Producers Howard Christie and Richard Lewis, who were inspired by the films Wagon Master and The Big Trail, joined forces to create the Western series Wagon Train, which follows a large group of people traveling across the country in Conestoga wagons. The show debuted on September 18, 1957 on NBC, and quick became the most watched program during season five. Due to poor ratings following its switch to ABC, the series aired its last episode on May 2, 1965. We take a look back at the cast of the show, which included a then-unknown actor that would eventually boldly go where no man has gone before.
Ward Bond Died During the Show
Source: Sitcoms Online
Ward Bond played the role of Major Seth Adams for the first three seasons. In the middle of the fourth season, the Nebraska native died from a heart attack at the age of 57. He was best known for his work on It’s A Wonderful Life and The Searchers.
When an Actor Dies, John McIntire Steps In
John McIntire joined the show during the fourth season as Christopher Hale. This wasn’t the first time he replaced someone after a death; he also took over for the late Charles Bickford on the series The Virginian. On January 30, 1991, he died at the age of 83 from emphysema and lung cancer.
Robert Horton Died at 91
Robert Horton played the role of Flint McCullough during the series’ first five seasons. The Los Angeles native appeared on a handful of episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, As the World Turns, and A Man Called Shenandoah. On March 9, 2016, the actor passed away from natural causes at the age of 91.
Robert Fuller Continued Acting
Robert Fuller played the role of Cooper Smith during the last two seasons of the show. The New York native is also known for portraying Dr. Kelly Brackett in the medical drama Emergency! His final roles were in the series JAG, Walker, Texas Ranger, and Diagnosis Murder. He is currently married to actress Jennifer Savidge.
Frank McGrath Died of a Heart Attack
Frank McGrath played the role of cook Charlie Wooster on the entire series. After the show ended, he made appearances on Tammy, The Big Valley, and The War Wagon. On May 13, 1967, he passed away at the age of 64 from a heart attack. His last role was in the 1968 film The Shakiest Gun in the West.
Terry Wilson Was a Stunt Double for John Wayne
For the entire series, Terry Wilson played the role of assistant trailmaster Bill Hawks. Aside from acting, the Los Angeles native was a stunt double for legendary actor John Wayne. On March 30, 1999, Wilson passed away at the age of 75. His final role was in a 1981 episode of The Dukes of Hazzard.
Michael Burns Became a History Professor
For the last three seasons, Michael Burns played the teenager Barnaby West. The actor made appearances on The Magnificent Magical Magnet of Santa Mesa, The Partridge Family, and The Streets of San Francisco, before retiring from acting. He became a history professor at Mount Holyoke College in 1980 and worked there until his retirement in 2002.
Denny Miller and Obesity
Denny Miller played the role of Duke Shannon from seasons five through seasons seven. The Indiana native also made appearances on Gilligan’s Island, Gunsmoke, and The Six Million Dollar Man. He wrote an autobiography titled Didn’t You Used To Be…What’s His Name? and a book on obesity titled Toxic Waist?…Get To Know Sweat! On September 9, 2014, he passed away at the age of 80.
There’s a Golf Classic Named After Claude Akins
Claude Akins made a handful of appearances on the show. The Georgia native was best known for playing Sheriff Lobo in the series B. J. and the Bear and The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. On January 27, 1994, he passed away from cancer at the age of 67. The yearly Claude Akins Memorial Golf Classic takes place in Bedford, Indiana. Proceeds go towards the Akins Scholarship and the Bedford Recreation Foundation Scholarship.
Ernest Borgnine’s Cheshire Cat Grin
Ernest Borgnine made five appearances on Wagon Train, including two as the character Willy Moran. The Connecticut native was known for his Cheshire cat grin and his gruff voice. In 2009, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in the series finale of ER. On July 8, 2012, he passed away at the age of 95 from kidney failure.
Walter Coy Played Five Different Characters
Walter Coy made five appearances as five different characters on the show. The actor was best known for narrating the NBC Western series Frontier. Aside from television and film, he also had Broadway performances in Till the Day I Die, Case of Clyde Griffiths, and Hamlet. On December 11, 1974, he passed away from congestive heart failure at the age of 65.
Bette Davis: The First Person To Get 10 Oscar Nominations
Iconic actress Bette Davis made a few appearances on the show as three different characters. The Massachusetts native made history by being the first person to gain 10 Oscar nominations. She would win two for her work in Dangerous and Jezebel. On October 6, 1989, she passed away after a fight with breast cancer.
Charles Drake Appeared on Star Trek
Charles Drake played the title characters in the episodes The Charles Maury Story, The Sam Livingston Story, The Hollister John Garrison Story, and The Link Cheney Story. The New York City native made appearances in the shows The Fugitive, Laramie, and Star Trek. On September 10, 1994, he passed away at the age of 76.
Dan Duryea Was No Stranger To Westerns
Dan Duryea had seven appearances in the television series. The New York native was no stranger to Westerns; he made appearances in Thunder Bay, Night Passage, and Ride Clear of Diablo. On June 7, 1968, he passed away from cancer at the age of 61. His last role was Eddie Jacks in the television series Peyton Place.
I. Stanford Jolley Was Always a Villain
I. Stanford Jolley made 10 guest appearances on the show. The New Jersey native was mostly known for portraying law enforcement officers and villains in Western films. He made nearly 500 appearances combined on television and film, including The Adventures of Superman, F Troop, and Branded. On December 7, 1978, Jolley passed away at the age of 78 from emphysema.
Carolyn Jones Also Played Morticia Addams
Carolyn Jones made appearances in the series’ first four episodes. Aside from her Oscar nominated work in The Bachelor Party, she is best known for portraying Morticia Addams on The Addams Family and Halloween with the New Addams Family. On August 3, 1983, she passed away from colon cancer at the age of 53.
Brett King Was a Hotelier
Brett King had five performances on the series. Aside from appearing on The Adventures of Kit Carson and Law of the Plainsman, the New York native opened the Coral Sands Hotel in the Bahamas with his wife Sharon. On January 14, 1999, King died from leukemia at the age of 78.
Leonard Nimoy Went on To Become Spock
Before becoming Spock, Leonard Nimoy appeared on four episodes of the show. The Boston native was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985. On February 27, 2015, he died from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In September 2016, his son Adam Nimoy released a documentary titled For The Love of Spock.
Dean Stockwell Played Four Different Characters
Dean Stockwell played a different character on four episodes of the show. On the movie side, the Hollywood native received Golden Globe nominations for his performances in Gentleman’s Agreement and Sons and Lovers, and he gained an Oscar nomination for Married to the Mob. The actor also received four Emmy wins for his portrayal of Admiral Al Calavicci in the hit series Quantum Leap. His last appearance was in the 2015 film Entertainment.
Tyler McVey Was President of the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists
Tyler McVey made appearances on six episodes of the series. After the show, the Michigan native showed up on The Green Hornet, The Wild Wild West, and Death Valley Days. He was also president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in Los Angeles, California. On July 4, 2003, McVey died at 91 from leukemia.