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Have Gun - Will Travel

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Title: Have Gun - Will Travel  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Frank Hursley, Paladin (disambiguation), Marion Marshall (actress), Jack Lambert (actor), Joanna Barnes, James Stacy, Betsy Jones-Moreland, Marilyn Hanold, Sam Rolfe, Roxane Berard
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Have Gun - Will Travel

Have Gun – Will Travel
File:Have Gun–Will Travel.jpg
Richard Boone as Paladin
Genre Western
Created by Sam Rolfe
Herb Meadow
Directed by Andrew McLaglen
Sam Peckinpah
Lamont Johnson
Ida Lupino
Richard Boone
William Conrad
Starring Richard Boone
Kam Tong
Narrated by Richard Boone
Opening theme composed by
Bernard Herrmann
Ending theme "Ballad of Paladin" composed by
Johnny Western
Richard Boone
Sam Rolfe
performed by
Johnny Western
Country of origin USA
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 225 (List of episodes)
Producer(s) Julian Claman
Sam Rolfe
Running time 25 mins.
Production companies CBS Productions
Filmaster Productions
Distributor CBS Television Distribution
Original channel CBS
Picture format 4:3 black and white
Audio format Mono
Original run September 14, 1957 – April 20, 1963

Have Gun – Will Travel is an American Western television series that aired on CBS from 1957 through 1963. It was rated number three or number four in the Nielsen ratings every year of its first four seasons.[1] It was one of the few television shows to spawn a successful radio version. The radio series debuted November 23, 1958.

The television show is presently shown on the Encore-Western channel.

Have Gun – Will Travel was created by Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadow and produced by Frank Pierson, Don Ingalls, Robert Sparks, and Julian Claman. There were 225 episodes of the TV series, 24 written by Gene Roddenberry. Other contributors included Bruce Geller, Harry Julian Fink, Don Brinkley and Irving Wallace. Andrew McLaglen directed 101 episodes[2][3] and 19 were directed by series star Richard Boone.


The title was a catchphrase used in personal advertisements in newspapers like The Times, indicating that the advertiser was ready for anything. It was used this way from the early 20th century.[4] A form common in theatrical advertising was "Have tux, will travel," and CBS claimed this was the inspiration for the writer Herb Meadow. The TV show popularized the phrase in the 1960s, and many variations were used as titles for other works such as Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert Heinlein.[5]

But in 1974, a rodeo performer named Victor De Costa won a federal court judgment against CBS for trademark infringement, successfully arguing that he had created the Paladin character and the ideas used in the show, and that CBS had used them without permission. For example, at his rodeo appearances he always dressed in black, he called himself the "Paladin," he handed out hundreds of business cards with a chess piece logo and the phrase, "Have gun will travel," and he carried a concealed derringer. A year later, a court of appeals overturned the lower court, ruling that the plaintiff had failed to prove that there had been likelihood of confusion in the minds of the public —- a necessary requirement for a suit over trademark infringement. However, De Costa kept pursuing his legal options, and in 1991—more than 30 years after his first lawsuit was originally filed — he was awarded more than $3,000,000.00. Mr. De Costa died at the age of 83 before he could receive the award.[6]

In 1991, on the basis of De Costa's established claims, a Rhode Island federal judge blocked the redistribution of the Paladin show by Viacom.[7] See the segment "Victor De Costa: a previous Paladin" below.

Opening sequence

Originally, each show opened with the same 45-second visual. Over a slow four-note-repeat backbeat score, a tight shot of a silver chess knight emblem centered in a black background is seen. The view widens to show that the knight is an emblem affixed onto the black holster of a gunman, clad in black, who is standing with his right side to the camera, and his left hand in the pistol belt. Only his midsection, showing the full holster, is seen. Paladin's right hand slowly draws a Western revolver from the holster, leisurely cocks it, and then rotates it to point the barrel at the viewer, for 10 seconds. In this time, Paladin delivers a pointed line of dialogue from the coming episode (since the speaker's face is unseen, this is possible using the same visual in every episode). The pistol is then uncocked and holstered briskly, emphasizing the previous "teaser" statement. As the weapon is reholstered, the view tightens to show only the chess knight, and "RICHARD BOONE in HAVE GUN – WILL TRAVEL" appears. This leads into the show's theme music. In the episode that followed, the line delivered at gunpoint in the opening sequence is often not delivered with the same intonation or phrasing. There are cases where the teaser line does not occur in the story: In Season 1's "No Visitors;" Season 2's "The Wager," and "Lady on the Stagecoach."

The first season's Christmas episode, "The Hanging Cross," is unique. Instead of drawing the revolver, Paladin unbuckles the belt and removes the whole rig, holding it out to the camera as he talks. The camera tilts upward, revealing Richard Boone speaking to the camera, then hanging his belt, holster, and pistol on a wall peg and walking away as the theme begins and the title graphics appear.

