During my growing-up years, I watched reruns or as-they-aired episodes of what are now classic television westerns: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Lone Ranger, The Big Valley, High Chaparral, Rawhide, Laredo, The Virginian, Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, Maverick, Wagon Trail, Tales of Wells Fargo, Branded, Wyatt Earp, Johnny Yuma, Laramie, Broken Arrow, Guns of Will Sonnet, Zorro, Lancer, Cimarron Strip,Yancy Derringer... The list goes on and, no doubt, you each have your favorites.
It just so happens that one of my favorite classic western television shows is celebrating its premiere date today.
|*The adventures of a gentlemanly gunfighter for hire.*|
Fifty nine years ago today the television-watching population enjoyed the premiere of the thirty-minute, Saturday night western show, Have Gun - Will Travel, starring Richard Boone as the somewhat mysterious soldier of fortune, but always a gentleman, Paladin. The premise of the show was Paladin worked as a gunfighter-for-hire who traveled the west c. 1875 offering his special kind of problem-solving skills. He was a high-dollar gunman—$1000 per job wasn’t unusual—but he also provided his services for free to those with a worthy cause who couldn’t afford him otherwise. However, violence by gunplay wasn’t his only weapon. He was a pugilist and dueling champion of some renown in his former life.
- The word ‘paladin’ derives from the knights in Charlemagne’s Court, who were champions of worthy causes.
- Paladin was a Union cavalry officer and graduate of West Point.
- His residence is the luxury Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.
- When not riding about the countryside doing good deeds—dressed as the original “Man in Black”—he lives the life of a cultured businessman who wears custom-made suits, consumes fine wine, plays the piano, and attends the opera. He also has a weakness for women.
- With just a sip, he can determine a particular bourbon’s distillery.
- Paladin is an expert chess and poker player, an accomplished swordsman, and possesses skill in Chinese martial arts having studied under a Kung Fu master.
- His level of education is such that he quotes classical literature, philosophy, case law, and he speaks several languages.
- Paladin’s weapons: 1) custom-made, single action .45 Colt (Army cavalry model) that he carries in a black leather holster adorned with a platinum chess knight symbol, 2) lever action Marlin rifle, and 3) concealed derringer.
- He has a signature calling card/business card. In Paladin’s words: “It's a chess piece, the most versatile on the board. It can move in eight different directions, over obstacles, and it's always unexpected.”
- The show’s four note opening motif was done purposely to create a musical memory akin to other popular television shows at the time: Highway Patrol, Dragnet, Twilight Zone, and Perry Mason.
- The show closes with the song, “The Ballad of Paladin”, which was written by Johnny Western, Richard Boone, and Sam Rolfe. Johnny Western sings the ballad.
Of General Interest
- The show ran from 9/14/1957 to 4/20/1963 with 225 episodes.
- A radio version began in 1958 with actor John Dehner portraying Paladin.
- From 1974 to 1991, a trademark lawsuit against the concept of the show moved in and out of court culminating with a substantial settlement. You can read the details here: HGWT Website
Notable Episode Writers:
- Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)
- Bruce Geller (Mission Impossible)
- Harry Julian Fink (Dirty Harry)
- Sam Peckinpah (directed a plethora of western movies)
- Unusual for the era, many episodes were filmed outdoors and not on the Old West film lots – Bishop and Lone Pine, California – Paladin Estates between Bend and Sisters, Oregon – the Abbott Ranch near Prineville, Oregon
- Angie Dickinson
- Ben Johnson
- Buddy Ebsen
- Charles Bronson
- Dan Blocker
- DeForest Kelley
- Denver Pyle
- Dyan Cannon
- George Kennedy
- Jack Elam
- Jack Lord
- James Coburn
- Johnny Crawford
- June Lockhart
- Ken Curtis
- Lee Van Cleef
- Lon Chaney, Jr.
- Pernell Roberts
- Robert Blake
- Suzanne Pleshette
- Vincent Price
- Werner Klemperer
Although his real name is never revealed, Paladin’s backstory is shown in flashback sequence in the first episode of the last (6th) season, “Genesis”, which aired 9/16/1962. We do learn Paladin came by his moniker, and his subsequent mission to champion the causes of the less fortunate, via less than praiseworthy actions. Read the episode details at the HGWT Website
Until next time,
*Tagline - IMDb website: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050025/
Have Gun, Will Travel website: http://www.hgwt.com/
Have Gun, Will Travel Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Have_Gun_%E2%80%93_Will_Travel
Image: Richard Boone - By CBS Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image: Paladin - By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33548427
Image: Calling Card - By CBS Publicity; http://www.thrillingdetective.com/paladin.html, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15170596
Image: John Dehner - http://blogs.pjstar.com/mindingbiz/2013/12/23/before-he-was-mr-wilson-he-was-mr-radio-10-tv-stars-who-made-it-big-on-radio/