1 9 5 7 – 1 9 6 3 (USA)
226 x 30 minute episodes
On 14 September 1957, a new half-hour western series debuted on CBS. Richard Boone played Paladin – the man dressed all in black – in Have Gun Will Travel.
Paladin was a cultured gunslinger who, after fighting as a Confederate cavalry officer in the Civil War, operated as a troubleshooting gun-for-hire out of San Francisco’s ritzy Hotel Carlton.
He would peruse many newspapers, searching for potential clients in the turbulent stories of the times. Then he would send his calling card – which bore the image of a chess knight and read, “Have gun will travel. Wire Paladin, San Francisco” – and a clipping of the story to the person-in-need. His standard fee was $1,000.
Occasionally, when he felt the situation warranted it, Paladin even brought to justice the very people who hired him.
Something of a dandy, Paladin wore fine clothes and enjoyed good food, the arts, and intelligent conversation.
The suave and educated gunslinger could quote Keats and Shakespeare as well as he could use his perfectly balanced Cavalry model 1873 Colt Single Action Revolver (he had been a West Point graduate).
The name ‘Paladin’ was derived from one of Charlemagne’s twelve legendary knights who were paragons of chivalry.
Episodes aired on Saturday nights at 9:30 PM, just before another popular western, Gunsmoke, and ran for six successful seasons.
Richard Boone was brought into the series after cowboy icon Randolph Scott proved too busy to take it. But the producers couldn’t ask for a better he-man pedigree than Boone’s.
A several-times-removed nephew of pioneer Daniel, the actor already knew how to ride a horse (though he didn’t much like them) and had experience as a boxer, an oil-field roughneck, a fishing boat crewman, a bartender and a torpedo squadron gunner before starring for two seasons as Dr Konrad Styner in NBC’s Medic.
Have Gun Will Travel was probably the most adult of the ‘adult western’ genre – Offbeat, moody and very successful. The show’s theme song, The Ballad of Paladin, became a top-selling recording in the early 1960s.
Among the small regular cast were Paladin’s servants, Hey Boy (played by Kam Tong) and Hey Girl (Lisa Lu). When the series was cancelled in 1963, Richard Boone starred in another series – The Richard Boone Show – which was on the air for only one season. He later starred in Hec Ramsey (1972 – 1974).
In 1974, a federal magistrate ruled that a Rhode Island radio performer, Victor De Costa, had actually created the character of Paladin in the 1940s and was entitled to an accounting of the profits realised from the show.