Have Gun – Will Travel

For the band, see Have Gun, Will Travel (band).
Have Gun – Will Travel

Richard Boone as Paladin
Genre Western
Created by Sam Rolfe
Herb Meadow
Directed by Andrew V. 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 "The 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 company(s) CBS Productions
Filmaster Productions
Distributor Viacom Enterprises
Paramount Domestic Television
CBS Television Distribution
Original network CBS
Picture format 4:3 black and white
Audio format Mono
Original release 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.


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


This series follows the adventures of a man calling himself "Paladin" (played by Richard Boone on television and voiced by John Dehner on radio), taking his name from that of the foremost knight warriors in Charlemagne's court. He is a gentleman gunfighter who travels around the Old West working as a mercenary gunfighter for people who hire him to solve their problems for them. Although Paladin will charge steep fees to clients who can afford to hire him, typically US$1000 per job, he will provide his services for free (i.e., pro bono) to poor people who need his help. Like many westerns, the television show was set during a nebulous period after the Civil War. 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!"


The title was a variation on 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 trope common in theatrical advertising was "Have tux, will travel", and CBS claimed this was the inspiration for the writer Herb Meadow. The television show popularized the phrase in the 1960s, and many variations were used as titles for other works, but was pre-dated by Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein.[5]



Richard Boone in the episode "Genesis" (1962), before becoming the famed "knight without armor", Paladin.

Paladin prefers to settle without violence the difficulties brought his way by clients when possible. When forced, he excels in fisticuffs and, under his real name, was a dueling champion of some renown. Paladin is a former Union cavalry officer, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and a veteran of the American Civil War. Paladin’s permanent place of residence is the Carlton Hotel, a luxury hotel in San Francisco. In San Francisco he lives the life of a successful businessman and cultured bon vivant, wearing elegant custom-made suits, consuming fine wine, playing the piano, and attending the opera and other cultural events. He is an expert chess player, poker player, and swordsman. He is skilled in Chinese martial arts and is seen in several episodes receiving instruction and training with a Kung Fu master in San Francisco. He is highly educated, able to quote classic literature, philosophy, and case law, and speaks several languages. While at work on the frontier, Paladin changes into all-black western-style clothing.

Paladin's primary weapon is a custom-made, first-generation .45 caliber Colt Single Action Army Cavalry Model revolver[6] carried in a black leather holster (with a platinum chess knight symbol facing the rear), hanging from a black leather gunbelt. He also carried a lever action Marlin rifle strapped to his saddle, and a derringer concealed under his belt.

This calling card was the identifying graphic of the Have Gun – Will Travel series.

Paladin gives out a business card imprinted with "Have Gun Will Travel" and a drawing of a knight chess piece. A closeup of this card is used as a title card between scenes in the program.

Other recurring characters

The one other major semi-regular character in the show was the Chinese bellhop at the Carlton Hotel, known as Hey Boy (real name Kim Chan or Kim Chang: in the first season in the episode called "Hey Boy's Revenge" the character Hey Boy is sought by Paladin under the name Kim Chan which is written on a piece of paper and shown on screen. As the episode continues, Hey Boy is referred to (verbally) 5 times as Kim Chan and then on the 6th incident Paladin states Hey Boy's name as Kim Chang and thereafter he is referred to as Kim Chang every time. There is no explanation for the name change.), 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 on the Mr. Garlund television series.[2]

Olan Soule, who had a long career in movies and television, appeared in eleven episodes as Mitchell, or McGinnis, or Matthews (depending on the episode) as the Hotel Carlton's manager/front desk clerk. He is also called Mr. Cartwright, the assistant manager, in the episode "Hobson's Choice". He was spelled a few times by Peter Brocco, another oft-seen character actor who also appeared in "The Cream of the Jest" as the scientist employed to make Paladin's custom-made cartridges using Paladin's own formulation for smokeless gunpowder.

Notable guest stars

Victor McLaglen 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". McLaglen was billed in the opening credits after Richard Boone. He was the father of HGWT's original and main director Andrew V. McLaglen.

