Ward Bond started his acting career when one of his fellow football players at USC got him some work as an "extra". Oh by the way, his team mate was John Wayne! By the way, Ward Bond's first job was in the 1929 musical "Words and Music". That was also the first movie where John Wayne got listed in the opening credits!
Each season, the Wagon Train would head out from St. Joseph, Missouri and would reach California at the end of the season! It was almost like making the treck yourself!
The series had 2 wagonmasters during its run. Ward Bond died in November of 1960 and John McIntire took over as the head man in the spring of 1961.
It's almost hard to believe but, in fact, after shooting the series in color in the seventh season, ABC decided to return to black and white episodes in the eighth season! No big surprise that that was also the final season! Actually, the show did drop in the ratings during the seventh season but ABC had also lengthened it from one hour to 90 minutes and it was up against a new hot (and newer) series called "The Virginian".
Robert Fuller (Cooper Smith) appeared in the final 2-part episode of Walker Texas Ranger as the charachter Wade Harper. He also starred on the hit 1959 tv show "Laramie" as Jess Harper. His first role on screen was a bit part (uncredited) in "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell!
Wagon Train was not only popular with audiences. Actors and actresses were very easy to get as guest stars. Here's a list of just a few: Eddie Albert, Dan Blocker, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Chuck Connors, Lou Costello, Bette Davis, Bruce Dern, Rhonda Fleming, Sterling Hayden, Lee Marvin, Martin Milner, Ricardo Montalban, Agnes Moorehead, Leonard Nimoy, Leslie Nielsen, Ryan O'Neal, Cliff Robertson, Cesar Romero, Mickey Rooney, Barbara Stanwyck, Dean Stockwell, Robert Vaughn, Shelley Winters, James Whitmore and Keenan Wynn!
One reason that big stars were willing to appear on Wagon Train was that the storylines often made them the main character. The regular cast members were often delegated to supporting roles while the guest-star became the main focus of the show.
Many years after his role as Duke Shannon on Wagon Train, Denny Miller appeared on the final episode of the tv show "Lonesome Dove". He played the part of Sheriff Owen Kearney.
(Posted by Stephen Strong)