Comer Moon Mullins

Comer Moon Mullins

Once the world’s greatest finger and thumb picking guitar player, Moon is still actively entertaining and teaching.  This is the start of the story of this remarkable man with a few pictures of him now.  He took Merle Travis’ style and added two fingers to create what is now mastered by few but loved by many.  Dean Phelps is the reining “champ” now, I believe.  Much more to come……hopefully I will MASTER this BLOG as Moon did the guitar!  KEITH  For those of you who don’t know, I am the OLD Lady of the group on the right sitting next to Moon………..the Old Man of our group!  Moon has on his American Mountain Man coonskin cap, (he and I had been in our buckskins earlier for a wood’s walk and some pictures.  More to come on this unusual man with the great stories!Image


This is Moon’s “Harem”.  We were lucky enough to have him accompany us on a horse riding mini vacation, Moon is an excellent rider.  As he cannot pass a guitar without picking it up and there were 5 in the wonderful “Cabin” we rented, we not only had picking and singing sessions, but no matter what we were doing, we usually had world class guitar picking to listen to also.  His “job” was to keep the fireplace roaring and play songs!  Later, I will be posting a few of the videos we made there where he “found” his voice that he had lost in the hospital when we almost lost him!

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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in MY ARTICLES


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WAGON MASTER 1950 by Keith Payne

Wagonmaster 1950

WAGON MASTER 1950  by Keith Payne                                                                                                                              34 Comments

In honor of the anniversary of the death of Ward Bond 11/5/1960

Ward Bond, although probably the most underrated actor of all time, will be remembered longer than most of the stars who won multiple academy awards. Why? A big part of it is a little film made in 1950 by legendary director John “Pappy” Ford called Wagon Master. This film was named many times by Pappy as being one of his favorites. He was one of the most visual of directors, at this time working near the peak of his career, and he called Wagon Master not only his favorite Western but described it as, “along with The Fugitive (1947) and The Sun Shines Bright (1953), the closest to being what I had wanted to achieve.”

In a rare starring role, Ward Bond plays the leader of a group of Mormons who, shunned by society, struggle to cross the American West to reach their “promised land,” where they can settle and form a community. They ask two horse traders (Ben Johnson and Harry Carey, Jr.) who know the territory to lead their wagon train. It takes some convincing, but they finally agree to do it, and the rest of the story follows their journey and the obstacles they must overcome, including Indians, gunmen, and Mother Nature. Yet the story often pauses to revel in the characters dancing, whittling or singing (the soundtrack is packed with old Western songs), and to show pastoral sequences of the wagons simply moving through the landscape or crossing a river. These scenes become the emotional core of the film, and they undoubtedly are what Ford was so satisfied to have achieved.*

Although Ben Johnson, Joanne Dru and Harry Carey, Jr. received top billing on the film, Ward was paid the top money, $20,000 for a film with a 1 million dollar budget. Dobe Carey said many times that Ward actually was the star and was the glue for the entire movie. One quote from his book, “A Company of Heroes” was that he had great regard for Ward Bond and said that he brought stability in every scene he was in.

One scene required Ward to break up a fight between Sandy and one of the Mormons. Pappy had wanted two of the dogs who had been fighting each other most of the filming days to be fighting in the background. Instead, when the take began, both dogs froze, then one took off and the other ran in and tore Ward’s pants as he was separating the boys. Being the consummate actor he was, Ward continued on with the scene. At the end, Mrs. Ledyarde blew her horn, (which, by the way really sounds like that unless you have enough wind to blow it…I know, I have one), to help separate the two, and then saw the tear in Ward’s trousers. It happened to be large and right at the spot where he had been subjected to years of operations, grafts, and physical therapy for a leg that was almost completely severed in the 40s. In fact, Ward had only in the last few years just been able to walk without aid of a cane, and in some scenes did not have to wear the large heavy brace. I suppose the actress just couldn’t suppress the chance to see what that famous injury looked like, because she reached down and parted the trousers right in front of the camera. Ward and her reaction cannot be seen in the film, but here it is below. You can see her open the pants and see the large dent in his leg just above the knee.