In a later version of the opening sequence, there is a long range shot, with Paladin in a full-body profile silhouette, and he fast-draws the revolver, dropping into a slight crouch as he turns, pointing at the camera. After the dubbed-over line, he straightens as he shoves the firearm into his holster. This silhouette visual remained for the run of the series. In later episodes, the teaser line would be dropped.

Filming locations

Unlike many westerns, entire episodes were filmed outdoors and away from the Old West street set on Irving Street just below Melrose Ave, the home of Filmaster (later Filmation) television production company. Filmaster sat across the street from, later becoming part of, Paramount Studios' backlot. The area is now enclosed in the independent Kingsley Productions studio lot encompassing a city block.

Beginning in season four, filming locations were often given in the closing credits. Locations included Bishop and Lone Pine, California; an area now known as Paladin Estates between Bend and Sisters, Oregon; and the Abbott Ranch near Prineville, Oregon.



This series follows the adventures of "Paladin", a gentleman gunfighter (played by Richard Boone on television and by John Dehner on radio). He prefers to settle without violence the difficulties brought his way by clients who pay him. When forced, he excels in fisticuffs and the use of dueling weapons.

Paladin resides at the posh Hotel Carlton in San Francisco, in suite 205 (or 314 depending on the episode) as related in "The Singer". His attire is stylish and elegant, so much so that, on their initial meeting, many clients take him for an Eastern dandy. Paladin enjoys the opera, the theatre, recitals and other refined entertainments. He happily partakes in gourmet meals, treats chess as a blood sport, and is known for his prowess at poker. He enjoys fine cigars and the company of beautiful ladies.

When his services are engaged, Paladin dons black trail clothing, becoming a "black knight," so to speak, an anonymous chevalier lacking a coat-of-arms by which he may be identified. His weapons are a finely-crafted revolver, a derringer hidden under his black leather gunbelt and, on occasion, a custom rifle bearing a knight's head on the stock (see more at Paladin's weapons, below).

Paladin routinely switches from an expensive frock-coated, lightly hued, tan, brown or striped suit (or from an informal smoking jacket when in his rooms) befitting the good life he partakes of in genteel urbanity, to the black attire appropriate for his forays into the lawless and barren Western wilderness. There he is a hard-living gunslinger. The change may betoken the off-putting chess move of the knight. Like a chess master seeking control of the board, Paladin employs all his talents and abilities to gain superior positioning in any situation, most often shooting an opponent, but only as a last resort.

Paladin is a mercenary. He accepts commissions from people who seek to engage his services. He is not above scanning newspaper headlines to offer his services to people whose troubles find their way into print. In the parlance of chivalry, since Paladin is not attached to the service of any one liege lord, his is "a free lance." In "The Outlaw and Killer's Widow" among others Paladin denies that he's a bounty hunter, that his time is all one hires for a particular job. Still, some of his assignments make such a distinction highly academic.

Paladin is a former Union cavalry officer, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, a veteran of the late War Between the States, the American Civil War. In the episode "Squatters Rights" mention is made of his participation in the battle of Antioch Station in Tennessee on April 10, 1863.

Well-schooled and cultured, Paladin is a world traveler and polyglot, conversant, if not fluent, in any foreign tongue required by the plot, including morse code. He has a thorough knowledge of ancient history and classical literature. Almost every episode has Paladin dropping a line from Plato, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, St Paul, John Milton, Lord Byron, Miguel de Cervantes, even Oscar Wilde, whom he saved from kidnapping in "The Ballad of Oscar Wilde". There are instances of Paladin recalling lengthy Shakespearean passages.

A strong, moral, male role model, who not only has committed great poetry to memory but can call it to mind to underscore a particular situation, was unique in the realm of 1950s prime time television programming.

In earlier episodes, Paladin smiled more and undertook his work with an almost lighthearted, devil-may-care attitude. He grew more grim over the run of the series yet never lost his sense of humor or appreciation of comedy.

Paladin was motivated by a code of chivalry to act justly in a just cause. Paladin exhibits a passion for justice as well as for the rule of law, and constantly differentiate between the two concepts. He must have studied for the bar as deduced by the ease with which he is able to call to mind and meticulously quote from obscure decisions, with the dates and names of the cases. He shows himself adroit in court procedure when defending a gunman in "Trial at Tablerock" before a hastily convened court held in a saloon. This skill doesn't stop him from being routinely beaten and even shot as he carries out his assignments.

Paladin may be aristocratic in demeanor but he's no snob or bigot, character flaws he finds distasteful. While he maintains a richly-textured lifestyle in San Francisco he is invariably courteous to the hotel's staff, including the occasionally officious desk clerk, and the ubiquitous Chinese bellhop and jack-of-all-trades, Hey Boy, as well as his sister, Hey Girl (see below), seen in several episodes. Upon arriving home after a late night soiree Paladin has been known to waltz lightheartedly in the hotel foyer with Maggie McGuire (Peggy Rae), the Carlton's Irish scrubwoman. Paladin is not a wholehearted supporter of women, "these soft and glorious rose petals," being given the right to vote or the earliest appearance of psychiatry (Sweet Lady in the Moon").

