‘Wagon Train’ Villian Was Once Wanted For a Real-Life Ransom

Marshall Thompson may have portrayed a villain in the popular post-civil war western television series Wagon Train, where he played a man accused of brutally murdering his own brother.

However, those who followed the actor knew that there were almost no villainous traits in Thompson. In fact, his big heart was something that inspired him throughout his career.

But, according to one story from the actor’s career his dreams once put the Wagon Train actor inside a real-life deadly scenario. One that had him facing a $500 bounty on his head, and ended with him facing a sniper’s bullet.

Marshall Thompson’s Unique Co-Stars

One of Marshall Thompson’s most well-known roles is that of the veterinarian and single father Marsh Tracy in 1965’s Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion.

The film was a unique one, for sure; featuring a real lion, chimpanzee, and even a python as some of Marshall Thompson’s costars!

Marshall Thompson’s fan-favorite role in Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion was so well-received that the actor was approached to star in the TV show Daktari, which was adapted from the 1965 film.

Investing His Lifesavings

However, at this point in his life, the longtime actor was looking to expand his credentials.

So, Thompson ventured out to begin a daring project that would soon lead him into some very precarious situations.

With a plan to fund a new project in which he would also be director and producer, Marshall Thompson invested his entire life savings into a production shot in Vietnam.

Thompson had originally planned to shoot the film in the Philipines, but when he arrived on the first day, he was told the location had been moved to Saigon.

Since the star had already invested his budget into the breakthrough film, A Yank in Vietnam, there was little Marshall Thompson could do aside from accepting the change.

A Dangerous Location

With the Vietnam war in full force at this time, Thompson knew that shooting in Vietnam wasn’t the safest idea. In fact, the government had even warned the actor that the Viet Cong would be watching him and his crew while he was filming there.

“I put $62,000 of my own, just about everything I owned, my lifetime savings, into the project,” Thompson has said of the choice to continue with the filming.

The actor took steps to keep filming safe for himself and his crew; changing the filming locations regularly during the project. However, what Thompson didn’t know at this time, was that he was already facing danger.

The Viet Cong had announced a $500 ransom was put on the former Wagon Train actor’s head.

Thompson Is Shot On Set

This ransom brought unwanted risk to the shoot when a sniper infiltrated the set during filming. At one point, the actor has said, he felt “heat” behind his back. Only to realize that his ear had been grazed by a bullet.

“The authorities said we were safe in Saigon,” Thompson said of the incident. “but they couldn’t assure our safety outside. We were shooting from 5 to 30 miles outside the city.”

Many people would find this experience to be enough to keep them away from the area in future projects. However, Marshall Thompson was apparently unfazed by everything that happened. He returned again to shoot his next movie in a similar location.