Next shows Ward covering his leg and his shock that she would do such a thing, especially on camera.

This shows that she has realized what she has done to a man who was her friend. Luckily, Ward was not the type to hold a grudge. She guest starred on Wagon Train a few times.

Pappy Ford sent Duke Wayne a telegram telling him about the incident and said he hoped the dog had had his rabies shot! Of course, the dog had only torn the pants, not bitten Ward.

Another scene involving Ward occurred when Ben Johnson and Ward were riding along the river looking for a crossing. In the commentary with Peter Bogdanovich, Dobe Carey had been saying that Pappy Ford had given Ward a horse that was too small for him, (obviously trying to make Ben look taller than he was since he was the Wagon Master). Well, all of a sudden, down the horse went. Ward was able to spring free as the horse fell on his left side and could have severely damaged his never completely healed leg. Ward jumped up, strode to catch the horse, all the time adlibbing about the horse’s clumsiness. However, you can easily see in frame by frame that Ben’s horse was mired up to his fetlocks…..apparently they were in deep mud or quicksand.

Down goes Ward’s horse with him on it.

Next picture shows Ben’s horse Steele’s back legs mired up, with him trying to get him out.

Ben comes over and tells Ward about the quicksand, and it wasn’t the horse’s fault. Ward remounts and says, “Sorry horse”!
So, that night Pappy Ford sent Duke Wayne another telegram this time saying that Ward took a bad horse fall on his injured leg side but that he and horse were OK.

This movie was almost a musical with all the songs by the Sons of the Pioneers, even Ward, Ben, and Dobe sang a bit. Then they had two celebration dances. You could see the exuberance on Ward’s face as once, he never thought he would walk again, and there he was whooping it up on the dance floor!

So, now you know why one of the most underrated actors of all time will be remembered longer than the legendary, Oscar winners will be. Because, that fun little movie brought Ward Bond the role of Major Seth Adams in Wagon Train which is still a household show all over the world even 52 years to THIS DAY after Ward’s Death.


all pictures provided by Keith, except for the 1st pic (source)

you can find Keith on facebook (need to be logged in) but make sure to leave us some comments here

*  credit for paragraph to Tom Correa, who wrote this post on Ward’s life

and the Ward post here at Speakeasy 

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18 thoughts on “Wagon Master (1950)”

  1. Elise RicheyNov 5 2012 at 5:01 pm
    Great post. I never get tired of Ward Bond stories. I absolutely agree that he was underrated as an actor. I always think that he would have been fun to sit across the table from and shoot the breeze. I know that he was very politically opinionated and was involved with the HUAC and that had an affect on his career. There’s a comment made by John Ford one time that goes something like this: “Oh, that big ugly is full of shit, but he’s the kind of shit I like”.
    1. Keith PayneNov 7 2012 at 1:38 pm
      Thanks ELISE, I know you as a true Ward fan as well as others such as Terry Wilson, Frank McGrath, Dobe Carey and many of Pappy’s Stock Troupe. I neglected to give you credit for the info you gave me from Dobe’s book where he said that he had great regard for Ward Bond and said that he brought stability in every scene he was in. The rest you sent I had already written about but appreciate greatly everything you send me for the book. And I WILL not forget you again! I trust you see that some of what Dobe put in his book was not always correct as the screen catches show. However it is one of the foremost authorities on the majority of the actors and prominent stunt men. Thanks again for your additions. Oh, do you perchance know where that comment at the end of your reply came from? Would like to add it to all else. Keith (the old lady one)!
    1. Keith PayneNov 7 2012 at 1:41 pm
      Thanks Mark, due to your immense knowledge of all things western and many others, I consider your comments to be diamonds in the rough! You DO like those screen captures, don’t you, LOL! I think they go a long way to “proving” what you are writing about, especially when it is a new addition to previous knowledge. KEITH
  2. PPNov 7 2012 at 5:57 am
    As already mentioned, I love learning new stories and insights into Ward’s life. I hadn’t heard these and the screen captures are fantastic!
    1. Keith PayneNov 7 2012 at 1:45 pm
      Thanks PP. As known by the folks at JWMB, your comments are thoroughly appreciated. You and Mark both should sign up to Kristina’s blog….you will find some interesting things on the Classics, and many times a most helpful friend if you need a question answered.
  3. paniolotomNov 9 2012 at 3:48 am
    Keith, I love your article on Ward Bond. Since he was one of the greats that I still enjoy watching, it means a lot to me that you took the time to help me with my article on Ward Bond. It is all about getting it right, isn’t it? You are a great gal! A fine writer. Much thanks!
  4. Debbie StuckiNov 10 2012 at 10:46 am
    I’m not an authority on old Westerns, but, I can appreciate good writing and your passion for the genre and in particular Ward Bond. Keep it up and your drawing, too.
    1. hawkswillNov 12 2012 at 7:55 am
      I appreciate the nice comment Debbie. You are the only one who has commented on my ” passion” for Ward, and that it is. If you even see Wagon Master on the Classics channel, take the time out to watch it…..he, Ben, Dobe, and some of the other folks of Pappy’s Stock Troupe may become favorites of yours, also. And have started a site for my sketches. So far, only one page is available, and it will change greatly before I am finished, (it is not published yet but you can find it here):
  5. kristinaPost authorNov 5 2012 at 1:17 pm
    super for your first post! now I hope you make it a habit so I can host you, won’t spill any beans but boy do you have a lot of great stories and memories to share, look forward to other people reading them. thanks!
    Reply ↓

