotte Rae from other things, particularly Car 54, Where Are You?

      I can't say any of Meredith's made-for-TV movies come to mind, but I do remember her and David Birney in Bridget Loves Bernie. He always struck me as a very intense actor.

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  7. Bette Davis did two movies with GLENN FORD. I only saw their second one-POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES where Glenn was paired up with HOPE LANGE, a good actress that I like. GLENN & HOPE were reportedly a couple at the time. The movie also had PETER FALK before he played COLUMBO. It was the first movie that ANN-MARGRET did, I believe. She was playing an ingénue role. Did you see the movie? What are some of your favorite GLENN FORD movies? He worked with DEBBIE REYNOLDS, JEANNE CRAIN, NANCY OLSON,ANGIE DICKINSON, & SUE ANE LANGDON. I really like THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIES FATHER that he did with RONNY HOWARD, STELLA STEVENS, SHIRLEY JONES & the elegant DINA MERRILL.

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    1. You may like A Stolen Life with Bette Davis and Glenn Ford. She plays twin sisters in the movie.

      I'm not a big fan of Pocketful of Miracles, despite the wonderful cast. I love the first version, Lady for a Day too much.

      Glenn Ford is a favourite of mine. One of my favourites of his westerns, 3:10 to Yuma plays on TCM this coming Thursday night. Other faves include The Big Heat, Dear Heart, Experiment in Terror, Trial, and The Secret of Convict Lake.

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  8. Did you see Bette play twins in DEAD RINGER? She played twins in 1946 and again in 1964. PETER LAWFORD was also in DEAD RINGER. Peter was an underrated actor who should be known for acting work more than he is. I saw him in LITTLE WOMEN with JUNE ALLYSON, ROYAL WEDDING with FRED ASTAIRE & JANE POWELL, and two movies that starred CARROLL BAKER-one was SYLVIA where he played a rich man that CARROLL(a favorite of mine) was engaged to but they had no scenes together! The other one was HARLOW-a highly fictional account of the life of JEAN HARLOW. Although it was not a critically acclaimed movie it had a great cast that gave wonderful performances. In my opinion CARROLL BAKER, PETER LAWFORD & ANGELA LANSBURY should have been nominated for OSCARS, or at least the GOLDEN GLOBE. There were other fine actors in it too-MIKE CONNORS, MARTIN BALSAM & RED BUTTONS. Red was the only one to get any nom-it was the GOLDEN GLOBE one.

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    1. I remember Dead Ringer. It was directed by Bette's friend and former co-star Paul Henreid. It is a lot of fun to see Bette tackling the role of twins. I can't think of anyone else who did such a feat twice.

      I enjoy Peter Lawford in his MGM movies and recall that he was an excellent Password player (a fave game show of minie). I haven't seen either of the Harlow biopics. I may check them out one of these days.

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  9. I liked THE CATERED AFFAIR with Bette. It also had DEBBIE REYNOLDS, ROD TAYLOR, & ERNEST BORGNINE. I believed her in the role as a NEW YORK housewife married to a cab driver. TALLULAH BANKEAD & SHELLEY WINTERS were on BATMAN. I can see Bette playing a part like that. That would be a fun part to play! Also Bette would have been good as a killer on COLUMBO. Did you see the one with RUTH GORDON where she plays a writer who kills her late nieces husband because she says he killed her niece?

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    1. Ruth Gordon was one of my favourite Columbo guests.

      It would have been fun to see Bette as a Bat-Villain.

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  10. I meant BANKHEAD. I saw TALLULAH as herself on the hour-long show LUCY did after they were in CONNECTICUT. I read a story but I cant remember if it went that Bette was mad because she said Tallulah copied off her acting or if it was the other way around.

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    1. Tallulah Bankhead played Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes on Broadway and then Bette played the role in the movie. I'm sure Bette did her best to avoid copying Tallulah's performance.

      I believe I read that Bette had a rough throat when she started filming All About Eve and I think Tallulah thought Bette was imitating her. Maybe it bothered Miss Bankhead that she didn't get to play Regina in the film.

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  11. When I think of Bette I don't really think of her with an actor-partner like I do with most actresses including DORIS DAY. Did you see THE CATERED AFFAIR? What about WHERE LOVE HAS GONE with two powerhouse actresses -Bette and also SUSAN HAYWARD. JOEY HEATHERTON played the daughter of Susan. Susan played the daughter of Bette. MIKE CONNORS played the dad of Joey. I read that DEBORAH WALLEY(a perky redhead) was supposed to play the part but then they gave it to Joey. Deborah was very disappointed that she didn't get to play the part with Susan. The first time I saw Deborah I liked her work, it was one where she played GIDGET. I saw it around 1983. (Then I saw the original one, SANDRA DEE. Then I saw CINDY CAROL. I saw the one with Deborah 2 or 3 times, the one with Sandra 4 times and then Cindy 2 times.) I also liked Deborah in BEACH BLANKET BINGO which had LINDA EVANS along with FRANKIE & ANNETTE. Even though I was speaking of Bette, I want to mention one more thing about Miss Walley-she was cute and fun to watch(and perky as I earlier stated.) Do you know the work very well that those three GIDGET actresses did? They were the only three that played that character in movies.(The other four girls/women played the part on TV.

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    1. I want to say thank you for having a great blog. Its fun to read your thoughts about so many classic movie stars. I like to read the opinions and information from the other people too. Also I am glad to read about TV shows too-for example, GUNSMOKE & WAGON TRAIN.

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    2. I'm glad you are having fun visiting the blog.

      I have seen The Catered Affair and thought it was fine. I have not seen Where Love Has Gone in many years. I didn't realize Joey hadn't been the first choice. I have a soft spot in my heart for Deborah Walley, watching her in Beach Blanket Bingo and in The Mothers-in-Law series. She was an adorable Gidget and, of course, so was Sandra Dee. Cindy Carol I know best from The New Loretta Young Show which I bought on DVD a couple of years ago. It was an excellent series that didn't last very long.

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  12. Bette Davis's television work is something I'd like to become more familiar with. It would be terrific to see her paired with Ward Bond in this episode. Like you said, between the two of them they had over 60 combined years of acting experience, and it's always a treat to see two pros in action.

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    1. Over the years I have come to appreciate Ward Bond's versatility in the movies, but when I started watching the early episodes of Wagon Train - well, he blew me away.

      Bette, of course, was a queen and she made these episodes event television. You have set yourself a most pleasant quest.

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  13. Oh, the synopsis alone was enough to give me chills. Is it true that stories like those aren't written anymore or we are not just looking at the right place? Anyway, this was certainly a great material for Bette!

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    1. I find a sincerity and a respect for the audience in many of the older programs I watch. Certainly, the opportunity to see such talents as Bette Davis still working her magic is special.

      Maybe we aren't looking. The CBC just finished season 1 (6 episodes) of a legal drama called Diggstown. It stars Vinessa Antoine as a legal aid attorney. It is set in Nova Scotia and features a strong ensemble playing interesting characters. It is a quality program and I hope they pick it up for future seasons.

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  14. Thanks so much for this beautiful write-up on what sounds like a moving and poignant episode of this series. I've seen several of Bette's appearances on other 1950s tv anthology shows, but was not aware she was on Wagon Train. But it sounds like great material for her.

    I know that John Ford directed a few episodes of Wagon Train - wouldn't it have been fascinating if he could have directed one with Bette? Just think if those two fiery temperaments could have had a chance to work together!

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