Great Character Actors: Ward Bond

 

There’s no real point to this post other than to briefly discuss and celebrate the career of one of the great character actors of all time — Ward Bond (1903-1960). First, I have to admit I don’t know much more about Bond’s life than that presented in his Wikipedia biography.

Let’s see … I did know that he’d played football at the University of Southern California along with John Wayne and that he and Wayne began their acting careers when they and other USC footballers were hired by director John Ford to appear in “Salute,” a 1929 movie about football. I also knew about the drinking and the conservative politics (among other things he was an early and proud member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals). I didn’t know about the B.S. degree in engineering nor did I know that he suffered from epilepsy.

Bond and Wayne, who would remain lifelong friends, had somewhat similar career paths although with widely divergent trajectories. Wayne, after a decade or so, would rise to the peaks of stardom, while Bond, after a decade or so, would establish himself as a solid, highly sought-after character actor. Bond appeared in over 200 movies in his career, including some of the best ever made. It’s likely most moviegoers of the time would not have recognized his name although they would have recognized him as soon as he appeared on screen. In any event, Bond made every movie he was in just a little bit better than it otherwise would’ve been.

Many of those 200-plus movie roles for Bond were quite small — a scene or so, a line or so. However, he also had his share of meaty roles and he made the most of them. He has a large role in John Ford’s The Searchers as Rev. Captain Samuel Johnson Clayton and he owns this scene:

He had a much smaller role in the 1934 Academy Award Best Picture winner It Happened One Night:

Did I mention that Bond was a member of what came to be called the John Ford Stock Company? He appeared in 22 Ford movies (John Wayne appeared in 24). Looking at the list, I’m surprised that Jane Darwell only has a seven next to her name. Seemed to me she was in many more than that.

OK, back to Bond. Let me show a couple more scenes featuring Mr. Bond in a John Ford picture. First up, from 3 Godfathers.

Next, a scene from The Quiet Man:

He played boxer John L. Sullivan in the Errol Flynn vehicle Gentleman Jim:

I was hoping to include a scene from The Wings of Eagles in which Bond plays fictional movie director John Dodge (a thinly veiled portrait of Bond’s movie benefactor and long-time tormentor Ford) but I couldn’t find a clip. This still from the movie will have to do. I’ll bet he had fun with this part!

Bond would become most famous to the American public by his starring role in the TV western “Wagon Train” from 1957 through his untimely death by heart attack in 1960 at age 57. Below, I’ve included an episode from the show’s first season featuring Charles Laughton. It lasts about 50 minutes.

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There are 19 comments.

  1. Member

    I have been a lifelong fan of Ward Bond, and my first thought of him is always that scene you linked from the Quiet Man. I understand he is thought of as a character actor, but he was a star to me in every movie I saw him in. 

    This is the first I heard that he and John Wayne played football, and got introduced to acting together! 

    • #1
    • March 5, 2019, at 8:08 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. Member

    …Aren’t all actors “character actors?” *wink*

    • #2
    • March 5, 2019, at 8:14 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. Member
    tigerlily Post author

    PHenry (View Comment):

    I have been a lifelong fan of Ward Bond, and my first thought of him is always that scene you linked from the Quiet Man. I understand he is thought of as a character actor, but he was a star to me in every movie I saw him in.

    This is the first I heard that he and John Wayne played football, and got introduced to acting together!

    Yeah, and Bond was probably the better football player. He started on the line on the Trojans 1928 team which went 9-0-1 and which had as good a claim as anybody as the National Champion. Here is a discussion of the 1928 college football season.

    • #3
    • March 5, 2019, at 8:20 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Member

    Thank you.

    I like old movies and, as you mentioned, I didn’t know his name, but I recognized him in the clips you presented. I believe the ‘character’ actors always had something to add to the ‘star’ vehicles – most times something very positive.

    • #4
    • March 5, 2019, at 8:27 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. Member

    That was a fun romp through a career.

    • #5
    • March 5, 2019, at 8:35 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. Member
    tigerlily Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    That was a fun romp through a career.

    Thanks.

    • #6
    • March 5, 2019, at 8:37 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Member

    Wagon Train was a never-miss show when I was a kid. Also, Bond was memorable as Bert the cop in It’s a Wonderful Life. 

    • #7
    • March 5, 2019, at 10:05 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  8. Member
    tigerlily Post author

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Wagon Train was a never-miss show when I was a kid. Also, Bond was memorable as Bert the cop in It’s a Wonderful Life.