    1. William O’Hara Nov 15 2012 at 12:11 am
      Meticulous research and visual confirmation to back it. I’ve seen this film many times but never connected the dots. Well done. I look forward to future revelations, Keith.
      1. hawkswill Nov 15 2012 at 9:54 am
        Thanks William. Am thinking of giving Kristina here at Speakeasy some fairly unknown facts about The Searchers….thought it had all been written many times……maybe not? KEITH
    2. Toby Nov 28 2012 at 12:34 pm
      The “accidents” that made their way into Wagon Master are a large part of its charm, giving it a randomness and goofiness that seems very real.Thanks for pointing a few of them out.
      1. hawkswill Nov 29 2012 at 11:13 am
        Thanks Ringo. And glad to teach you about blogs. Should open a whole new world to you. Ringo is a regular on the John Wayne Message Board with me. It is the most complete site on Duke that you will find. It also discusses all types of movies and actors, musical scores, etc. from Film Noir to Vampires! And I don’t believe you will find anything that can compare to the original Posters, lobby cards, etc. that are displayed in the archives. KEITH
    3. Scott Allen Nollen Jan 4 2013 at 11:35 pm
      WAGON MASTER is a magnificent film, and I share John Ford’s own assessment of it. I enjoyed Keith Payne’s article very much. It includes a nice level of personal detail that most fans of Bond would not know. (My forthcoming book, THREE BAD MEN: JOHN FORD, JOHN WAYNE, WARD BOND, will be available soon.) I really appreciate Keith’s dedication to Ward’s (yes, VERY underrated) talent, and attention to so many interesting details about the making of the film and Ward’s part in it. A fine job, indeed. I share Keith’s enthusiasm about Ward, whom I argue is THE supreme American character actor (in the introduction of my book).
      1. hawkswillk Jan 5 2013 at 1:06 am
        Thanks Scott. For as much as you know about Ward and the memorabilia that you have of his, I just cannot wait for your book. Plus, it is FINALLY a book about one of the most memorable and greatest triumverates in pictures both on and off stage. From what I have
        read on your Facebook page and from talking with you, it is obvious you are probably the most knowledgeable person concerning the relationship of these three most talented men. Please check out The Facebook page for THREE BAD MEN………it has letters from Ward to his family……….well, won’t spoil it. Also, there is a link where the book can be ordered pre-publication.
        And the author and crew who put together this book will be glad to answer your questions and hear your stories. Many thanks to Kristina for giving us the privilege of introducing his book to her followers. KEITH
      2. kristina Post authorJan 5 2013 at 8:26 am
        hi welcome to the blog, and thanks for your kind words, as a Bond fan I hope you find and enjoy my article on his life as well. Really looking forward to your book– the more attention these people receive the better and that trio was such a great combo. 🙂 thanks to you both, so glad to provide this gathering place for fans of Bond et al
    4. Bob Jan 16 2013 at 5:55 pm
      Great article Keith! I enjoyed it very much! And thanks for pointing me toward Kristina’s great site, I will be back here quite a bit, I think, and I look forward to more of your writing too!
    5. MikesFilmTalk May 2 2013 at 9:29 am
      Marilyn sent me, you came highly recommended and I can see why! Great post about a great and often underrated actor. You’ve got a new follower! Cheers for the wonderful post mate! 😀
      1. Keith Payne May 2 2013 at 12:12 pm
        Thanks Mike. Be sure to read Kristina’s post on Ward Bond. Until Scott’s book came out, it was by far the best on Ward I had read. And I thank her again for hosting me here.
    6. garryarmstrong May 2 2013 at 11:50 am
      Keith, I LOVE this piece on “Wagonmaster”. It’s one of my favorites. You nailed it when you said it’s almost a musical. Ford so weaved in the music with the story that it is an integral part of the film. Your anecdotes about the film are marvelous. I’ve always considered myself a “maven” but am learning things I never knew. As I said elsewhere, I look forward to sharing some of my anecdotes with you more directly. I think we’ll have fun.
    7. Keith Payne May 2 2013 at 12:15 pm
      Thanks Garry. Oh, I think we have a great many things to share! Thanks for your kind words about my little piece. I do one every year on the anniversary of Ward’s death. Check my reply to Mike who Marilyn recommended. Kristina’s article on Ward will hold you quite well until you get Scott’s book……..she did a bang up job! KEITH