Vincent Price appeared in "The Moor's Revenge".[7] Also a guest in that episode was Morey Amsterdam[8] of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

James Coburn[9] played the feared gunman Bill Sledge in "The Gladiators"[10]

Ben Johnson (actor)[11] appears in three episodes between 1960 and 1962.

George Kennedy appears in six segments.

John Carradine appeared.

Charles Bronson appeared in five different roles, from the second episode up to the last season. ("The Outlaw",[12] "The Man Who Wouldn't Talk"[13])

Angie Dickinson portrayed the angry Amy Bender in the fifth episode of the first season.[14]

Buddy Ebsen (The Beverly Hillbillies, Davy Crockett) played a ruthless marshal in "El Paso Stage", and Bram Holden in "The Brothers".[15]

Vivi Janiss and Jay Novello were cast as a couple, Count and Countess Casares, in the 1962 episode, "The Exiles", in which Paladin is retained to recover $16 million in French bonds.[16]

Lee Van Cleef appeared in The Treasure and Face of A Shadow both in Season 6.

Harry Carey, Jr., who also appeared in Spin and Marty as Bill Burnett, was a regular in many film and television westerns, and appeared thirteen times on Have Gun – Will Travel.

Denver Pyle, best known as "Uncle Jesse" on The Dukes of Hazzard, appeared eight times. ("The Singer",[17] "The Wager"[18])

Harry Morgan, famous for Dragnet and M*A*S*H, appeared in "A Snare For Murder"[19] (Season 2, Episode 11) as a cranky, paranoid prospector.

Jack Lord appeared in the first episode, "Three Bells To Perdido", as the villain, Dave Enderby.[20]

June Lockhart was cast twice in the role of Dr. Phyllis Thackeray, first in the episode "No Visitors", and again in "The Return of Dr. Thackeray", which aired May 17, 1958.[21]

Dan Blocker appeared in "Gun Shy"[22] episode 29 of Season 1.

Pernell Roberts, before starring as Adam Cartwright on Bonanza and Trapper John McIntyre on Trapper John, M.D., was a scheming railroad employee in "Hey Boy's Revenge", which was episode 31 of the first season.[23]

DeForest Kelley appeared in The Treasure mid Season 6.

Lon Chaney Jr. appeared.

Warren Oates appeared.

Martin Balsam appeared.

Sydney Pollack appeared.

William Conrad appeared.

Robert J. Wilke appeared.

Dyan Cannon appeared.

Michael Pate appeared.

Ken Curtis appeared.

Robert Blake appeared.

Harry Dean Stanton appeared.

Albert Salmi appeared.

Suzanne Pleshette appeared.

Jack Elam[24] appeared in "The Man Who Lost",[25] as did Mort Mills[26] and Ed Nelson.[27]

Werner Klemperer, famous for his portrayal of Colonel Klink in Hogan's Heroes, appeared in "Fragile".[28]

Jena Engstrom appeared in three episodes, and her mother, Jean Engstrom, appeared in two episodes, in 1961 and 1962. Jena first appeared in the 1961 episode, "The Fatal Flaw", with guest stars Royal Dano and Allyn Joslyn. Her second appearance was with guest star Duane Eddy in the episode "The Education of Sarah Jane". Her third appearance was in "Alice" with (Jeanette Nolan. Jena's mother Jean Engstrom first appeared along with (John Fielder) in "The Gold Bar", and then in "Place for Abel Hix" with Robert Blake.

Kevin Hagen, who later portrayed Dr. Baker on Little House on the Prairie, appeared five times.[29]

Roy Barcroft, who portrayed Colonel Logan in the Spin and Marty segments of The Mickey Mouse Club, appeared in eleven episodes in various roles.

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

English actor Ben Wright, appeared in six episodes. Wright regularly played Hey Boy in the radio version of HGWT.

Fintan Meyler appeared in four episodes, twice appearing as Pegeen Shannon.

