The Colter Craven Story

by Candace RichComment — Updated August 3, 2023

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The Colter Craven Story
(ep. #4.9)

Written by Tony Paulson
Directed by John Ford

Produced by Howard Christie


Carleton Young as Colter Craven
Anna Lee as Mrs. Craven
Paul Birch as Sam Grant
Annelle Hayes as Mrs. Grant
Willis Bouchey as Jesse
Mae Marsh as Mrs. Jesse Grant
Ken Curtis as Kyle
Cliff Lyons as Creel
Jack Pennick as Drill Sgt.
John Carradine as Park Cleatus
Charles Seel as Mort
Hank Worden as Shelley
Chuck Robertson as Junior
Richard Cutting as Col. Lollier
Dennis Rush as Jamie

John Wayne as Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
( credit as Michael Morris)

About This Episode

The Colter Craven Story is unique. Most obviously because it was directed by legendary John Ford as a testament to his friendship with Ward Bond and John Wayne, who promoted the idea. The three had known each other since 1928. Only his second TV project (the first was a failed Screen Directors Playhouse in 1955) Ford expressed pleasure with the outcome. And he claimed Wayne’s appearance on the set to play General Sherman was a surprise to him.

Known for his prodigous but speedy output, Ford delivered 72 minutes of film in six days, one extra shooting day than normally allowed. It was so good that there was talk of spending a little more time and money and turning it into a two-parter. According to Bond, at the last minute 15 minutes was cut instead.

The Plot

Major Adams finds Dr. Colter Craven and his wife by their broken down wagon and invites them to join the train. Although he aids an injured boy, when it becomes necessary to perform a Caesarian section, he refuses to pick up a surgical scalpel. Distraught after what he has seen in the Civil War, he prefers to drown his sorrrows in a bottle.

This prompts Major Adams to recount the story of his old friend Sam, who overcame a drinking problem to become President Ulysses S. Grant. (Historical note – Ulysses S. Grant did move to Galena, Illinois in 1860 to clerk in his father’s store.)

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Ward Bond - John Ford
From TV Guide. John Ford discusses a scene with Ward Bond.
Ward Bond - John Ford
Dr. and Mrs. Colter Craven. Played by Carleton Young and Anna Lee.
Ward Bond - John Ford
The Major argues with Paul Cleatus about water for the train. At right is Ken Curtis, a member of the John Ford stock company and John Ford’s son-in-law. But you know him better as Festus from Gunsmoke.
Ward Bond - John Ford
John Carradine as Paul Cleatus is giving the Major a hard time.
Ward Bond - John Ford
And the Major is giving it right back.
Ward Bond - John Ford
Dr. Craven treats a boy on the train.
Ward Bond - John Ford
More John Ford stock company people. That’s Hank Worden on the right. He played Mose Harper in the Searchers.
Ward Bond - John Ford
The Major, resplendent in his militia uniform, discusses drinking and war with “Sam” Grant.
Ward Bond - John Ford
The Major runs into his old friend Sam after Shiloh. Only now he is General Grant. In this scene, Seth Adams receives a battlefield promotion to Major.
Ward Bond - John Ford
And here, shown in shadow is John Wayne as General Sherman.Click Here to Listen to the audio clip of this and the pic at left. (In Windows Media Player)
Ward Bond - John Ford
Paul Birch as Ulysses S. “Sam” Grant
Ward Bond - John Ford
A happily recovered Colter Craven.
Ward Bond - John Ford

John Ford’s vision of the Wagon Train as filmed expensively for this episode.
Ward Bond - John Ford Ward Bond - John Ford
Ward Bond - John Ford Ward Bond - John Ford

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