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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in MY ARTICLES


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Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond FIRST QUARTERLY REPORT


Well, our long awaited day of the first report of sales of Three Bad Men has finally arrived.  Scott got the news from his publisher.  Out of the now 18 books Scott has written for McFarland Publishers, this first quarter, Three Bad Men has sold over twice the amount than any other one has.  He is very pleased, and now realizes the importance of promotion!  Scott mainly cares about the research and writing of his books.  After that is done, so is he.  But, it is nice to see the money keep rolling in and that it should for his other books also.  Here is a list of his books from McFarland.  I have two of them and they are excellent, in my opinion.Image

The Black Diamond, (about Theron Denson, a Neil Diamond Tribute Singer), was started the same day of the completion of Three Bad Men, and It is now published and out to the public. This is a link to the Facebook page about the book.
Here is an intro from Fox 8 News and then an excerpt from Theron singing “I Am I Said” on Youtube.  Many more are on there, so check him out.
Here is a picture of Scott and Theron, not long after Scott’s 50th birthday and right after he finished TBM.  Theron went to his house and stayed there for 3 days telling his life story,  and having pictures made.  This shows the two together with some of Scott’s other books.  Picture of Scott and Black Diamond

As for Scott, his progressive illness is still taking its toll……hopefully it will stop very soon as the site of it is in his lower spine.  He is now in a wheelchair, but that hasn’t slowed him down.  He and his family moved out to Iowa, about an hour’s drive from Winterset, Duke Wayne’s birthplace.  They are just about settled in now.  And Scott… writing for him.  He SAYS he is retired…….we will see.  Now, he is involved in music, (four of his books divulged deeply into the music of Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and The Jethro Tull Band…….he KNOWS his music.  We will see if he sends us anything of what he is doing.  He is a genius author…….wonder if that extends to composing, etc.

