Show: Remembering When

Episode: 868-141 Have Gun, Will Travel


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Episode Description:

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

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 and 19 were directed by series star Richard Boone.

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 willing to pay him. When forced, he excels in all manner of fisticuffs and the use of duelling weapons.

Paladin resides at the posh Hotel Carlton in San Francisco. His attire is stylish and elegant, so much so that, on their initial meeting, many a client take him for a transplanted Eastern dandy. Paladin enjoys the opera, the theatre, recitals and other refined etertainments. He insists on partaking in gourmet meals, treats chess as a blood sport, and is known for his prowess at poker. He enjoys fine cigars and is devoted to the company of beautiful ladies.

When his services are engaged Paladin dons all 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 of choice are a finely-crafted revolver, a derringer hidden under his black leather gunbelt and, on occasion, a specially-made rifle bearing a knight's head on its stock (see more at "Paladin's Weapons, below)".

Paladin routinely switches from an expensive frock-coated, lightly hued suit (or informal smoking jacket when in his rooms) befitting his living the good life in genteel urbanity, to all black attire appropriate for his forays into the lawless and barren Western wilderness as 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 only as a last resort.

Paladin is a mercenary. He accepts commissions but also is known to offer his services to people whose troubles find their way into the newspaper. In the parlance of chivalry, since Paladin is not attached to the service of any liege lord, his is "a free lance." In "The Outlaw" Paladin denies that he's a bounty hunter although some of his assignments make that 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, otherwise known as the American Civil War. In the episode "Squatters Rights" mention is made of his having fought at the battle of Antioch Station in Tennessee on April 10, 1863.

Exceedingly well-schooled and highly cultured, Paladin is a world traveler and polyglot, conversant, if not fluent, in any foreign tongue required by the plot. 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 abundant instances of Paladin recalling lengthy Shakespearean passages at will.

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

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

Paladin was always motivated by a personal 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, along with the dates and names of the cases. He even 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 beat up and even shot as he carries out his clients' assignments.

Paladin may be aristocratic in demeanor but he's no snob or bigot, character flaws he finds particularly disdainful. While he certainly maintains a richly-textured lifestyle in San Francisco he is invariably courteous to the hotel's staff, including the occasionally officious desk clerk, along with 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 very late night soiree Paladin has even been known to waltz lightheartedly in the hotel foyer with Maggie McGuire (Peggy Rae), the Carlton's Irish scrubwoman. This notwithstanding, 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. Back 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 early reputation for duelling is well known. Revealed in the same episode, Paladin obviously had not always been so highly principled before taking up his knightly profession. He belongs a well-to-do family he had no wish to disgrace. He nevertheless continued a dissipated existence for a time, alienating his family or, at least, his parents who sent him "a small monthly remittance not to go home": money he routinely gambled away (see "Genesis" below).

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 affort to hire him, typically $1000.00 a job-a small fortune at the time and a still impressive sum in the 1950s. On a few occasions, depending on the person, Paladin has been known to take nothing for his services. Again, when the outcome warrants, he graciously remits his stipend altogether.

Paladin has Christian sympathies but seems not to belong to any particular religious tradition. He has certainly studied many and appreciates elements found in their philosophies. He understands the symbolic power of the Cross. He takes great pleasure in singing carols, and has a profound love 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 upon a small town saloon's Christmas Eve revels they ask for help but are ignored. Paladin forces the barkeep to, at least, give them shelter 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 moumts his horse to leave, pausing to notice the livery stable's sign. Over the plaintive 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 back to Hebrews 13:2, "Be not forgetful of showing hospitality to strangers. for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

Too, Paladin shows an abiding respect for the tireless Franciscan friars he encounters in their missions on the 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 unscupulous bullies. 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.

A set piece takes place in each episode: Paladin's "Have Gun-Will Travel" engraved business card is displayed in a closeup, highlighted by a 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, even 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!"

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File Name of SD Episode: 868-141 Have Gun, Will Travel.mpg

Total SD Episode Video Runtime (hh:mm:ss): 00:28:38

File Size of SD Episode Video: 1,045,308,484 Bytes

Resolution of SD Episode Video: 720x480

Date SD Episode Video Uploaded: Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 19:41


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