John McIntire took the reins on Wagon Train and blazed his own trail instead of copying Ward Bond

He didn't want to replicate his predecessor.

NBC/Universal

Cast shakeups are like a storm at sea that threatens to capsize a boat. Only the strongest vessels can navigate these treacherous waters. Shows like M*A*S*H, Cheers, and Roseanne withstood the departure of some major cast members, only to come out stronger on the other end. However, a commonality is those shows' ensemble nature. While actors were replaced in each of those programs, they were never the lead characters. That wasn't the story, though, for NBC's Wagon Train, which could've very well ended in crisis in 1961.

During Wagon Train's fourth season, series lead Ward Bond suffered a heart attack and died. The old industry adage decried that the show must go on, and so, Bond's Seth Adams was swiftly replaced, with no in-universe mention during the show. With very little fanfare, John McIntire took over the lead role as wagonmaster Chris Hale. McIntire had previously guest starred on Wagon Train with that earlier episode's character later referred to as the new protagonist's brother. 

Viewers who tuned in expecting a carbon copy of the late Maj. Seth Adams might have been disappointed. While McIntire was committed to honoring the dearly departed wagonmaster, he intended to forge his own path on the show.

In a 1961 article in The Atlanta Journal, McIntire had the chance to temper fan expectations, setting the record straight regarding his intentions with the new lead role, Chris Hale on Wagon Train.

 "I view Chris Hale as somewhat gentler than Seth Adams. More philosophical, perhaps. He's well-educated, has a warm sense of humor, loves nature, and likes his job," he said.

McIntire understood the depths of his character and wanted to bring empathy to Wagon Train

"He's knowing and capable and the gentleness shouldn't be mistaken for softness."

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3 Comments

cperrynaples 2 months ago
NBC in fact cancelled Wagon Train in 1962, despite being the #1 show on TV! ABC picked it up where it ran 3 more seasons, one of which had 90 minute color episodes! That season ran on Western Saturdays several years ago!
MrsPhilHarris 2 months ago
I like the Seth Adams episodes better.
Runeshaper 2 months ago
Ward Bond and John McIntire were both GREAT actors!
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