WAGON TRAIN – The John Wilbot Story. Season 1, Episode 37. 11 June 1958. Ward Bond, Robert Horton; with Dane Clark, Robert Vaughn, Audrey Dalton, Tyler McVey.

   With Flint McCullough unable to perform his regular scouting duties because of an injured arm, he and Major Adams switch roles. Adams goes out ahead on horseback, leaving McCullough in charge of the wagons. Little do either of them know that two factions among the settlers are still fighting the recently ended Civil War.


   To the details. Roy Pelham (Vaughn) is from the South, and he loves Harriet Field (Dalton), but her father (McVey) is a bull-headed abolitionist from Massachusetts, who refuses to allow her to have anything to do with him.

   Seeking comfort and a companion, Harriet finds a lonely man (Dane Clark) who is glad to recite poetry and Shakespeare to her — until, that is, her father begins to suspect that John Wilbot is really an alias for none other than John Wilkes Booth.

   Unsure if he is or not, the wagon train is about to split apart when, in the face of an imminent Indian attack, Wilbot reminds everyone of Lincoln’s famous quote, “A house divide against itself shall not stand.” Does he admit he is Booth? You will have to watch and find out for yourself, but his statement makes sure the train stays together.

   The hour (less commercials) goes very quickly, and even though it’s wrapped up in suitably enigmatic fashion, one is reminded that television at one time was written by adults, and that the performers were adults as well.

   Particularly impressive is Dane Clark’s melancholy portrayal of a man tormented by his memories and fully aware that he has no future.

— Reprinted from Durn Tootin’ #5,
   July 2004 (with revisions).