Among Paladin's early exploits is an 1857 visit to India, where he won the respect of the natives by hunting man-eating tigers. In the United State, he has cultivated friendly relations among the Indian Nations. The Pawnee chief, Cah La Te, admits that the Indians know him as Ulu Shah Te, i.e., "He Who Rides with Many Tribes" ("The Hanging Cross").

The episode "Genesis" has it that Paladin's reputation for duelling is well known. Revealed in the same episode, Paladin had not always been highly principled before taking up his knightly profession. He belongs a well-to-do family he did not wish to disgrace. He nevertheless continued a dissipated existence for a time, alienating his family or, at least, his parents who sent "a small monthly remittance not to go home": money he routinely gambled away (see "Genesis" below). Paladin maintain ties to his Eastern life, admitting to rancher Henry Price, a newly arrived Bostonian, that he is the president of the San Francisco chapter of the Stock Exchange Club (The Bostonian).

In his somewhat reformed life, Paladin expects his clients to treat him as courteously as he treats them. He has no scruples about charging steep fees from clients who can afford to hire him, typically $1000.00 per job, a fortune at the time and a still impressive sum in the 1950s. On occasion, depending on the client, Paladin has been known to take nothing for his services. Again, when the outcome warrants, he graciously remits his stipend altogether as in Killer's Widow when he works to relieve the poverty of a woman whose husband, an outlaw, he had been forced to shoot and kill.

Paladin has Christian sympathies but seems not to belong to any particular religious tradition. Among his most fondly esteemed friends is a Czarist Russian Jew, Nathan Shotness (Martin Gabel) and his daughter, Rivka (Roxane Berard) ("Drop of Blood"). He has studied many faiths and appreciates elements found in their philosophies and has been known to quote from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. In "The Poker Fiend", and the Talmud as well as from the Bible. Paladin comes up against an adversary of a decidedly Luciferian type (Peter Falk) as he plays poker to save a man's soul. The gentlemanly gunfighter well understands the symbolic power of the Cross. He takes pleasure in singing carols, and shows great respect for the beauty of the Christmas story ("The Hanging Cross").

Paladin's Yuletide spirit comes most notably to the fore when he aids a young man and his pregnant wife seeking shelter, as he had, from a driving snowstorm. Breaking in on a small town saloon's Christmas Eve revels they ask for help and are ignored. Paladin forces the barkeep to, at least, shelter them in the storeroom. He eventually convinces a hard-bitten bar girl to help as the couple's son is born, the town doctor having passed out during this, "his only vacation." The storm abated, Paladin mounts his horse to leave, pausing to notice the livery stable's sign. Over the strains of a harmonica playing Adeste Fideles Paladin realizes with some satisfaction that he's spent Christmas in Bethlehem, Texas. The episode's title, "Be Not Forgetful of Strangers" harkens to Hebrews 13:2, "Be not forgetful of showing hospitality to strangers. for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

Paladin shows an abiding respect for the tireless Franciscan friars he encounters in their missions on the Southwest frontier ("The Sanctuary", "A Statue for San Sebastian", "A Miracle for St Francis"). Inevitably the priests endanger themselves by protecting Indians, Mexicans and underprivileged settlers from the schemes of unsrcupulous bullies. On more than one occasion Paladin is seen at improptu burials with a piece of Scripture on his lips. Still, it's telling that, when burying a rancher killed by hostile Indians, Paladin doesn't recite a biblical passage, but intones John Donne's "Death Be Not Proud" over the grave instead.

Paladin's Business Card and Chessman

A set piece takes place in each episode: Paladin's "Have Gun-Will Travel" engraved business card is seen a closeup, highlighted by a usually ominous musical sting. Prominent on the card is a drawing of a chessman, the horse-headed knight. The same device worked in platinum is attached to the center of his holster.

The symbol refers to the man's name, Paladin, a knight errant—a nickname or, more precisely, a nom-de-guerre, a working name—denoting his occupation as a champion-for-hire. The series' closing theme song describes Paladin as "a knight without armor". In "The Road to Wickenburg," Paladin draws a parallel between his methods and the knight's movement on a chess board: "It's an attack piece, the most versatile on the board. It can move eight different ways, over barriers, and [is] always unexpected."

Along with the horse-headed knight's piece appearing on Paladin's iconic business card, is found the brief instruction: "Wire Paladin-San Francisco". The laconic message inspired comedians of the day to quip, "What's Paladin's first name? 'Wire', of course—look at his card!"


The beginning of Paladin's career is seen in a flashback during the first episode of the final season, shared by Boone with a young Jim Mitchum, so clearly the son of actor Robert Mitchum. A young man surprises Paladin in his rooms at the Hotel Carlton. After a savage fistfight Paladin subdues the young man and finds out from him that he had been hired to kill the gunfighter. Paladin sees too clear a parallel between this and a similar incident in his own life which he tells his erstwhile assassin ("Genesis," episode 193).

