Wagon Train

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Wagon Train
Robert Horton Ward Bond Wagon Train.JPG
Also known as"Major Adams, Trailmaster";
"Trailmaster"
GenreWestern
StarringWard Bond
Robert Horton
John McIntire
Robert Fuller
Michael Burns
Frank McGrath
Terry Wilson
Denny Scott Miller
Theme music composerJack Brooks
Sammy Fain
Jerome Moross
Henri René
Stanley Wilson
Ending themeSammy Fain (Season two)
Jack Brooks (Season two)
Jerome Moross (seasons four, five, six)
Composer(s)Lloyd R. Apperson
John Williams (2.14, 2.38)
Frederick Herbert (2.14, 2.38)
Stanley Wilson (2.24, 2.38)
Jack Hayes (2.34)
David Raksin (2.7)
David Buttolph (2.33)
Roy Webb (2.3)
Laurindo Almeida (2.2)
Hans J. Salter
Conrad Salinger
Albert Woodbury
Ernest Gold
Alexander Courage
Nathan Scott
Morton Stevens
Heinz Roemheld (2.4)
Lyn Murray
Cyril J. Mockridge
Richard Shores
Jerome Moross
Sidney Fine
Dale Butts (5.2)
Axel Stordahl (5.17)
William Lava (5.21)
Jerry Goldsmith (4.37)
Frank DeVol (3.4)
Frank Skinner (2.1)
Tak Shindo (2.9)
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons8
No. of episodes284 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Howard Christie
Richard Lewis
Producer(s)Howard Christie
Richard Lewis
Frederick Shorr
Running time50 minutes
(1957–63; 1964–65)
75 minutes
(1963–64)
Production company(s)Revue Studios (1957–1963)
Universal Television (1963–1965)
Broadcast
Original channelNBC (1957–62)
ABC (1962–65)
Picture formatBlack-and-white
(1957–62; 1964–65)
Color
(1963–64) 4:3
Audio formatMonaural
Original runSeptember 18, 1957 (1957-09-18) – May 2, 1965 (1965-05-02)
Chronology
Preceded byWagon Master
The Big Trail
 
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For the animal powered vehicles, see Wagon train. For the 1940 film, see Wagon Train (1940 film).
Wagon Train
Robert Horton Ward Bond Wagon Train.JPG
Also known as"Major Adams, Trailmaster";
"Trailmaster"
GenreWestern
StarringWard Bond
Robert Horton
John McIntire
Robert Fuller
Michael Burns
Frank McGrath
Terry Wilson
Denny Scott Miller
Theme music composerJack Brooks
Sammy Fain
Jerome Moross
Henri René
Stanley Wilson
Ending themeSammy Fain (Season two)
Jack Brooks (Season two)
Jerome Moross (seasons four, five, six)
Composer(s)Lloyd R. Apperson
John Williams (2.14, 2.38)
Frederick Herbert (2.14, 2.38)
Stanley Wilson (2.24, 2.38)
Jack Hayes (2.34)
David Raksin (2.7)
David Buttolph (2.33)
Roy Webb (2.3)
Laurindo Almeida (2.2)
Hans J. Salter
Conrad Salinger
Albert Woodbury
Ernest Gold
Alexander Courage
Nathan Scott
Morton Stevens
Heinz Roemheld (2.4)
Lyn Murray
Cyril J. Mockridge
Richard Shores
Jerome Moross
Sidney Fine
Dale Butts (5.2)
Axel Stordahl (5.17)
William Lava (5.21)
Jerry Goldsmith (4.37)
Frank DeVol (3.4)
Frank Skinner (2.1)
Tak Shindo (2.9)
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons8
No. of episodes284 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Howard Christie
Richard Lewis
Producer(s)Howard Christie
Richard Lewis
Frederick Shorr
Running time50 minutes
(1957–63; 1964–65)
75 minutes
(1963–64)
Production company(s)Revue Studios (1957–1963)
Universal Television (1963–1965)
Broadcast
Original channelNBC (1957–62)
ABC (1962–65)
Picture formatBlack-and-white
(1957–62; 1964–65)
Color
(1963–64) 4:3
Audio formatMonaural
Original runSeptember 18, 1957 (1957-09-18) – May 2, 1965 (1965-05-02)
Chronology
Preceded byWagon Master
The Big Trail

Wagon Train is an American Western series that ran on NBC 1957–62 and then on ABC 1962–65, although the network also aired daytime repeats, as Major Adams, Trailmaster and Trailmaster (post-1961 episodes without original series lead Ward Bond), from January 1963 to September 1965. The show debuted at #15 in the Nielsen ratings, rose to #2 in the next three seasons, and peaked at #1 in the 1961–62 television season. After moving to ABC in the autumn of 1962, the ratings began to decline, and Wagon Train did not again make the Top 20 listing.