The Black Diamond has a big concert coming up in Nashville…….only a few hours from me.  Just think I might pop on over three with some friends.  I LOVE Neil Diamond and will never see him in public.  I think Theron will do nicely.  CYA, KEITH

Those Wagon Train fans, “keep your eyes open” as Major Adams would say to Flint McCullough………I have a piece coming out on one of the best episodes of the first four seasons.  LOTS of great screen views and some of the best acting of Ward Bond, Terry Wilson, and Frank McGrath!



Posted by on August 10, 2013 in THREE BAD MEN BOOK REVIEWS ETAL


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Hondo coal                                Festus prettied up askance   El D. I Won't last       IWO Stryker and PFC THOMAS  El Dorado Horseback curve      FT. Apache 3  TALL ROCKLIN CROP        TG Rooster puts reins in mouth    Serg. Major BEN                               Wood burn Lion LEO Mark's composite 2  JB middle of rollover in pain  The Sh  Gillum grabs JB's gun crop  JB's last smile to Gillum  The Shootist Patriot to the end

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Posted by on August 7, 2013 in MY SKETCHES

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Posted by on August 7, 2013 in THREE BAD MEN BOOK REVIEWS ETAL


Seeing Stars Once Again

This little article brought back fond memories of long ago. Back then, celebrities made up about 70% of Palm Springs where I was golf pro at Mission Hills, Country Club.

SBI: A Thinning Crowd

A long time ago, I wrote a post about seeing famous people around town. It’s something that happens around here, and it happened again today.

My fiance and I were roaming around Nashville and went to Green Hills Mall, which sits in one of the more affluent parts of town. On the way, we were talking about Nicole Kidman, who has a residence here. Anyway, we made our way to the mall. She was browsing as I was playing with my phone. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed someone walk around the corner.

That’s when I turned to my fiance and said, “Speak of the devil.”

It was Nicole Kidman, the very person who we had been talking about. My fiance glanced up and continued shopping. I continued to play around with my phone. Essentially, we did everything we could not to stare. That was hard because…

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Posted by on June 18, 2013 in BLOGS I FOLLOW


Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond Review by Jeff Arnold

New review out for Three Bad Men by Scott Nollen.


Check out Jeff’s blog and sign up for it.

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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in THREE BAD MEN BOOK REVIEWS ETAL


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Ever been part of an old fashioned HOUSE RAISING?  Well, I was for Rendezvous friends Carolyn and Jon Houglum in Franklin, NC.  They did it just as the old homesteaders of long ago would have.  Carolyn very carefully documented all stages of it both pictorally and texually….even made a movie about it.  This will take you to their site where you can follow a most remarkable story from when they bought the property and began cutting wood and taking it to the little portable sawmill to make the lumber  all the way to the final product filled with the cabinets and furniture Jon built especially to the designs in the album Caroline had been filling with items and saving patiently for years.  When Son Josh graduated, they sold their home in Florida, retired and moved lock stock and barrel to Franklin to continue this saga.  Some folks came from all over the country for the original house raising that took about a week and saw the two stories and basement “dried in”.  They camped out in their Rendezvous tents, trailers, etc.  Carolyn made certain all had the greatest food and plenty of it.  Of course, “libations” of ALL kinds were available also, but ONLY after all work was called off for the day… you will see, some of the work was dangerous enough to require a COMPLETELY clear head, LOL.  I have noted the pages concerning myself, (I was able to go back a few times to help since I am only 3 hours away).  But, my first job was crew chief for the huMONgous porch about 15 feet in the air.  Thank the Lord I brought a trailerload of heavy duty scaffolding to leave with Jon for the entire project.  Now remember, all wood for the house and furniture was cut by John and Carolyn themselves.  Some pictures show the piles of it with “stickers” between each board to be sure it dried straight and true.  So, treat this as a small book and take the time to read the different entries and look at the pictures… will take you back in time as it did us.

