A couple of years ago I bumped into Scott Allen Nollen online and I was soon pumping him with questions about his authorized biography of Boris Karloff.
So I became very excited when Scott dropped me a note on Facebook to let me know about the page he had set up to promote his coming book THREE BAD MEN: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond (That link takes you over to Facebook where you can 'Like' Scott's new page and receive updates about it).
Besides his Karloff biography, A Gentleman's Life, Scott has authored a second Karloff volume offering a critical account of the horror icon's entire career.
Additional subjects covered in book form by Scott Allen Nollen include: Frank Sinatra, Paul Robeson, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Louis Armstrong, Jethro Tull, Robin Hood on film, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on film, and Warner Wiseguys: All 112 Films That Robinson, Cagney and Bogart Made for the Studio.
Based on how much I enjoyed Scott's work about Karloff I needed to know more about THREE BAD MEN. It's not out yet, so I don't have a copy, but I did have a few questions about what is coming soon ... beginning with when it is actually coming.
After that I ask Scott several questions about the linked lives and careers of John Wayne, John Ford and Ward Bond and by the end of the interview even get a taste of who his next subject will be--another vastly different type of star!
Once more, the THREE BAD MEN Facebook page. My interview with Scott Allen Nollen follows:
Question: Scott, thanks so much for submitting to another round of questions from me. When's your latest book, THREE BAD MEN: John Ford, John Wayne and Ward Bond due out?
Scott Allen Nollen: The book, which is in the “post-production” phase right now, is scheduled to become available from McFarland in April, and can be pre-ordered at www.mcfarlandbooks.com.
Question: Okay, I think the first question anyone is going to have over your book is simply, Ward Bond? Pappy and the Duke have gotten their fair share of coverage throughout the years, why did you feel compelled to add Bond to the mix?
Scott Allen Nollen: I didn’t really add Ward Bond to the mix. He was always there. If previous writers haven’t included Bond to the extent they should have, they haven’t really understood one of the most important dynamics in the world of John Ford. And, aside from the relationships Bond had with Ford and Wayne, he was a superb, completely naturalistic actor. Ford noticed this as soon as he met Bond. Pappy was uncanny when it came to actors, as well as every other aspect of filmmaking, some of which he helped create.
The book opens with a brief biography covering Bond’s early years in Nebraska and Colorado, and then continues with an in-depth look at the complex, love-hate relationships that he and Wayne developed with Ford.
Question: How did this project evolve? Was it always going to be about all three, Ford, Wayne and Bond, or did that develop as you went along?
Scott Allen Nollen: I’ve always had a fascination with Ward Bond as one of the most prolific and versatile of all American character actors. He racked up a total of 261 film appearances (plus major television work) during a 30-year career. If not for his career-damaging conservative political activities and his premature death at age 57, this total would be far greater.
Many years ago, I began collecting memorabilia on Bond (or “Bondiana,” as Ford called it), and a friend suggested that I write a book about him.
While working on countless other projects, the Bond idea was always in the back of my mind, so I eventually conceptualized a new approach to the book on John Ford I had been planning since 1985. So “evolve” it did, over quite a period of time, into a portrait of the amazing relationships between Ford, Wayne and Bond, as well as a thorough study of the lives and all the films of these “Three Bad Men.”
Question: No Ford and Wayne story I come across seems complete without personal conflict coming into play, sometimes to such a degree we forget how close these men actually were. Rather than the negative can you tell us about any genuine warmth between John Ford and John Wayne?
Scott Allen Nollen: Warmth is not a word that can really be applied to John Ford. He was an artistic genius, whose brilliance sometimes crossed that thin line into madness, particularly when lubricated with near-lethal doses of alcohol.
Ford truly loved Wayne, and there are occasional moments of actions approaching affection in the story. Arguably, he loved Bond even more, but Pappy deliberately avoided showing positive emotions in public.
With Wayne, Bond, and others, such as Victor McLaglen and Henry Fonda, Ford actually displayed his love by being cruel, even sadistic, to them, often in public. He was particularly fond of kicking Duke and Ward in the bum!
