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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."
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."
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.