Aside from being the Crew Chief for the porch which turned out to be the most fun place to sit and survey the beautiful scenery through the following years, I went back to help Jon with other things.  First, with Carolyn’s help, we put the trusses on the porch for the Tin Roof then put the tin on.  Other times, Jon and I put the ceiling up in the basement, I wired the main and sub electrical panels, we hung some cabinets, and a large ceiling lamp, we put in the heavy front door for the porch, we did some duct work, and I think the cricket on the chimney, there were other things, but you can see them if you click on the page numbers I have marked.  However, most of my friends have thought it more fun to just follow the whole saga and see where I pop up here and there. Here is the link to Caroline’s documentation.  Know what a “hooter” is?…….you WILL after reading this, LOL.

Here is the “labor of love” a few years after finished.  Next shows the first wall we put up, (you can see me in the bright pink shirt……..looks as if I alone am holding up the wall, (look closely, the braces are already nailed in, LOL)!  Next is me securing one of the braces for the 16 foot 6x6s used for the Porch supports.  I had a super “porch” crew.  Had NO idea Jon’s sisters would be so helpful.  Of course, Terry, Jon’s son, was just a little fellah when I first met him at Rendezvous.  He was a big strapping lad here and a tremendous help to me.  Miss you Terry!

Dream_Home_325 Years laterRaising east wall first oneKeith_Pg_7 brace for porch

Pages you can find me:  6  , 7  (yep that is me up there on the floor joists.  Third pic on this page shows me standing up there in a white shirt., 9 shows the porch sans railings but all flooring laid and secured, 10 I am in aqua blue short sleeves sitting on ground next to Jon,  11 temporary banisters for porch before heading home. 22 Jon and I finish the porch roof.  When I told Jon how we would cut the side boards off even for the rafter ledge, he didn’t like the idea of holding the skill saw sideways, pulling the guard back and sawing away….don’t blame him…….not the CORRECT way to use a skill saw….but I had done it many places for many years, so there is a picture of me doing that on this page…..main thing was to watch your step while doing it, LOL.  23 shows the porch finished and tells the Story of Charlie the Bear, (chain sawed by a friend of mine), and how I met Jon and Carolyn 19 years before then at one of Charlie Knight’s Dove Shoots. 31 shows the completed porch, (most of it), and beside the white door is a log stand with the little black bear we named Charlie.  40 shows Jon and me running the chimney pipe, Jon on that slippery roof with wet silicone on his shoes, and then showed Jon how to put up heavy OSB on the ceiling with two rather small people, (Jon and me), by building two “jacks”…..1×4 boards almost as high as the ceiling, with a 4 foot piece of 1×4 screw across the top……simple!  Then, as always, time for a drink and a nice rest on the porch before one of Carolyn’s scrumptious meals. 52 I wired the panel and subpanel, and Jon and I hung the kitchen overhead lamp.   I think that is the last I made it over there.  Had a big job in town and couldn’t make it to the first Houseraising Reunion, DARN!

So, this is how you build a house when you start with just a piece of land, LOL!  I had always wanted to do it that way, with the wall raisings, etc….but had never been able to.  This was a blast and a half and then some!  Don’t stop when the house is done….keep going and see how Jon used his red cedar lumber, the poplar, birch, oak, spruce, etc…….all made by…..well MADE by God, but prepared by Jon and Carolyn.  Most of the furniture is built by Jon for that same lumber.  They DID ORDER the old timey Stove which is really gas……not wood burning!  He built Carolyn some very beautiful furniture!  Oh, Jon is and has been for many years an excellent artist.  His paintings now hang in a good many NC galleries and he gives art classes at his studio and on YouTube!  Here is the link for his Art Site:





Posted by on May 31, 2013 in MY ARTICLES


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Monday, May 27…


Monday, May 27, 2013
Book Review: THREE BAD MEN: JOHN FORD, JOHN WAYNE, WARD BOND (2013, Scott Allen Nollen)

I’m a longtime fan of John Ford (who isn’t, really?), the patron-saint of Monument Valley, born-again Irishman, and director of some of the best-constructed, most thoughtful films to come out of Hollywood, from THE INFORMER to THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE to THE QUIET MAN to THE GRAPES OF WRATH.
John Wayne is, so to speak, John Wayne, though his work frequently transcends the “movie star” mold with a dancer’s grace and a touch of madness like in Ford’s THE SEARCHERS, Hawks’ RED RIVER, and Siegel’s THE SHOOTIST.
Then, there’s Ward Bond: a character actor extraordinaire who played brutes and cowpokes and priests and boxers across more than two hundred films. Though his supporting work with Ford and Wayne is why he’s included in this trio, my soft spot for him will always be his one and only shot at top-billing in 1942’s HITLER: DEAD OR ALIVE, a film that clearly inspired INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and contains the fabulous spectacle of Ward slapping the shit out of Hitler himself …before proceeding to force-shave off his mustache!

