‘Wagon Train’ Guest Star Reflects on Working With John Wayne’s Frequent Collaborator Ward Bond

by Taylor Cunningham
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(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Former child star Tom Nolan appeared in four episodes of the 1950s series Wagon Train when he was getting his start in Hollywood. And in one of those episodes, he starred alongside the iconic Ward Bond.

During an interview with A Word on Westerns (AWOW), the actor explained what it was like to work with such a legend in the industry.

“He was great,” Nolan shared.

The actor turned book editor said that he gets a lot of questions about his Wagon Train experience, and people are most curious about Ward Bond.

Nolan told AWOW that he recently went to Mississippi to promote a book he worked on. And while he was there, he was bombarded with questions about the late star.

“It surprised me, but Ward Bond was, ya know, a big star, I guess in the South as well as all over,” he said. “But, I mean, that was the one person people wanted to talk about.”

Nolan said that he “was happy to talk about him,” too.

“He was very nice to me, always,” he added.

And Tom Nolan was important to Ward Bond as well. Ward died of a massive heart attack on November 5th, 1960. Nolan sent his widow, Mary Louise May, flowers after he heard the news. And May wrote Nolan a “very nice note” in return.

“[Ward] told her he used to enjoy working with me,” Nolan shared. “I certainly enjoyed working with him. He was a great cat.”

One ‘Wagon Train’ Played College Football With John Wayne

John Wayne and Ward Bond knew each other long before they were famous Hollywood western stars. The two actually played football together at the University of Southern California

When Wayne was still a normal guy named Duke Morrison, he grew up throwing the pigskin for his high school football team. He was so talented that he actually earned an athletic scholarship to USC.

John Wayne ended up playing as an offensive tackle during his freshman year, and it was there that he met Ward Bond. Though, the two future celebrities didn’t become friends until later in their lives.

And the two almost didn’t have the chance to work together on Wagon Train either. According to Eugene C. Clarke, a USC trustee who was close with the Duke, Wayne planned on becoming an NFL great. But the future star injured his collarbone while body surfing during vacation one year. And the injury ended up costing him his scholarship.

“He felt his football playing days were over because of his bad shoulder,” said Clarke according to Yahoo News. “So he did what he felt he had to do. He quit school and went to work at the studios.”

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