With Ford, everything is complex and enigmatic. It’s an incredible story that required an epic book, so it can’t easily be explained in a brief interview format.
Question: Once more, how does Ward Bond fit into this dynamic? Did he and Duke align themselves against Ford for protection? Was one of the three a mediator between the other two? How close was Bond to Ford in comparison to Wayne?
Scott Allen Nollen: Ford “discovered” both Wayne and Bond, whom Duke previously had known as a student and football player at USC. As close as Ford was to Wayne, there were times when Pappy didn’t pay much attention to him, particularly during the long “freeze out” following Duke’s starring in Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail in 1930 and Ford’s production of Stagecoach in 1938.During this period, Duke did hang out with Pappy on occasion, often to play cards and go fishing; but Bond had a fairly continuous, 31-year professional relationship with Ford that was even more solid on a personal level.
As early as 1930, Ward was spending the New Year’s holiday with John and Mary Ford, and attending football games with Pappy, who loved live sporting events. No one was closer to Ford than Bond; and no one really ever “mediated” with John Ford—everyone just took their chances, and rarely knew what to expect.
Pappy definitely kept everyone, especially those closest to him, on their toes.
Question: Will THREE BAD MEN look at the overall lives and careers of these three men or is there a definite concentration upon the specific films they worked in and on together?
Scott Allen Nollen: The book covers EVERYTHING: their mutual films and television programs, as well as all the work each of these three men did throughout their lengthy careers. The book will keep the reader busy for quite some time. Just looking at the collection of rare and unpublished photos, all reproduced from originals in my collection, will—I hope—entertain and enlighten.
Question: While the focus will obviously be upon the Three Bad Men of the title, what outsider penetrates the story more than any other? In other words, if you had to pick a "Fourth Bad Man" who would it be? Do other members of the Ford Stock Company make a considerable appearance in THREE BAD MEN?
Scott Allen Nollen: There isn’t anyone who would qualify as a “Fourth Bad Man,” but there are many Ford “Stock Company” folks who command their own space in the book: John’s older brother, Francis Ford, a true cinematic pioneer responsible for bringing “Jack” into the world of filmmaking; the mighty war veterans and boxers George O’Brien and Victor McLaglen; Will Rogers, Stepin Fetchit, Hank Fonda, Maureen O’Hara, Anna Lee, and many others.
I think Francis Ford finally gets his due in this book. He was an innovator, yet seriously underrated and now nearly forgotten. He is buried at Forest Lawn in Culver City, just a few plots to the right of his celebrated brother.
Question: Scott, I haven't seen the book beyond the cover: Is there any additional facet of THREE BAD MEN that I missed in the questions above? Something you're especially proud of and want to share here?
Scott Allen Nollen: I think I’m most proud of the fact that it’s perhaps the first major book to tie everything together with regard to Admiral John Ford: his most important personal relationships, his great artistry, his incomparable and important World War II service, his tragic substance-abuse problems; plus the great work his two “surrogate sons,” John Wayne and Ward Bond, helped create along the way.
I believe the reader may get a more accurate impression of who Ford really was, although he’ll always remain delightfully enigmatic. To rework the most famous line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, I’ve endeavored to “print the facts” as well as “throw some light on the legends.”
Question: Any plans for what's next?
Scott Allen Nollen: I have several projects in the works for Midnight Marquee Press, including the first-ever book on the life and films of my favorite actress, Glenda Farrell, who brought so much verve to Warner Bros. during the 1930s.
I’ve been ill for the past several years, so Three Bad Men will be my last (and I hope, greatest) epic.
I have to slow down a bit now, but will always have a book project in development, as well as the essay and film-writing work that I do. I recently contributed the narration script to Finnigan’s War, a forthcoming documentary on the Korean Conflict featuring Conor Timmis and Mark Hamill.
Thank you so much, Scott!
I can't wait to ask Scott about Glenda Farrell! Til then, we may be back to discuss these THREE BAD MEN in a little more detail once I've seen a copy.