Three Bad Men John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond by Scott Allen Nollen

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Growing up all three of these men were an integral part of my childhood. Specifically John “Pappy” Ford in the cinemas and of course John Wayne ‘Duke’ and Ward Bond as well, but Mr Bond had the added distinction of being in my folks’ living rooms each week as Major Seth Adams, in Wagon Train.

Of course, I saw all the films and television shows long after they were initially made. The films, I saw on Saturday night at the movies (usually accompanied by a huge bowl of popcorn and a tall ice filled glass of Coca-Cola) and the Wagon Train episodes I watched were the newer ones with John McIntire with the occasional re-run with Ward Bond in. Come to think of it, the McIntire ones were probably re-runs as well.

I do remember with perfect clarity that my family adored the John Wayne film Rio Bravo and we watched it every single time it came on the telly. The Searchers was another family favourite because it was a John Ford film with both Duke and Bond in it; not to mention Hank Worden as good ole Mose Harper. Another John Ford favourite was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

John "Pappy" Ford.
John “Pappy” Ford.

This book, lovingly crafted by Mr Nollen, tells the warts and all story of this triangular “bro-mance” long before that phrase came into vogue. These three remarkably talented men had a love affair with one another that abided until death. Not in a sexual sense, although rumours persisted that Pappy might just have an inclination “that way.” But in a father and two sons sense. Ford often spent more time with his two adopted sons than he did his own children.

Besides taking an in-depth look at all three men, Nollen gives one of the best breakdowns of Wardell Edwin Bond’s career than any other book I’ve read. I never realised that on top of the television shows he made, Bond had over 271 screen credits in films alone. Besides this all-encompassing career breakdown, we learn more of Ward himself, what made the man tick and why, perhaps, he did some of the more unpopular things that he did.

I have long been a fan of all three men and it was delightful to see such an honest telling of these men’s relationship with one another and the myths that they built and embellished over the years. It is disappointing to lose that childlike reverence for great artists, but it is more important to have an adult’s respect for what they accomplished on-screen and off; good and bad.

Wayne, for all his American for all seasons hero, personally stood for political things that hurt his personal image. These same political stances also hurt others in the same industry. Bond had similar feelings and he too practised a very biased type of politics that, like Wayne’s, could be vengeful. It was surprising, to me, to find that John Ford didn’t agree with either of his “two boys” in the area of politics, for I’d assumed (wrongly) that politically all three were peas in the same pod.

John Fords The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
John Fords The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Nollen has given us a personal look at three legends of the silver screen, big and small, and talked to some of the people who worked right along side of them. For a fan of these three talented men, this is a gold mine of a book. I only wish I could have afforded the hardback version instead of having to buy the eBook version.

Not because the eBook is less readable, but for a book about such old Hollywood legends, it would be nice to have an old-fashioned book to hold and look at.

I cannot end this review without giving thanks to Colin over at Riding the High Country blog for making me aware of this book through his excellent review of it.

If you are into books about the entertainment business this will be a 5 out of 5 stars. Only the rules of math keep me from giving it a 6 out of 5.

Wardell Edwin Bond.
Wardell Edwin Bond.

RIP Jonathan Winters: A True Original Passes On (11 April 2013)

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I first saw Jonathan Winters in the 1969 film Viva Max. He played General Billy Joe Hallson, a good ole boy, redneck Army National Guard soldier who is tasked with re-taking the Alamo from  Mexican General Maximilian Rodrigues De Santos (played to perfection by Peter Usinov).

Winters had me in hysterics in his role as the ineffectual part-time soldier who couldn’t order eggs properly, let alone his men. Not long after, I saw him in It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (the star-studded comedy that boasted Spencer Tracy among its cast) and The Russians are Coming! The Russians are coming!

I thought he was a brilliant comic actor and had no idea he was a comedian until later. And what a comedian.

Jonathan Winters was Robin Williamsbefore Robin Williams was. Winters not only was the master of “impromptu” comedy but he had a cornucopia of characters living inside him that he could trot out at the drop of a hat; and often did.

Maudie Frickett was one of my favourites. Winters in an old lady’s hair bun could reduce me to tears of laughter with one word.

Winters was a master at creating funny characters and he was the man who Robin Williams said was his inspiration. The world got a special treat when Winters appeared in Williams’ Mork and Mindy show as Mork’s son. A new generation got to learn of this master comedian.

Jonathan Winters was a true original and a wearer of many hats. Yes he was a comic actor, but he could do serious roles as well, although not very often.  He was, though, the best of the best when it came to comedy of any sort.

You often hear the phrase, “They don’t make em like that anymore.” And in reference to Jonathan Winters, it is true.

A true original passes on and we’ll not see the likes of Mr Winters or Maudie Frickett again.

RIP Jonathan Winters.

Jonathan 'Maudie Frickett' Winters (November 11, 1925 – April 11, 2013)
Jonathan ‘Maudie Frickett’ Winters (November 11, 1925 – April 11, 2013)