The series initially starred veteran movie supporting actor Ward Bond as the wagon master, later replaced upon his death by John McIntire, and Robert Horton as the scout, subsequently replaced by lookalike Robert Fuller a year after Horton had decided to leave the series.

The series was inspired by the 1950 film Wagon Master directed by John Ford and starring Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr. and Ward Bond, and harkens back to the early widescreen wagon train epic The Big Trail (1930) starring John Wayne and featuring Bond in his first major screen appearance playing a supporting role. Horton's buckskin outfit as the scout in the first season of the television series resembles Wayne's, who also played the wagon train's scout in the earlier film.

Synopsis[edit]

The show chronicles the adventures of a wagon train as it makes its way from Missouri to California. There were 284 episodes in 8 seasons: the first aired on September 18, 1957, and the final segment was broadcast on May 2, 1965. Some of the actors appearing on Wagon Train included Ward Bond as wagon master Major Seth Adams (seasons 1–4), Robert Horton as scout Flint McCullough (seasons 1–5), John McIntire as wagon master Christopher Hale (seasons 4–8), Robert Fuller as scout Cooper Smith (seasons 7–8), Denny Scott Miller as Duke Shannon (seasons 5–7), Michael Burns as Barnaby West (seasons 4–8), Frank McGrath as Charlie Wooster (cook, seasons 1–8), and Terry Wilson as Bill Hawks (seasons 1-8). McIntire replaced Bond as wagon master upon Bond's death at age 57, and Fuller replaced Horton as scout a season after Horton opted to depart, an obvious choice since Fuller had already played a lead in another western series (Laramie on NBC) and physically resembled Horton. Horton and Fuller even shared the same birthday, albeit nine years apart.

Ward Bond was billed above Robert Horton in the opening credits, but Horton was later billed above relative newcomer John McIntire, and McIntire and Fuller rotated top billing from episode to episode when Fuller joined the series in the seventh season. During the sixth season, Horton had left and Fuller had not yet replaced him, so McIntire carried the show with the supporting cast. Neither Bond nor McIntire, both veterans of dozens of supporting roles in films, routinely played the lead in theatrical films, although Bond did in at least one B-picture. Rivals Bond and Horton frequently quarreled on the set, an extensively publicized development at the time, lending an element of verisimilitude to their disputes within the episodes themselves.

The series aired for most of its run in black-and-white, except for five color episodes (October 4, 1961 – Polly Bergen – "Kitty Albright Story", November 1, 1961 – Carolyn Jones – "Jenna Douglas Story", December 6, 1961 – Dana Wynter – "Lizabeth Ann Calhoun Story", February 7, 1962 – Gary Clarke – "Lonnie Fallon Story", and March 14, 1962 – Paul Fix – "Amos Billings Story") during the fifth season (1961–62) on NBC (to help promote the sales of parent company RCA's color television sets). The series returned to its original black-and-white format for the remainder of its run on ABC, damaging the ratings, until its final season in 1964, when it again began to telecast its episodes in color. (ABC did not begin broadcasting in color until 1964.)

The series used the cut-down, shortened wagons common to television series budgets, as opposed to the full-length oxen-drawn Conestoga wagons prominent in a forerunner of the show, the 1930 wagon train film The Big Trail, which features 27-year-old Ward Bond (occasionally film clips from Hollywood movies, showing a train of Conestogas, were edited into the episodes).

In several episodes of the first season Major Adams says the line "That'll be the day!" which was a tag line said by John Wayne in the 1956 film The Searchers in which Bond also appeared.

Backstories of the characters[edit]

Dating the stories[edit]

[original research?]In a first-season episode Adams says the war has been over for five years (suggesting the first season takes place in 1870, although, in "The Major Adams Story", part 1, it is clear that Adams had taken trains west in previous years, commencing "as soon as the war was over"). In season two, reference is made to the war ending six years earlier (1871) and to the presidential nomination of Ulysses S. Grant (1868), a neighbor of Adams before the war and eventually his commanding officer. In season three (in "The Vincent Eaglewood Story") Grant and Colfax are identified as the current President and VP, which dates it as Grant's first term (March 1869 to March 1873); but also in season three (in "The Countess Baranof Story") the storyline involves the impending sale of Alaska by Russia, but that transaction actually took place in 1867 under Pres. Andrew Johnson. "The Bernal Sierra Story" (first season) made extensive reference to the ongoing revolution in Mexico pitting Benito Juarez against Maximillian I of Mexico (aka Emperor Maximilian)--but that uprising ended decisively with Maximillian's capture and execution in 1867. "The Cathy Eckhardt Story" (fourth season, broadcast November 9, 1960) clearly shows the year is 1870, but in "The Charlene Brenton Story" (late third season, broadcast June 8, 1960) reference is made to Bill Hawks' having read the novel Ben-Hur, which was not published until 1880. The First Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, following approximately the same route as a wagon train from St. Joseph to Sacramento. This would have made wagon trains obsolete by the time most episodes in the series take place; however, little reference is made to railroads in the West during the series.