Norge, a smarmy land dealer (portrayed by William Conrad who directed the installment), gives an unnamed young man an opportunity to pay off a $15,000.00 gambling debt. If not, he obliquely promises to disgrace the young man's "distinguished family name" by sending the young man to jail.

Norge explains that he's looked into the young man's background and counts on his personal code of honor to accept an offer to hunt down and kill a mysterious gunman named Smoke in exchange for wiping out the debt. The young man is assured by Norge that Smoke is a blackguard, "wanted for fifteen murders in fifteen states," who deserves to die several times over. By killing off Norge's guards Smoke has kept the land baron off his own property in Delta Valley for some time. The young man accepts the commission by burning his IOUs.

Wearing a brown jacket, tan hat with tight, tan trousers stuffed into a pair of tall, black, riding boots (see photo above) the young man rides off seeking Smoke. In a soft leather holster covered by a flap the young man carries a service revolver, obviously the sidearm he wore as an Army officer. Viewers first see Smoke from the right side. He's garbed in black, his pistol holstered in hard, black leather on which is seen the knight's head chess device.

Smoke sneaks up behind the young man on the outskirts of town and knocks him senseless. After recovering, he sees Smoke on a cliff above him while he is confined behind a pallisade and a 1000-foot drop behind. Smoke (played by Boone in a grey wig and without his trademark mustache) is fully aware that the young man believes he's on a mission of justice. However, Smoke informs the young man, he's but the latest in a chain of misguided amateur bounty hunters paid by Norge to kill him. Smoke is not impressed by the young man's gentlemanly attire and demeanor. He sardonically informs the well-meaning avenger that he may think himself "a noble paladin" like his medieval forebears who wore "shiny armor" and "carried pointy lances," but that a paladin is, after all, nothing more than a mercenary, a soldier of fortune. Smoke mentors the young man on fast draw techniques to make himself "worthy" to face him. Since the young man refuses to identify himself, Smoke taunts him as "my noble Paladin."

This appellation turns out to be doubly ironic when the already dying Smoke is fatally shot. Only then does he reveal to the young man that Norge lied. Smoke admits to being a criminal gunslinger once, but, indebted to the townspeople for taking him in and nursing him back to health, Smoke became their champion, "the one noble thing" he has ever done, protecting his new friends from the despotism they suffered under Norge and his hired thugs. Smoke warns his slayer that while he won this match "there are always dragons."

During the funeral service Smoke is movingly eulogized by townspeople now left without a protector. It is all too clear to the young man that the gunfighter had, without doubt, earned their veneration as their defender. The young man is overcome with grief for what he has done.

At the flashback's conclusion Norge, speeding to Delta Valley in a buckboard to take back his domain, is confronted by a man wearing a black, low-crowned Stetson and black trail clothes. The young man has become the new defender of the town. With Smoke's knightly holster on his hip he is now Paladin. The flashback ends with the implication that Paladin eliminates Norge, thus saving the town from tyranny. Paladin thus takes on his profession as an act of personal redemption.

The episode, written by Sam Rolfe, one of the show's creators, exhibits elements of Christian allegory and mythical subtexts, unusual for a popular Western in 1962.

Paladins's trail clothing

On the trail, Paladin wears black boots, what appear to be black denim trousers, a black shirt and a flat-crowned Stetson having four silver conchos attached to the leather band around the crown. Paladin originally wore a narrow, cloth string tie knotted in four-in-hand fashion (see picture in the Books section below) instead of the usual bow-knotted variation worn by many tradesmen and bankers in Westerns. In early episodes this tie was white with black speckles, which later became solid gray. The tie continues the concept of Paladin's gentlemanly fastidiousness and furthers a notion that he regarded his profession as "going to work" to the Eisenhower generation. The tie was discarded after the first season, perhaps feeling that it was an affectation. Paladin's shirt remained open-collared for the remainder of the series save for a segment in the third season, "The Moor". Paladin wore his tie to a performance of Shakespeare when well-known film stars Vincent Price and Patricia Morrison guest starred, playing Shakesperean actors bringing culture to the frontier.

In a few early episodes Paladin wore a large, natural sheepskin jacket coupled to a fleecy, close-fitting, ear-flapped travelling cap in snow and cold weather. The floppy ear flaps, turned up and untied, gave the gunman an uncharacteristic sloppy, even comic appearance. For the rest of the run Paladin substituted a close fitting, black leather jacket with a gray sheepskin collar, resembling the leather bomber jacket style familiar at the time, with black gloves and his usual black headgear.

Paladin was a man of means. His clothing would have been tailored in the fashion of the time and suited to his needs.

It is implied that Paladin's black gunbelt, holster, and very likely his flat-crowned hat, first belonged to Smoke, the wily yet virtuous gunslinger whom Paladin mistakenly thought a scoundrel, as detailed in the "Genesis" segment above.

Paladin's presumed afterlife

In the final episode of the radio show, Paladin moves to Boston in 1875 to claim an inheritance bequeathed by his aunt Grace. Paladin mentions living in Illinois as a child, recalling his father mentioning that Grace ran away from the family to New York.