Anyway, I just finished reading Scott Allen Nollen’s in-depth examination of the lives and work of these three cinematic giants, and I highly recommend it as a fascinating study for burgeoning old-Hollywood aficionados and serious fans of cinema alike. Chronologically tracing the intertwining lives of these three “good-bad men” who were not unlike the characters in their films (Ford directed Bond and Wayne in nearly thirty pictures each), Nollen is at once objective and affectionate in his analysis, and there’s a wealth of source material including documents, letters, telegrams, and plenty of rare photographs. There are riveting anecdotes (I may now actually be inspired to read Harry Carey, Jr.’s autobiography), some great yarn-spinning (including tales of Ward Bond’s brutish, high-flying, indecent-exposing, Wile E. Coyote-style antics and his ruining of a key scene in THE SEARCHERS when he unplugged the camera to plug in his electric razor!), and the work definitely touches on their peccadillos and absurdities, though never salaciously.

It’s deftly written and never dry; while many books of this kind become bogged down by academic posturing, Nollen remains true to the spirit of his subjects and opts for a two-fisted, no bullshit approach. I really appreciate how deeply he throws himself into the work, freely admitting “a meaningful (though a bit one-sided) conversation with a tombstone or two.” He’s as a film writer should be– intense, obsessive, and highly-focused; reverent without succumbing to hollow adulation.

The main drive of the work is the examination of the complex personal and working relationship between the three (though large swaths of the book are dedicated to advancing the underrated Ward Bond to his rightful place in the pantheon). None of these men could really be pinned down or branded with a particular stereotype– each had a volatile mix of id and ego (often sprinkled heavily with alcohol) that fused together to create a kind of perfect storm of filmic art.
The complex psychology of Ford’s relationships with the two men is indeed worthy of an entire volume– you see a strange kind of ownership emerge, resulting from Ford’s “discovering” of the two actors. This ownership was generally expressed in verbal (and often physical) sadism as Ford became master of his “whipping boys,” something which may have even tied into his potential bisexuality:

“Ford loved John Wayne and Ward Bond, but his true sexual orientation wasn’t something he would have discussed with them, or anyone else. When it came to his own life and psyche, Pappy [Ford] avoided the truth, exaggerated, lied, or just didn’t ‘have any goddamn idea.’ The positive emotions he felt for his two favorite actors and whipping boys may have been the underlying cause of his negative, sadistic treatment of them (and himself); but even a lifetime of psychoanalysis may not have ‘proved’ anything.”

Vindictive and controlling, Ford “froze out” Wayne for eight years when he appeared in a rival director’s Western (Raoul Walsh’s THE BIG TRAIL) and later, when Bond made serious forays into television (WAGON TRAIN) and Wayne tried to direct a picture of his own (THE ALAMO), Ford would sometimes install himself as a presence on set and attempt to undermine/co-opt the work therein. These behaviors even extended beyond the trio– he punched out Henry Fonda (!) on MISTER ROBERTS and made cruel, deliberate use of alcohol to wring earth-shattering, hungover performances out of the likes of Victor McLaglen in THE INFORMER and Woody Strode in SERGEANT RUTLEDGE.

Though he reveals these men “warts and all,” Nollen also paints a portrait of devoted friends and masterful artists whose lives and creative outlets meshed almost completely. (For instance, despite the abuse, Ford chose Bond to play his own alter-ego in the deeply personal THE WINGS OF EAGLES.)

