John Wayne with friends

I always loved the bit player in the movies.  The second banana or the little part which sticks in your memory.

John Wayne had a few players that if you look closely you will see in many of his films.

Ward Bond was one of them.  Gruff, burly American character actor. Born in 1903 in Benkelman, Nebraska (confirmed by Social Security records; sources stating 1905 or Denver, Colorado are in error.) Bond grew up in Denver, the son of a lumberyard worker. He attended the University of Southern California, where he got work as an extra through a football teammate who would become both his best friend and one of cinema’s biggest stars: John Wayne. Director John Ford promoted Bond from extra to supporting player in the film Salute (1929), and became another fast friend. An arrogant man of little tact, yet fun-loving in the extreme, Bond was either loved or hated by all who knew him. His face and personality fit perfectly into almost any type of film, and he appeared in hundreds of pictures in his more than 30-year career, in both bit parts and major supporting roles. In the films of Wayne and Ford, particularly, he was nearly always present. Among his most memorable roles are John L. Sullivan in Gentleman Jim (1942), Det. Tom Polhaus in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and the Rev. Capt. Samuel Johnson Clayton The Searchers (1956). An ardent but anti-intellectual patriot, he was perhaps the most vehement proponent, among the Hollywood community, of blacklisting in the witch hunts of the 1950s, and he served as a most unforgiving president of the ultra-right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. In the mid-’50s he gained his greatest fame as the star of TV’s Wagon Train (1957). During its production, Bond traveled to Dallas, Texas, to attend a football game and died there in his hotel room of a massive heart attack.

But most people do recognize him and then there is Hank Worden as guy who is in the background.  Yet to me he is as memorable as Bond.

Raised on a cattle ranch in Montana. Educated at Stanford and the University of Nevada as an engineer. Washed out as an Army pilot. Toured the country in rodeos as a saddle bronc rider. Broke his neck in a horsefall in his 20s, but didn’t know it until his 40s. Chosen along with Tex Ritter from a rodeo at Madison Square Garden in New York to appear in the Broadway play “Green Grow the Lilacs”, the play from which the musical “Oklahoma” was later derived. Drove a cab in New York, then worked on dude ranches as a wrangler and as a guide on the Bright Angel trail of the Grand Canyon. Recommended by Billie Burke to several movie producers. Became friends with John Wayne, Howard Hawks, and later John Ford, all of whom provided him with much work. Survived by adopted daughter Dawn Henry.

Both guys are in the Searchers.  Bond a bigger part but Hank a bit part with punch.

If you look closely you see these secondary roles in most films and yet some stand out.

Bond was the head of the Texas Rangers and Worden plays the crazy guy who in the end tells Wayne where to find the kidnapped girl.

An American Icon: John Wayne

Cover of "Hondo (Full Screen)"

Cover of Hondo (Full Screen)

Cover of "The Shootist"

Cover of The Shootist

John Wayne: The American Icon (The Oater Man)

I grew up with the pictures of John Wayne. I wanted to emulate him. Not the killing, brooding Wayne but the man of principals who like superman had a firm foundation in how he felt an American should be.

He was the west settling the frontier, the east battling the foes of America and in his later years battling the enemy on every front. You could like or dislike the mans politics but in any case you had to recognize the achievements of the man.

I remember the first real movie I saw of Wayne. It was Hondo. It had in the cast Ward Bond and James Arness. Two of my favorite actors. Bond went on to do Wagon Train and Arness went to Gunsmoke. This was usually viewed as a simple film. But the film has a dark side. Many of Wayne’s movies did have that side where the hero is not wearing a pure White hat.

The old westerns had the white and black hat. The evil guy wore a black hat so you could tell who he was, like you really did not know.

In Hondo, Wayne befriends a woman and son living in the middle of Indian Country. Her husband is off doing something and leaves her alone. Nice guy. Wayne eventually kills her husband, courts the woman and at the end she and Wayne with kid in tow go further west. So the crux is Wayne has killed in self defense this low creep of a husband, takes his wife, adopts his son and all is good in the world. Pretty soap opera to me. Written by Louis L’Amour the script is quite good. The Indians are not portrayed as typical bad guys. As Wayne describes them, “A good way to live,” and he should know he was raised in an Indian village and had an Indian wife. She was killed by Whites. Like I stated, this is a deep story.

The next big film I liked of Wayne was Stagecoach. Here again good and evil are a mixed. The southern gentleman is ready to kill the woman who just had a baby with his last bullet. Andy Devine was in this and a host of others.

Wayne is going to revenge and kill three men in the next town. The sheriff likes Wayne but needs to do his duty. There is a lot more going on than the old west.

There are so many more. John Wayne was in a hell of a lot of movies. Each had him as the hero battling an enemy.

His last had him trying to rid the town of the bad guys. It is the Shootist and I imagine a harder movie for him to make. He had just finished battling cancer. I believe he was in a period where he was feeling better and the cancer appeared to be in an idle stage. He fights at the end of his life in the movie three bad guys. Richard Boone is one of them. He gets them and at the last minute the bartender kills him. For a moment we want him to live but in the movie he will die a lingering death from cancer so this is a better way for him to bow out. Ron Howard kills the bartender and then throws away the gun. There are deep issues at work in this movie also.

But the one where it gets really deep is the Searchers. The last scene says it all. Wayne can not go into the house. He has rescued the girl. By the way in the back drop it might have been his daughter. But he has stepped over the boundaries and therefore he is outside the scope of humanity. Deep as hell, and twice as hot.

So John Wayne, I wish I had known you. But soon it will be my time and if you are in Oater Heaven I will met you at the salon or on the trial. If you are not I will swig a brewsky with you in Dante’s Inferno.