In the television series, Paladin's gunfighting career continues sometime longer, He encounters an Army friend, as he searches for a corporal, a deserter from the 7th Cavalry, the command of Colonel George Armstrong Custer until 1876;; and Oscar Wilde toured America in 1882.

In the 1972–74 series Hec Ramsey, set at the end of the 19th century, Boone is an older former gunfighter turned early forensic criminologist. At one point Ramsey denies that, in his younger days as a gunfighter, he worked under the name Paladin. The origin of this myth is Boone's remark in an interview, "Hec Ramsey is Paladin—only fatter." Naturally, he merely meant the characters had certain similarities: Ramsey, for his part, was practically buffoonish, imparting a measure of humor to Hec Ramsey missing from the sterner, more erudite Paladin.

In the two-part 1991 TV mini-series, The Gambler—The Luck Of The Draw, a poker game is played by the rules of "the late Mr. Paladin" in the Carlton Hotel where Paladin usually stayed. The players are under the impression that Paladin had finally met his Maker.

Related information is found in the Historical setting section below.

Paladin's weapons

Paladin's primary weapon is a custom-made, First Generation .45 caliber Colt Single Action Army Cavalry Model revolver[8] with a 7 1/2 inch barrel (the original model tested and accepted by the United States Army - see World Heritage Encyclopedia entry on the Colt Single Action Army) that was perfectly balanced and of excellent craftsmanship. It had a one-ounce trigger pull (virtually impossible to achieve reliably with the Colt lockwork; most SAAs are four to eight pounds, not ounces, and a one-ounce pull would be very dangerous) and a rifled barrel[9] with the rifling stated in the show as though it were a special feature, though all SAAs had rifled barrels unless specially made for shot cartridges. The accuracy was given as "one inch to the right at fifty feet" though such a large error in windage would have been corrected on a custom-made Colt.[10] But it sounds impressive to uninformed viewers.

The lever-action Marlin rifle strapped to his saddle was rarely used, but the chess-piece knight's insignia embossed on the rifle stock suggests this weapon was as meticulously crafted as the six-shooter. The derringer (a double-barrelled Remington in most episodes, a single-barrel Colt in others) which Paladin hides under his belt saves his life in numerous instances. Paladin's intuitive sense of chess-like strategy—often anticipating moves ahead of his adversary and backing it up with formidable skills in personal combat—plus his epicurean tastes and implied lust for women (when relaxing in San Francisco) made him very much a "James Bond" of the Old West. Ever a man of refinement, Paladin carries cigars in his boot when adventuring.

Paladin's great advantage over adversaries was not his impressive equipment or ability as a marksman, superior as that may be; Paladin's edge was his training, intellect, rich education and tactical sense gained from his experience at West Point and as an officer in the U.S. Army. He has the ability to relate ancient antecedents to current situations. With the enemy surrounding him, Paladin often comes up with an insightful aside about General Marcellus and the siege of Syracuse or something similar, employing this insight to his advantage. Paladin had common sense and the ability to relate to people on their level, relate to them, and persuade them to see his point of view. He could have been a great lawyer, as he demonstrated many times the ability to sway public opinion.

Hey Boy and Hey Girl

The one other major semiregular character in the show was the Chinese bellhop at the Carlton Hotel, known as Hey Boy, played by Kam Tong. According to author and historian Martin Grams, Jr., Hey Boy was featured in all but the fourth of the show's six seasons, with the character of Hey Girl, played by Lisa Lu, replacing Hey Boy for season four while Kam Tong worked with another television series.[2]

Lu appears in the 1957 episode "Hey Boy's Revenge," playing Hey Boy's sister, Kim Li. In that episode, the audience learns that Hey Boy's name is Kim Chan. (We also learn that Paladin can read Chinese in a rudimentary way.) In an episode from the first season, "The Singer," Hey Boy responds to a stranger who addresses him with "Hey you!" by annoyedly responding that it is "Hey Boy" and not "Hey you."

In the season/episode sequencing used by Netflix, Kam Tong (Hey Boy) did appear in three episodes of Season 4: episode 1 ("The Fatalist"), episode 2 ("Love's Young Dream"), and episode 9 ("The Marshal's Boy").

Guest stars

June Lockhart was cast twice in the role of Dr. Phyllis Thackeray. Her first appearance was in the episode "No Visitors" in which she portrays a groundbreaking female physician who has diagnosed a case of three-day measles instead of the smallpox that a fire-and- brimstone wagonmaster had decided was reason enough to abandon a mother and child alone on the prairie. Paladin rescued them and finds a kindred spirit in the lovely Dr. Thackeray. In "The Return of Dr. Thackeray," which aired May 17, 1958, Paladin's physician friend diagnoses a cook with smallpox. Dr. Thackeray worries that the disease has infected the ranch hands employed by wealthy ranch owner Sam Barton, played by Grant Withers, coming in from a cattle drive because Barton and his weak son refuse to take responsibility for containing the outbreak on their ranch. Singer Johnny Western - who performed the series' closing ballad - appears as an immature gunslinger.[11] Paladin shows a softer side as he and the lovely Dr. Thackeray talk about why they are not ready to change their lives and marry.