    Yeah, I thought about including a clip from Wonderful Life, but the ones I found weren’t really what I was looking for.

    • #8
    • March 5, 2019, at 10:07 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Inactive

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZo2tDKbNdI

    One of my favorite Ward Bond featured movies is “My Darling Clementine.” It’s a western that’s got everything, except John Wayne; but it didn’t need him.

     

    • #9
    • March 5, 2019, at 10:12 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Inactive

    I guess I’ll have to be the one to mention Bond’s co-starring role as Detective Tom Polhaus in the all-time classic, “The Maltese Falcon.”

    • #10
    • March 5, 2019, at 12:15 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Member
    tigerlily Post author

    Freesmith (View Comment):

    I guess I’ll have to be the one to mention Bond’s co-starring role as Detective Tom Polhaus in the all-time classic, “The Maltese Falcon.”

    Yep.

     

    • #11
    • March 5, 2019, at 12:21 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Member

    My first association is as Bert the cop in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

    “No, thanks… I gotta go home and see what the wife’s doing.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qj5ou9z0H4g

    • #12
    • March 5, 2019, at 12:55 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Member

    He was certainly among my favorite actors of all times.

    • #13
    • March 5, 2019, at 1:55 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  14. Thatcher

    In that clip from The Searchers watch the last 40 seconds carefully. Look at Bond’s eyes and the interaction between Ethan and his brother’s wife. There is a lot going on there, though nothing is said.

    • #14
    • March 5, 2019, at 7:22 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Member

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    In that clip from The Searchers watch the last 40 seconds carefully. Look at Bond’s eyes and the interaction between Ethan and his brother’s wife. There is a lot going on there, though nothing is said.

    And that is the essence of acting.

    • #15
    • March 5, 2019, at 11:30 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Member

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZo2tDKbNdI

    One of my favorite Ward Bond featured movies is “My Darling Clementine.” It’s a western that’s got everything, except John Wayne; but it didn’t need him.

     

    One of the best episodes of M*A*S*H shows this movie. I recognized him right away, but didn’t know the actor’s name. I think he’s even mentioned a few times in the series. 

    • #16
    • March 6, 2019, at 1:13 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Inactive

    Shauna Hunt (View Comment):

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZo2tDKbNdI

    One of my favorite Ward Bond featured movies is “My Darling Clementine.” It’s a western that’s got everything, except John Wayne; but it didn’t need him.

     

    One of the best episodes of M*A*S*H shows this movie. I recognized him right away, but didn’t know the actor’s name. I think he’s even mentioned a few times in the series.

    Yes, I remember because of the “shoot out” at the end. The movie itself is considered a “B” western, but has some big names in it like Henry Fonda (as Wyatt Earp), Victor Mature (as a healthy good looking Doc Holliday), and Walter Brennan (as the mean SOB Old Man Clanton – the scene were he is trashing his grown boys with a riding whip is classic). Anyway, I highly recommend “My Darling Clementine” viewing.

    • #17
    • March 8, 2019, at 4:44 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Inactive

    When you pull a gun, kill a man.” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lnTbEwrOdU )

     

    Adult supervision in the 19th century. Say, that looks like the place that @bossmongo held the secret meeting, and office Christmas party, of the Black Mambo Revolutionary Army. 

    • #18
    • March 8, 2019, at 5:00 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. Member

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    Shauna Hunt (View Comment):

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZo2tDKbNdI

    One of my favorite Ward Bond featured movies is “My Darling Clementine.” It’s a western that’s got everything, except John Wayne; but it didn’t need him.

     

    One of the best episodes of M*A*S*H shows this movie. I recognized him right away, but didn’t know the actor’s name. I think he’s even mentioned a few times in the series.

    Yes, I remember because of the “shoot out” at the end. The movie itself is considered a “B” western, but has some big names in it like Henry Fonda (as Wyatt Earp), Victor Mature (as a healthy good looking Doc Holliday), and Walter Brennan (as the mean SOB Old Man Clanton – the scene were he is trashing his grown boys with a riding whip is classic). Anyway, I highly recommend “My Darling Clementine” viewing.

    I will take your word for it. The episode is called Movie Tonight in Season five. We have the DVDs and watch them frequently, as you can tell. ;)

    • #19
    • March 8, 2019, at 6:05 PM PDT
    • 1 like