There are character actors that you’ve seen in maybe ten movies. And then…there’s Ward Bond. One of the most ubiquitous talents to ever grace the large or small screen, Bond amassed over 100 movie and television credits by the time all was said and done. While he reached great heights of fame on the hit western Wagon Train, Ward Bond’s film career was prolific to put it mildly.
Picking just a few roles of his to write about is an undertaking. So I went with the first ones that popped immediately into my mind when I thought of him. The first role of Ward Bond’s that came to mind was his role of Father Lonegran in The Quiet Man. Appearing opposite his frequent co-star John Wayne, Bond brought heart and levity to the role of the preacher. We also get to enjoy Bond as the narrator. You wouldn’t think a man with such a gruff voice would be such a good guide to the action of the movie. But he has a laid back tone that makes you feel like a friend is telling you a story. Another element of Bond’s performance in The Quiet Man that I enjoy is that he’s a holy man that has a bit of a dark sense of humor. When a fight breaks out in the village between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen, rather than jumping in to be peace maker, Father Lonegran joins the rest of the village as a spectator to enjoy the entertainment value.
Another favorite Ward Bond role for me is as Detective Polhaus in one of the quintessential noir films The Maltese Falcon. Bond is part of a stellar supporting cast that includes the likes of Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook Jr. and John Hamilton. But Bond shines as one of the lawmen who gets sucked into the twisted plot to obtain the valuable black bird of the film’s title. He’s fun to watch as the partner of Barton MacLane’s Detective Dundy. Ward Bond is just as convincing in a mystery as he is in a western. Very few people can jump between genres so effortlessly.
And no tribute to Ward Bond would be complete without mentioning his role in It’s A Wonderful Life. Initially a flop at the box office, the film went on to become a Christmas classic. Bond plays Bert, a cop who is a best friend to George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart). Bert proves to be a loyal friend to George through good times and bad. Bert is the person that finds George when the whole town of Bedford Falls is out looking for him when he storms out of his house after losing all his money on Christmas Eve. Bert brings George back to reality after George sees what the town would be like had he never been born at all. Their reunion is heartfelt and funny. It’s a highlight in a movie that is one of Frank Capra’s many masterpieces.
Ward Bond appeared in everything from The Quiet Man to The Searchers, and was even in the Joan Crawford cult classic Johnny Guitar. Whether he was on television or in the movies, Ward Bond made his roles impossible to forget.