Perhaps as a favor to his son, Andrew, HGWT's original and main director, famously craggy Oscar-winning actor, Victor McLaglen, one of the most reliable of director John Ford's stock company, appeared in the first season as Mike O'Hare, an Irish architect trying to build a dam in the wilderness against the wishes of a nearby town in "The O'Hare Story".

Kevin Hagen appeared five times, long before he was cast as kindly Dr. Hiram Baker on Michael Landon's Little House on the Prairie.[12]

Roy Barcroft the character actor whose glance could shake planets in science fiction serials in the 1930s and 1940s, was well-remembered as kindly Colonel Logan in the "Spin and Marty" segments of The Mickey Mouse Club. He appeared in eleven episodes in various roles.

Harry Carey, Jr., who also appeared in "Spin and Marty" as Bill Burnett, could be seen in segments of most every Western TV series made in the 1950s and was part of the John Ford stock company, appearing in movies with John Wayne. He did his friend Roy Barcroft two episodes better, being featured in thirteen.

Hal Needham, ace stuntman and character actor, who later directed several successful films, appeared in twenty-six episodes.

Ben Wright, born in London, was one of the most prolific of actors on television in the 1950-'60s. He appeared in six episodes when not doing voice-overs for Disney movies such as One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Little Mermaid, or apppearing in Gunsmoke or Twilight Zone among dozens of other series. His most visible role in films was as Herr Zeller, the Nazi official in ]]The Sound of Music]].

Olan Soule, who had a long career in movies and television, appeared in eleven episodes as the Hotel Carlton's desk clerk. He was spelled a few times by Peter Brocco, another oft-seen character actor.

Fintan Meyler was another busy actress in television of the era. She appeared in four episodes, twice appearing as Pegeen Shannon, an Irish lass with a penchant for getting into trouble.

Denver Pyle bounced between films and television up to the 1990s when he hit it big in The Dukes of Hazzard. He appeared eight times.

George Kennedy, years before he famously beat up Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke and starred on TV as Sarge, appears in six segments.

Charles Bronson, later one of the screen's most popular action stars, appeared in five different roles, from the second episode up to the last season.

Jena Engstrom appeared in three episodes, and her mother, Jean Engstrom, appeared in two in 1961 and 1962. Jena first appeared in the 1961 episode "The Fatal Flaw" with guest stars Royal Dano and Allyn Joslyn as the resident of a mountain cabin where the three men, Paladin, a U.S. marshal (Joslyn) and a captured outlaw (Dano) take refuge in a blizzard. Her second appearance was with guest star Duane Eddy in the episode "The Education of Sarah Jane" where the youngsters are the latest in the line of feuding families who have killed one another for years. In "Alice", Jena appears as a former saloonkeeper's daughter who hires Paladin to find her mother (Jeanette Nolan as Alice). Jena's mother Jean Engstrom first appeared as an unwed, expectant mother befriended by a runaway bank teller (John Fielder) in "The Gold Bar," and then as an ex-gunfighter's widow in "Place for Abel Hix" with Robert Blake.

Carol Thurston appeared twice, as Martha Whitehorse in "Winchester Quarantine" (1957} and as Nita in "Heritage of Anger" (1959).[13]

Opening theme - closing ballad

The program's opening four note motif was as familiar a theme as the four note openings of contemporary television programs Highway Patrol, Dragnet, Twilight Zone and Perry Mason. It was composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann. The closing song, "Ballad of Paladin," was written by Johnny Western, Richard Boone, and program creator Sam Rolfe, and was performed by Western.

In the first season the closing song was a reprise of the opening theme. In syndication, the first (premise) episode concludes with the Johnny Western ballad. The rest of the run of the first season episodes play a reprise of the opening theme.

In the second season the song was the only closing music. In the third season a new lyric was added to the five line "Ballad of Paladin" making it six lines long. In 1962-63, the final season, the song's lyrics were cut to four lines, the original fourth and added sixth being dropped. This occurred because the production credits for writer, producer and director were pulled from the closing credits to appear over the opening sequences.

The fully recorded version, sung by Johnny Western, opening with the refrain and with a second verse never heard on the television series may be heard here:

Historical setting

Like many westerns, the television show was set during a nebulous period after the Civil War. Based on several episodes, Paladin had served in the cavalry during that war, about 12 years previously, and the episode "The Fifth Man" (May 30, 1959) was clearly set during 1875 (the introduction to episodes of the radio version explicitly states the year 1875 as well). The episode "Full Circle" (May 14, 1960) and "Blind Circle" in the fifth season are also set in 1875. ("Full Circle" is set three years after September 1872.) The episode "Lazarus" in the fifth season takes place on March 6 and 7, 1875.