Seth Adams & Bill Hawks[edit]

Like Rawhide and most western television series of the 1950s and 1960s, the show is set a few years after the American Civil War, but whereas there were few Indians in Rawhide, they often turned up in Wagon Train, causing the wagons to form a circle.

In the very early episodes of the first season, Bill Hawks has a smaller role - as a passenger, not a team member, referred to and addressed as "Mr. Hawks", and traveling in a wagon with his wife. By the time of "The Major Adams Story", later in the first year, he is both a team member and a wagon owner - bringing his wife Emily west. Emily explains that Bill and Major Adams went into the wagon train business "right after the war" (but only now, circa 1870, bringing his wife west).

In "The Major Adams Story" it is explained that Seth Adams had commanded a militia group (apparently in Philadelphia) and they enlisted en masse in the Union Army in 1861, that Bill Hawks was Sergeant to Major Adams and that Wooster was a late enlistment as a private (in various episodes it's mentioned that their regiment was under Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant). However, a different story in "The Colter Craven Story" (season 4), we are told that in 1860 Adams and Hawks were partners in a lumber enterprise in Galena, Illinois, and on the eve of the Civil War, Adams headed up the 2nd Illinois Volunteers - although without a bit of military knowledge - and was given guidance by old friend "Sam", then a resigned former captain and a civilian but subsequently General of the Army U.S. Grant, who - encountering Adams again after the battle of Shiloh - gave him a battlefield promotion from Lieutenant to Major.

Additionally, in the first season "Dan Hogan Story", we are told that, around 1859 - perhaps before setting up the lumber business in Galena, Adams and Hawkes were prize fight promoters in New York City, generally setting up matches and taking bets on their boxer, known as "the Tinsmith".

In the two-part "Major Adams Story" (season one, episodes 30, 31 trans April 23 and 30, 1958), viewers learn of Major Adams' Civil War background and his association in the Union Army with Wooster and Bill Hawks. The two episodes begin with Adams stopping to visit the grave of a lady love, whose tombstone shows that she had died in 1868. By that time, Adams had been leading wagon trains for several years. The episode then goes into a flashback.

Flint McCullough & Charlie Wooster[edit]

In "The Major Adams Story" (1958), Charlie Wooster was a private in the Union Army who, by chance, was assigned to Major Adams's company and promptly proved himself useless for combat but claimed some experience as a cook and, when assigned to that position, did quite well. Wooster did not excel at anything else; so he became a cook in the army. In the first episode he was clean-shaven, but he quickly grew a beard. McCullough had previously been a stagecoach driver. Douglas Kennedy appears in this episode as Colonel Hillary. Normally, each episode is the story of one person, after whom that episode is named, and their problems are resolved through the program.

"The Flint McCullough Story" (season two, ep 15 trans Jan 14, 1959) is also largely a flashback to his brief Civil War experience in the Confederate Army. McCullough had been born in Virginia, but both his parents died when he was a small child, evidently at Fort Bridger, Wyoming, where he was promptly adopted by the historical frontiersman, Jim Bridger (1804-1881). Circa 1862, at approximately the age of 19, McCullough felt duty-bound to enlist in the Confederate Army because of his Virginia birth. He was recruited by a Col. Taylor who had established a Confederate encampment in Wyoming near Fort Bridger. It turned out that Taylor intended to use his western recruits not as regular soldiers but as a guerrilla force to plunder gold shipments and the like to finance the Confederate cause. In this episode, McCullough detours from the wagon train to revisit Fort Bridger and learns he will once again meet his former ruthless commanding officer who is responsible for war crimes (including the wanton murder of McCullough's sweetheart), and whom McCullough vowed to kill if he ever tracked him down; at the episode's conclusion we return to the present and the ex-officer turns up, only for a shocked McCullough to discover that misfortune - prison experience and/or some serious illness—has left the man virtually a vegetable, a "punishment" apparently handed down by a higher authority. McCullough's adoption and training by Jim Bridger is also mentioned in "The River Crossing", and in "The Path of the Serpent" (Feb. 1961).

