Wardell Edwin Bond was an American film actor whose rugged appearance and easygoing charm featured in numerous roles.
Bond was born in Benkelman, Nebraska – located in the southwestern corner of Nebraska just a few miles from Kansas and Colorado. The Bond family – father John W., mother Mabel L., and sister Bernice – lived in Benkelman until 1919 when they moved to Denver. He graduated from East High School in Denver.
Bond attended the University of Southern California and played football on the same team as John Wayne, who would become a lifelong friend and colleague. Bond was a starting lineman on USC’s first national championship team in 1928. Wayne and Bond, along with several other football players, were recruited to play football players in a film about the United States Naval Academy.
Bond made his screen debut in 1929 in John Ford’s Salute, and thereafter played over 200 supporting roles, never playing the lead in a single theatrical release but starring in the television series Wagon Train from 1957 to 1960. He was frequently typecast as a friendly policeman or as a brutal thug. He had a long-time working relationship with directors John Ford and Frank Capra, performing in such films as The Searchers, Drums Along the Mohawk, The Quiet Man, and Fort Apache for Ford, with whom he made 25 films, and It Happened One Night and It’s a Wonderful Life for Capra. Among his other well-known films were Bringing Up Baby, Gone with the Wind, The Maltese Falcon, Sergeant York, They Were Expendable, Joan of Arc, in which he was atypically cast as Captain La Hire, and Rio Bravo. He later starred in the popular ABC western television series Wagon Train from 1957 until his death. Wagon Train was inspired by the 1950 movie Wagon Master, in which Bond also appeared.