"Comanche" (May 16, 1959) ends with Paladin surveying the aftermath of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, June 26, 1876. In "Out at the Old Ball Park" in the fourth season, he speaks of having seen a baseball game organized by Colonel Abner Doubleday in 1863 and of having seen the first curve ball in 1876. In "The Shooting of Jessie May" in the fourth season, a newspaper is dated October 7, 1876, and an event in the Civil War was "10 or 12 years ago." "The Cure" in the fourth season is set sometime after the death of Wild Bill Hickok, August 2, 1876. The episode of December 6, 1958 ("The Ballad of Oscar Wilde"), takes place during Oscar Wilde's tour of America in 1882.[14] In "A Drop of Blood" (December 2, 1961), the date of Rivka Shotness' wedding is given as 12 Tammuz 5639; this corresponds to 3 June 1879 CE.

On the other hand, in "Cage at McNaab," which was episode 23 of the sixth season (which originally aired 16 February 1963), Paladin is asked by the wife of a condemned prisoner to visit him and see if new evidence can be found to clear him. Paladin's visit leads to an unexpected result: Paladin literally finds that he now walks in another man's footsteps. While imprisoned, to demonstrate that he could not have spent the last year in solitary confinement, Paladin says, "Last week the liberal Republicans nominated Greeley for President and Brown for Vice President." This refers to the 1872 election, indicating that this occurred prior to November 1872, probably in the summer of 1872. He also says, "Last May 22, the Amnesty Act for Confederate soldiers was signed," also in 1872.

A chronological problem occurs in the second season episode "The Man Who Wouldn't Talk" when Paladin attends a performance of "Cyrano de Bergerac" at the San Francsico Opera House. Edmund Rostand first saw this play produced in France in 1897. The first English language version starred Richard Mansfield in England. The first US production on Broadway took place in 1923 and starred Walter Hampden. Again, in the third season episode "Pancho," Paladin tangles with a teenager named Doroteo Arango, a man who later was known as Pancho Villa. The real Pancho Villa was not born until 1878.

In the fifth season episode "The Invasion" (April 28, 1962), Paladin is hired by the State Department to prevent an uprising by a charismatic Irish-American named O'Shea, a leader of the Fenians who intended to seize the English colonies in Canada to force Britain out of Ireland. The Fenian raids began in 1866 and were one of the main reasons for Canada's independence in 1867. "The Invasion" specifically refers to Canada being under British rule, so must be set before 1867.

Season 5, Episode 18 "The Mark Of Cain" Paladin states that Tom Horn is dead. Tom Horn was hanged in Cheyenne, Wyoming for the murder of Willie Nickell November 20, 1903.

The radio show explicitly states the year in the opening of every episode with the introduction, "San Francisco, 1875. The Carlton Hotel, headquarters of the man called ... Paladin!"

Broadcast history and ratings

September 1957 – April 1963: Saturdays at 9:30 pm

  • October 1957 – April 1958: #4 – 33.7
  • October 1958 – April 1959: #3 – 34.3
  • October 1959 – April 1960: #3 – 34.7
  • October 1960 – April 1961: #3 – 30.9
  • October 1961 – April 1962: #29 – 22.2
  • October 1962 – April 1963: #29 – 20.8


The television show was nominated for three Emmy Awards. These were for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series, for Richard Boone (1959); Best Western Series (1959); and Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Series (Lead or Support), for Richard Boone (1960).[3] In 1957, Gene Roddenberry received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Script for the episode "Helen of Abajinian."


Many of the writers who worked on Have Gun – Will Travel went on to gain fame elsewhere. Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek, Bruce Geller created Mission: Impossible, and Harry Julian Fink is one of the writers who created Dirty Harry (the opening title and theme scene of the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force would feature the same Paladin-like sequence of a handgun being slowly cocked and then finally pointed toward the camera, with a line of dialogue). Sam Peckinpah wrote one episode, which aired in 1958. Both Star Trek and Mission: Impossible were produced by Desilu Productions and later Paramount Television, which also now owns the rights to Have Gun – Will Travel through its successor company, CBS Television Distribution.

In other media

Radio show

The Have Gun – Will Travel radio show broadcast 106 episodes on the CBS Radio Network between November 23, 1958, and November 27, 1960. It was one of the last radio dramas featuring continuing characters and the only significant American radio adaptation of a television series. John Dehner (a regular on the radio series version of Gunsmoke) played Paladin, and Ben Wright usually (but not always) played Hey Boy. Virginia Gregg played Miss Wong, Hey Boy's girlfriend, before the television series featured the character of Hey Girl. Unlike the small-screen version, in this medium there was usually a tag scene at the Carlton at both the beginning and the end of the episode. Initially, the episodes were adaptations of the television program as broadcast earlier the same week, but eventually original stories were produced, including a finale ("Goodbye, Paladin") in which Paladin leaves San Francisco, apparently forever, to claim an inheritance back east. The radio version was written by producer/writer Roy Winsor.[15]


There were three novels based on the television show, all with the title of the show. The first was a hardback written for children, published by Whitman in 1959 in a series of novelizations of television shows. It was written by Barlow Meyers and illustrated by Nichols S. Firfires. The second was a 1960 paperback original, written for adults by Noel Lomis. The last book, A Man Called Paladin, written by Frank C. Robertson and published in 1963 by Collier-Macmillan in hardback and paperback, is based on the television episode "Genesis" by Frank Rolfe. This novel is the only source wherein a name is given to the Paladin character, Clay Alexander, but fans of the series do not consider this name canonical. Dell Comics published a number of comic books with original stories based on the television series.

