Wagon Master

Wagon Master

For the 2007 Porter Wagoner album see: Wagonmaster

Wagon Master is a 1950 Western film directed by John Ford and starring Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Joanne Dru, and Ward Bond.


Learning of their ability as experienced horsemen, Mormon Elder Wiggs (Bond), hires Travis Blue (Johnson) and Sandy Owens (Carey) to guide a small group of Mormons across the West to the San Juan River country in southeastern Utah Territory, in 1849.


Ford formulated the story, and then Patrick Ford (John Ford's son) and Frank S. Nugent wrote the script. Ford and Merian C. Cooper (with Ford and Cooper's Argosy Pictures as production company) were co-executive producers, with Lowell J. Farrell as associate producer. Music was done by Richard Hageman, and the picture was distributed by RKO Pictures.

Ford had been shooting the film She Wore a Yellow Ribbon the year before (1948) in Monument Valley, near the town of Mexican Hat, Utah, close to the locations where he had also filmed Stagecoach (1939), My Darling Clementine (1946), and Fort Apache (1948). He wanted a different look for his next film and drove to Moab. Wagon Master was shot in less than a month, in 1949, for less than a million dollars. Filmed in black and white (there is a later computer-colorized version), on location, mainly northeast of the town of Moab, Utah in Professor Valley (with additional shotting at Spanish Valley southwest of Moab, and a few stage shots were done at Monument Valley). It was released on April 19, 1950.

The television series Wagon Train (1957-1965), starring first Ward Bond and then John McIntire, was inspired by the film. (Ford directed one episode, but was otherwise not involved with it.)


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