Other backstories[edit]

In "The Sacramento Story", which was the last episode in the first season, the wagon train finally arrives in California after a three-month journey. Some stars from earlier episodes appear. At the end of the show, Flint McCullough has his $400 pay for the journey, says his goodbyes and rides off. Adams knows he'll spend the money on girls, do a number of jobs when it is gone, and then find another wagon train for which to scout. With all the other wagons gone, there is just Adams, Hawks and Wooster. They plan to take a ship back around the tip of South America and back to Boston. Instead, in the first episode of the second season, the trio is shanghaied (kidnapped and forced to join the crew of a ship) in San Francisco but jump ship in New Orleans and end up back in St. Joseph, Missouri, with McCullough ready to take another train west. In later seasons the series was more episodic and paid less attention to the progress of the train along its route over the course of the season.

The season-two episode "The Last Man" (episode 10, trans Feb 11, 1959) guest-starred Dan Duryea as the half-crazed sole survivor of a "lost" wagon train that had vanished in a snowed-in pass a year earlier; Adams and McCullough, in a jointly featured story, now face their train being condemned to an identical fate, as their wagons are similarly stalled alongside the "dead" train. It is not stated but implied that the sole survivor had to resort to cannibalism as people died off in order to survive—this grim episode was inspired by an actual wagon train disaster (the Donner Party) in 1846 (although it was probably not the only such tragedy).

From season two some episodes were also denoted: "Tonight Starring . . . " after the initial credit for the two stars and show title were put up; these were the individual featured episodes of either Ward Bond or Robert Horton. Bond's tales normally were set on the train, while Horton's would usually involve the scout having ridden on ahead away from the train.

On May 6, 1959, just four months before he joined the new series Laramie on NBC, later Wagon Train costar Robert Fuller appears with Ruta Lee as a happily married young couple in the episode "The Kate Parker Story", with Virginia Grey in the starring role. Fuller as Chris Finley seeks to turn from gambling and become a responsible husband. Evvie, his wife, is seriously injured in a wagon accident. The Finleys contrast strikingly with an older couple on the wagon train, Kate Parker and her husband, Jonas, played by Warren Stevens, who have a loveless marriage. Trapped in snow in the mountains, presumably the Sierra Nevadas, the greedy Jonas leaves the Finleys behind to wait for reinforcements, and he forces the unwilling Kate to drive their wagon. Kate wrecks the wagon and Jonas leaves on foot with her money. Kate is given essential shelter by illiterate mountain man Boone Caulder, played by Royal Dano, whom she finds wise despite his lack of education.[1]

On June 3, 1959, near the end of the second season, John McIntire guest starred in "The Andrew Hale Story", arguably unrelated to his later starring role as wagonmaster Chris Hale (who mentioned having a preacher for a brother). This Andrew Hale is a minister mistakenly on the run who is found dying on the desert. He soon displays great knowledge of healing and spiritual matters and restores the faith of many on the wagon train. Others making appearances in this episode are James Best and Clu Gulager, who portrays photographer Elliott Garrison, who blackmails a young woman on the wagon train. Afterwards, Gulager joined the cast of NBC's The Tall Man.[2]

After Ward Bond's sudden death on November 5, 1960, several episodes featuring him were still shown, but one was held back, with Robert Horton then carrying the lead. Episodes crediting but not featuring both Bond and his replacement, John McIntire, were then alternated for a time until the final Ward Bond episode was screened as a tribute to him ("The Beth Pearson Story", season four, ep 22, trans Feb 22, 1961), then a few weeks later McIntire actually debuted as the new wagonmaster in 'The Christopher Hale Story' (ep 25, trans March 15, 1961) in a tale where the train—without any on-screen explanation of Adams' absence—is awaiting the arrival of a new wagonmaster. Hale, a retired wagonmaster whose family has been massacred, has just joined the train as a traveler; guest star Lee Marvin then arrives as the quickly unpopular sadistic new wagonmaster, who ultimately gets his just desserts after a confrontation with Hale, and by the end of the tale Hale is invited to take over as the new wagonmaster, a post he reluctantly accepts.

One of the last Ward Bond episodes, "The River Crossing", broadcast in December 1960, offer some insights. Reference is made to a terrible accident that occurred to a wagon in one of Adams's wagon trains five years earlier, and Adams reminds Wooster that they have crossed this spot at least a dozen times before, which suggests they had worked together on wagon trains for at least a dozen years. A cloudburst forces about fifty wagons to wait on one side of the river and this is spoken of as "half the train", suggesting the entire wagon train has about a hundred wagons (only about twelve ever appeared on the screen at once).