In 2001, a trade paperback book titled The Have Gun – Will Travel Companion was published, documenting the history of the radio and television series. The 500-page book was authored by Martin Grams, Jr. and Les Rayburn.


In 1997 it was announced that a movie version of the television series would be made. John Travolta was named as a possible star in the Warner Bros. production, which was scripted by Larry Ferguson and to be directed by The Fugitive director Andrew Davis.[16] The film was not made.

In 2006, it was announced that a Have Gun – Will Travel movie starring rapper Eminem was being made, with possible release in 2008; as of 2012, release is expected in 2013. Paramount Pictures extended an 18-month option on the television series and planned to transform the character of Paladin into a modern-day bounty hunter. Eminem was expected to work on the soundtrack.[17]

Television reboot

In August 2012, it was announced in several venues that David Mamet is developing a reboot of the television series for CBS.[18][19]

Home video and DVD

All of the episodes were released on VHS by Columbia House.

CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has now released all six seasons of Have Gun – Will Travel on DVD in Region 1. Season 6, Volumes 1 & 2 were first released on May 7, 2013.[20]

Note: In the second-season DVD, two episodes are mislabeled. On disk three, the episode titled "Treasure Trail" is actually "Hunt the Man Down," and on disk four, "Hunt the Man Down" is "Treasure Trail"; the "Wire Paladin" in each case refers to the other episode.

DVD name Ep # Release date
Season 1 39 May 11, 2004
Season 2 39 May 10, 2005
Season 3 39 January 3, 2006
Season 4- Volume 1 19 March 2, 2010
Season 4- Volume 2 19 July 6, 2010
Season 5- Volume 1 19 November 30, 2010
Season 5- Volume 2 19 February 22, 2011
Season 6- Volume 1 16 May 7, 2013
Season 6- Volume 2 16 May 7, 2013

Victor De Costa: a previous Paladin

In April 1974 a Portuguese cowboy from Rhode Island named Victor DeCosta won a federal court judgment in his second suit against CBS for trademark infringement, a decision supporting his claim that he had created the Paladin character and some concepts seen in the series.[21] His cowboy image notably included the nickname "Paladin," a mustache, an all-black outfit including flat-top black hat, chess knight on the business card, and the motto "Have Gun – Will Travel". In their previous appeal, the defendants claimed it was "'coincidence' run riot," "more bizarre than most television serial installments."[22][23] During subsequent litigation, the "court found no basis for liability for common law service mark infringement or unfair competition and accordingly reversed.". After that, DeCosta applied for registration of his mark, and in 1975 the Patent and Trademark Office granted his application. Meanwhile CBS granted the syndicated broadcasting of the series throughout the United States to Viacom. DeCosta sued Viacom for trademark infringement, and after an appeal, in 1991 he was awarded $3.5 million.[24][25] The award was denied in 1993,[26] and after the death of Victor DeCosta (1993) the litigation was continued by David DeCosta.[27]

HGWT's Cultural influences

  • Have Space Suit—Will Travel is a 1958 "space opera"-type science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein that partly spoofs the title of this series. It is also a picaresque with the main character starting at home and then being called to adventure in space. The connection between westerns (known as "horse operas") and science fiction in Americana is again alluded to.
  • Have 'Twangy' Guitar Will Travel is a 1958 album by guitarist Duane Eddy
  • "Have Love, Will Travel" is a 1959 song written and recorded by Richard Berry.
  • In a scene in Stand By Me, the main characters sing the show's closing theme song as a way of evoking that film's era (it is set in late 1959); songwriter Johhny Western successfully sued the producers for not securing his permission beforehand. This scene is spoofed in the "Stand by Me" segment of the Family Guy episode "Three Kings".
  • The 1962 Tom and Jerry cartoon Tall in the Trap (directed by Gene Deitch) was a parody of Have Gun – Will Travel.
  • A feature of Beat the Boots).
  • In a preview of the upcoming season of Downton Abbey aired November 25, 2012, in what appears to be an anachronism, the character Lady Cora tells her husband, "I'm American—have gun, will travel."
  • "Have Time Will Travel" from "The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald".

See also


Further reading

External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Museum of Broadcast Communications
  • Tribute Site
  • The Entire Radio Series for download
  • paperback book
  • by author Martin Grams, Jr.
  • First version of opening sequence
  • "Ballad of Paladin" (closing theme) – written by Johnny Western, Richard Boone, and Sam Rolfe and performed by Johnny Western
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