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Stories of the journeys of a wagon train as it leaves post-Civil War Missouri on its way to California through the plains, deserts and Rocky Mountains. The first treks were led by gruff, but good-at-heart Major Seth Adams, backed up by his competent frontier scout, Flint McCullough. After Adams and McCullough, the wagon train was led by the avuncular Christopher Hale along with new scouts Duke Shannon and Cooper Smith. Many stories featured the trustworthy assistant wagonmaster Bill Hawks, grizzled old cook Charlie Wooster and a young orphan, Barnaby West. Written by
Doug Sederberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As a lad way back in the day I was one big fan of this TV series. Even at that age I appreciated all the famous guest stars this series seemed to attract.
Take a look at the film credits of Ward Bond. You can hardly find a player, male or female, who at one point did not work with Ward Bond. All the more remarkable when you consider his rightwing politics and championing of the blacklist. The man was hated in some circles, but apparently no one denied his talent.
It was a simple concept, Ward Bond as Major Seth Adams and his team led a group of hardy pioneers across the plains and mountains to California post Civil War. EAch episode focused on those traveling in a particular wagon or someone they met on the way who was usually a name guest star.
Wagon Train was enormously popular. When Ward Bond died in November of 1960 it was national news. It was quite a month, his death and that of Clark Gable almost put the election of a new president named Kennedy out of the headlines.
Bond's death also allowed Wagon Train to pioneer what Law and Order later perfected, the revolving change of regulars. Only Frank McGrath and Terry Wilson stayed with the show for the entire run.
Frank McGrath and Terry Wilson were a pair of stunt men who worked a whole lot for John Ford and though they had done some roles with dialog in front of the camera, Wagon Train made their faces familiar to the public. McGrath was funny little guy as cook Charlie Wooster who must have kept them all amused because the regulars were forever complaining about his lousy cooking.
Wilson played Bill Hawks and comments have been made about the horrible continuity Wagon Train had. It sure did and the most glaring example was that when the show first started, Hawks had a wife named Emily in that first season. She was not only dropped. but later on Hawks referred to himself as a bachelor. Couldn't do that today.
John McIntire replaced Bond and was more than adequate as the father figure wagonmaster. There was a good episode that introduced McIntire as a temporary and sadistic wagonmaster played by Lee Marvin takes over and at the same time, the train picks up McIntire who's just seen his family massacred by Indians. McIntire is a former wagonmaster and he and Marvin have a confrontation.
Robert Horton was scout Flint McCullough and several episodes featured him in the lead and they took him to the places he was scouting with guest stars there for him to interact with. Supposedly political differences were pretty rife between him and Bond. He quit as he was planning to do anyway as I remember even after Bond died. Bad career move though, he never got anything as good as Flint McCullough again.
After that a host of new regulars came on the show, Robert Fuller, Denny Miller, and Michael Burns. The train came to an end in 1965. I was sorry to see it end.
Hallmark channel runs Wagon Train sometimes, here's hoping they start them again.
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