Later both "The Duke Shannon Story" (season four, ep 30, trans April 26, 1961) and "The Barnaby West Story" (season six, ep 37, trans June 5, 1963) introduce further regular cast members, although the sudden departure of Robert Horton's original co-lead character scout Flint McCullough following the show's move from NBC to ABC in 1962, was never explained on screen.

Cast[edit]

1964 cast with Robert Fuller and John McIntire

Notable guest stars[edit]

Guest stars Dan Duryea and Jane Wyman with John McIntire, 1962.

Theme music[edit]

The first season theme "Wagon Train" was written by Henri René and Bob Russell, and lyrics were not used. The theme was conducted by Revue musical director Stanley Wilson. In the second season, a new more modern sounding theme was introduced. "(Roll Along) Wagon Train" was written by Sammy Fain and Jack Brooks and sung by Johnny O'Neill. About midway through the second season this was replaced with an instrumental version by Stanley Wilson. In the third season a more traditional sounding score was introduced. "Wagons Ho!" was written and conducted by Jerome Moross, who adapted it from a passage of music he had written for the 1959 film The Jayhawkers. This theme would last through the series' run and is the most remembered Wagon Train theme. Stanley Wilson re-recorded "Wagons Ho!" for the last two seasons.

Broadcast history[edit]

NBC run
ABC run

Daytime network repeats and syndication[edit]

When the original Ward Bond episodes were broadcast weekday afternoons on ABC beginning in 1963, a new series title and theme would have to be used to separate the two airings and avoid viewer confusion because Wagon Train was still on the ABC evening schedule. Trailmaster was the name given and a new theme song, the "Trailmaster Theme," was written and conducted by Stanley Wilson. The 50-minute episodes entered syndication under this title, eventually reverting to its original title. The 75-minute episodes were usually syndicated separately, sometimes shown on local stations as "movies".

On January 1, 2011, the Encore Western Channel began airing the series, starting with a marathon of episodes, then airing Monday–Friday after The Virginian.

Me-TV is currently airing Wagon Train during their late-night schedule on Monday through Friday (hour-long seasons), and also on Saturday morning (90-minute season).

Episodes[edit]

See List of Wagon Train episodes

DVD Releases[edit]

Timeless Media Group has released all 8 seasons on DVD in Region 1. The seventh season is entitled The Complete Color Season as it was the only season of the series to be filmed in color.

DVD NameEp #Release Date
The Complete First Season39December 15, 2009
The Complete Second Season38November 23, 2010
The Complete Third Season37May 17, 2011
The Complete Fourth Season38October 25, 2011
The Complete Fifth Season37May 1, 2012
The Complete Sixth Season37March 5, 2013
The Complete Color (7th) Season32November 4, 2008
The Complete Eighth Season26June 11, 2013

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "The Kate Parker Story)" at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ "The Andrew Hale Story)" at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ "The Conchita Vasquez Story)" at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ "The Daniel Barrister Story)" at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ "The Willy Moran Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ MichaelWinkelman (1946-1999) at the Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ "Around the Horn" at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ "The Jose Morales Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ "The Prairie Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  10. ^ "The Dora Gray Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ "The Isaiah Quickfox Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  12. ^ "The Cliff Grundy Story on Dan Duryea Central"
  13. ^ "The Bleymier Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  14. ^ "The Clara Beauchamp Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  15. ^ "The Clay Shelby Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  16. ^ "Those Who Stay Behind" at the Internet Movie Database
  17. ^ "The Emmett Lawton Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  18. ^ "The Don Alvarado Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  19. ^ "The Geneva Balfour Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  20. ^ "The Julie Gage Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  21. ^ "The Cathy Eckhardt Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  22. ^ I. Stanford Jolley at the Internet Movie Database
  23. ^ "The Jose Morales Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  24. ^ http://www.fiftiesweb.com/wt/wagon-train-ep3.htm
  25. ^ "The Geneva Balfour Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  26. ^ "Wagons Ho!". Internet Movie Data Base. September 28, 1960. Retrieved September 5, 2014. 
  27. ^ Mike Fitzgerald. "Olive Sturgess". westernclippings.com. Retrieved September 5, 2014. 
  28. ^ "The Ah Chong Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  29. ^ "The Rodney Lawrence Story" at the Internet Movie Database
  30. ^ McBride, Joseph,(2003) Searching for JOHN FORD, London, England: Faber and Faber
  31. ^ "The Coulter Craven Story"
  32. ^ Tony Young at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]