Nollen takes on the accusations of racism in Ford’s films, and reveals his struggle to show all sides despite the constraints of the system– especially evident in films like THE SEARCHERS, SERGEANT RUTLEDGE, and CHEYENNE AUTUMN. He tackles the strange political spectrum of the men, too, with John Ford’s patriotic progressivism, Wayne’s conservatism, and Ward Bond’s ultraconservatism (and yet it was Ford who took his camera overseas into the crucible of World War II while Wayne and Bond remained in Hollywood). He doesn’t shy away from Ward Bond’s shameful behavior in the McCarthy era as a supporter of the blacklist:

“The social climbing Bond’s ultimate political affront to Ford involved an invitation to a party he was throwing for Senator Joseph McCarthy. His great mentor [Ford] simply answered, ‘You can take your party and shove it. I wouldn’t meet that guy in a whorehouse. He’s a disgrace and a danger to our country.'”

Bond’s involvement with the blacklist feels like a moral counterpoint to Ford’s extensive work with the U.S. armed forces in World War II and beyond, and much attention here is paid to his military career (I learned that in North Africa a Nazi actually surrendered himself to John Ford!)

Along the way, Nollen delves into a vast spectrum of material including Ford’s relationship with his older brother Francis (mentor, actor, and silent film director), Ford’s gleeful propensity for Chaucer/Shakespearean-style low comedy and his hilariously bizarre obsession with highlighting Ward Bond’s “horse’s ass” in shot compositions (“Although FORT APACHE is a serious examination of the mythology of the American West, it humorously can be branded Ford’s ‘ass-travaganza'”). Of particular interest to me were Ford’s work with Victor McLaglen (whose performance in THE INFORMER is one of the greatest in filmdom), his direction of genius child actor and later genre-movie legend Roddy McDowall in HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, Bond’s artistic process as unofficial show-runner on WAGON TRAIN, and the compelling, touching latter-day friendship between Ford and Woody Strode– and the book certainly has some genuinely emotional, poignant moments as the three “good-bad” men’s lives dwindle to a close.

In the end, it definitely gets you amped up to watch some John Ford films– I’ve probably seen at least two dozen or so at this point, but there’s still scores more I need to get my hands on, and there’s obviously some big gaps in my knowledge. For instance, since I’ve read THREE BAD MEN, MISTER ROBERTS, THEY WERE EXPENDABLE, 3 GODFATHERS, and WAGON MASTER have now leapt to the forefront of my queue.

THREE BAD MEN is published by McFarland (Order line: 800-253-2187), ISBN 978-0-7864-5854-7
Posted by Sean Gill at 10:47 AM 2 comments:
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Labels: 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, Book Review, John Ford, John Wayne, Roddy McDowall, War, Ward Bond, Western
Friday, May 24, 2013


Duke’s Birthday

Duke's Birthday

Happy 106th Birthday Duke! Hope You, Ward, and Pappy have a blast!

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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in MY ARTICLES


Book Review: Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond.

Third review out of the 23 I chose for Scott’s book. Scott says that Toby got exactly what he Intended to project! Check it out and don’t forget to leave a post for Toby…….probably will want to sign up for his blog, also. KEITH

50 Westerns From The 50s.


John Ford didn’t have much interest in discussing his creative process. Anybody who’s read a book or two on him knows he downplayed his incredible artistry (and sentimentality) at every turn, preferring to fall back on his reputation (deserved) as a mean old man who happened to make great movies.

Ford’s greatest collaborator, John Wayne, worked very hard to look like he wasn’t working at all. The fact that so many today think of Wayne as more a personality than an actor shows how well he succeeded.

Ward Bond was a natural, plain and simple. Over 200 films and a TV series, Wagon Train, certainly benefited from his style (or lack of style).

942276_10152879710740495_1097840882_nThe politics of these three men were as varied as their approach to their craft, but they formed a fast friendship that lasted for decades — from Wayne and Bond playing football at USC in the…

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Posted by on May 20, 2013 in THREE BAD MEN BOOK REVIEWS ETAL