Three Bad Men – Scott Allen Nollen Talks About His Latest Book

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).

Three Bad Men author Scott Allen Nollen at Monument Valley

“Playing Pappy” (2011). The author, wearing a pair of Ward Bond’s screen-used jeans as a shawl, impersonates Ford during a visit to the director’s favorite location, Monument Valley, in the Navaho Nation, on the border of Utah and Arizona. (Photograph by Scott Allen Nollen - Click photo to enlarge.)

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.

Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond by Scott Allen NollenMajor subjects. Major variety.

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.

John Ford, John Wayne and Ward Bond

The Wings of Eagles (1957). Ford discusses a crucial scene with Bond and Wayne: a sequence in which Ward actually portrays the director Himself. When the time came for Pappy to select an actor to play him, Bond was the one and only choice. (Click photo to enlarge).

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.

Ward Bond in Salute

Salute (1929). Bond (right) was a hit in his film debut, as a midshipman, in this film shot on location at Annapolis. Wayne, who also is in the film, went largely unnoticed. (This photograph actually belonged to Ward Bond - Click photo to enlarge.)

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.”

John Wayne, Ward Bond and Robert Montgomery

They Were Expendable (1945). Wayne and Bond are both superb in Ford’s magnificent World War II film, one of the finest ever made. Here they are pictured with (left to right) Jack Pennick and Robert Montgomery. (Click photo to enlarge).

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.

Victor McLaglen 1930s era 8x10 Promotional Photo

Victor McLaglen

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.

Ward Bond 1973 John Ford Cowboy Kings Print

Portion of Ward Bond Cowboy Kings print by Will Williams

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.

Ward Bond and John Wayne in Conflict

Conflict (1936). Wayne and Bond often worked together in the films of other directors. Here they “duke” it out in a Universal B-film. (Click photo to enlarge).

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.

Francis Ford 1917 US Trading CardI 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?

Glenda Farrell 1938 Polo L Chilean Tobacco CardScott 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!

Here's the THREE BAD MEN Facebook page once more. Also the McFarland page to pre-order the book.

And here is the interview I conducted with Scott in 2011 about Boris Karloff: A Gentleman's Life.

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.

Ford and Bond reunited

Ford and Bond “Reunited” (2011). Ward’s trousers respectfully laid out on Pappy’s grave at Forest Lawn in Culver City, California. The significance of this ritual is boldly explored throughout Three Bad Men. (Photograph by Scott Allen Nollen - Click photo to enlarge.)


Comments

  1. Patricia (Caftan Woman) says

    “And, aside from the relationships Bond had with Ford and Wayne, he was a superb, completely naturalistic actor.”

    So true. I was watching “The Big Trail” recently and while you could see Wayne’s charisma and raw talent, he had a long way to go. In his bit, however, Bond was perfectly at ease and in character – the sort of actor that it is easy to take for granted.

    Before the year is out, I shall catch up on all of Mr. Nollen’s work or perish in the attempt!

    • says

      It sounds like it’s going to be much more than I had originally expected–basing this on Scott’s answer of EVERYTHING when I asked him which parts of Ford/Wayne/Bond’s careers he was covering.

      Loved his Karloff biography by the way, he’s very strong on research.

  2. Michael (DakotaSurfer) says

    We caught wind of this book on the Official John Wayne Forum so once I get my copy I’ll let the other members know what I think. Since this is the third book out on John Wayne recently it will be interesting to read. They were quite a trio in their personal and professional lives. I have all the other books on Duke and many on Pappy, there have been so many. Have to wait and see.

    • says

      Hi Michael, I saw some traffic coming over from the Forum the other day so I headed over to check out the post. Looks like a great community! Thanks for stopping over by me here.

      Well, I’m honestly light on Ford/Wayne beyond the movies themselves, and in that regard I hope I managed to ask Scott some good questions for you (took me awhile to formulate them).

      While I can’t speak as a Duke expert I have read Scott’s books in the past and think you’ll wind up quite happy. Based on his Karloff biography I can say Scott is a master researcher, takes the time to make the right connections and ties everything together in a conversational writing style.

      Hoping his THREE MEN BAD impresses you as such when you lay hands on it. Enjoy!

  3. Gary Houston says

    After Wayne died and Dennis Hopper enjoyed a new career boost with “Blue Velvet” I couldn’t help noticing that during Hopper’s newly accelerated talk show appearances he liked to debunk John Wayne. On one show he said: “I’ll tell you one of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets: John Ford did not like John Wayne. He thought he was a very disagreeable man.” Now I know Ford gave Wayne hell during “They Were Expendable” for sitting out the war, and I know as an FDR man he deplored the rise of Wayne’s and Bond’s rightwing attitudes. But can one of you say whether Hopper was (1) wrong or (2) referring to personality issues and not political ones?

    • says

      Hi Gary, thanks for commenting. I just received my review copy of Scott’s book, so I’m not really in a position to say yet, but from what Scott says above I imagine Ford loved Wayne a lot more than he liked him. I’ll have more on the book within the next couple of weeks–just getting ready to dig in this weekend!

  4. Gary Houston says

    And incidentally, your ’30s photo of Wayne and Bond boxing seals my belief concerning the trivial matter of Wayne’s height–that he stood at 6′ 2″ and all those stories about his wearing higher and higher lifts as he got older are true. Wayne in the picture is a bit taller than Bond, but a bit is just a bit. Wayne was always listed as 6’4″ or taller in media sources, and Gary Cooper as 6’3″, but in three non-movie photos Cooper is clearly taller. Same with Buddy Ebsen. By the 1940s they started calling him “Big John Wayne,” and as a star who hated disappointing his fans he seems to have made special efforts to remain the big guy.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Three Bad Men – John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond by Scott Allen Nollen (2013, Mcfarland & Co Inc). This, the first book to provide a biography of Ward Bond, explores the professional and personal relationships between these three “good bad men,” not unlike the colorful characters depicted in Ford’s films. This incredible, fascinating story, including the activities of all three during World War II, is intertwined with in-depth coverage of ALL their films. 60 rare, original photos, lobby cards, letters, and studio materials illustrate the text. A complete Ward Bond Filmography is included. For more, visit the Three Bad Men Facebook page and read an interview with the author by Cliff Aliperti at his blog, Immortal Ephemera. […]

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