Saturday, December 12, 2009

1960 - THE COLTER CRAVEN STORY John Ford's TV western

Sometime's the careers of famous directors have interesting little episodes.

Wagon Train was a popular television series starring Ward Bond, a character actor from the 1930's and 40's.  Bond was discovered by John Ford around the same time as John Wayne.  Ford, Wayne and Bond became close friends and legendary drinking buddies.  They were known to go on long drinking benders in Mexico between films.

Ward Bond was also a hard core anti communist right wing nutcase, he was known to be a major player in the harassment of liberal actors during the anti communist blacklist years in Hollywood.  Ward Bond was apparently not a very nice guy.   What a Roosevelt Democrat like John Ford saw in Bond is anyone's guess.

In the late 1950's Ward Bond had found success as a television star in Wagon Train, John Ford who wasn't working much was invited by Bond to film an episode of Bond's series.

Ford knocked out his episode of Wagon Train in 7 days,  apparently shooting enough footage to make a short film.  The producers of Wagon Train weren't use to an irascable character like Ford and edited the episode down to  the standard TV series length.


Ford turned The Colter Craven Story into a chance to indulge himself in his usual filming antics.  He loaded the cast up with his favorite actors and even persuaded John Wayne to appear in a short sequence.


In, The Colter Craven Story Ford tells the story of an alcoholic doctor still coming to grips with the horrors of the Civil War, particularly the Battle of Shiloh.  In an attempt to sober him up Bond tells the doctor about another man who had to face his personal demons,  that man turns out to be Ulysses S Grant.


The Colter Craven Story is not uninteresting, but it is disappointing.  Ford basically films the episode like a conventional TV show, he does manage to inject some mood and atmosphere during the Battle of Shiloh sequence, but for the most part this TV episode is nothing special.

Ford also loaded The Colter Craven Story up with lots of clips from his 1950 film Wagonmaster, which also starred Ward Bond,  a cost saving measure for TV shows during this period.


Ward Bond always a heavy drinker, had been taking a lot of amphetamines while filming the Wagon Train series to keep up with the hectic demands of the TV schedule.  He suffered a major heart attack and died before The Colter Craven Story was aired.  John Ford did not attend his funeral.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you really need to get your facts straight about John Ford and Ward Bond's funeral. John Ford flew to Texas and then flew to Ca. with Bond's body. The funeral was held Field Photo Home that was run by Ford.