Carol Thurston appeared twice, as Martha Whitehorse in "Winchester Quarantine" (1957) and as Nita in "Heritage of Anger" (1959).[30]

Johnny Crawford appeared in the first season's Christmas episode "The Hanging Cross" (1958).[31]

Opening sequence

Originally, each show opened with the same 45-second visual. Over a slow four-note-repeat backbeat score, a tight shot of Paladin's chess knight emblem centered in a black background is seen, before the view widens to show the emblem affixed to Paladin's holster, with Paladin in his trademark costume seen from waist level in profile. He draws his revolver from the holster, cocks it, and then rotates it to point the barrel at the viewer for 10 seconds, while delivering a line of dialogue from the coming episode, after which the pistol is uncocked and holstered briskly. 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 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 Avenue, the home of Filmaster television production company. Filmaster was located 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.


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.

For the opening theme, Herrmann reused a short sequence he had previously composed for the 1951 movie On Dangerous Ground, starring Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino. The "Have Gun – Will Travel" theme (and fragments of incidental music also used in the television series) are featured in a chase scene across snowy fields; at the 35:25 mark of the film, the actual "Have Gun – Will Travel" opening theme is played in recognizable form, although the scoring is slightly different than that heard in the better-known television version.

The show's closing song, "The 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 "The Ballad of Paladin" making it six lines long. In 1962–1963, 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. However, in the episode "Sweet Lady in the Moon" (1963), the ballad was played complete over the closing credits.

Johnny Western has sung a fully recorded version, opening with the refrain and including a second verse never heard on the television series.[32]

Broadcast history and ratings

September 1957 – April 1963: Saturdays at 9:30 p.m.


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, although many others did not. 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.

Franchise 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.[33]


Dell Comics' Have Gun – Will Travel.

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.[34] The film was not made.

In 2006, it was announced that a Have Gun – Will Travel movie starring rapper Eminem is in production. However, the film currently does not hold an official confirmed release date. 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.[35]

Television reboot

In August 2012, it was announced in several venues that David Mamet was developing a reboot of the television series for CBS.[36][37]

Home video and DVD

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

CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has 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.[38]

On May 10, 2016, CBS DVD was to release Have Gun, Will Travel — The Complete series on DVD in Region 1.[39]

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
Complete Series 225 May 10, 2016

Cultural influences

Legal battle

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, an appellate court overturned the lower court ruling, on the basis 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 US$3 million. Mr. De Costa died at the age of 83 before he could receive the award.[40]

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.[41]

See also


  1. "Richard Boone".
  2. 1 2 The Museum of Broadcast Communications (Encyclopedia of Television) Have Gun, Will Travel by Peter Orlick
  3. 1 2 "Have Gun – Will Travel".
  4. Eric Partridge, Paul Beale, A dictionary of catch phrases: British and American, from the sixteenth century to the present day
  5. J. Daniel Gifford (2000), Robert A. Heinlein: a reader's companion, p. 98
  6. TV Acres — Weapons at a Glance
  7. McLaglen, Andrew V. (2000-01-01), The Moor's Revenge, retrieved 2016-04-14
  8. "Morey Amsterdam". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  9. "James Coburn". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  10. Ganzer, Alvin (1960-03-19), The Gladiators, retrieved 2016-04-14
  11. "Ben Johnson". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  12. McLaglen, Andrew V. (1957-09-21), The Outlaw, retrieved 2016-04-14
  13. Have Gun - Will Travel, 1957-09-14, retrieved 2016-04-14
  14. A Matter Of Ethics.
  15. The Brothers.
  16. "The Exiles on Have Gun - Will Travel". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved 2016-08-07.
  17. McLaglen, Andrew V. (1958-02-08), The Singer, retrieved 2016-04-14
  18. McLaglen, Andrew V. (1959-01-03), The Wager, retrieved 2016-04-14
  19. "A Snare For Murder".
  20. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0597682/?ref_=ttep_ep1
  21. Hal Erickson, "Return of Dr. Thackeray," All Movie Guide
  22. Johnson, Lamont (1958-03-29), Gun Shy, retrieved 2016-04-13
  23. Hey Boy's Revenge
  24. "Jack Elam". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  25. Lupino, Ida (1959-04-25), The Man Who Lost, retrieved 2016-04-14
  26. "Mort Mills". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  27. "Ed Nelson". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  28. "Fragile".
  29. "Kevin Hagen". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved 2012-10-26.
  30. "Carol Thurston". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  31. "Johnny Crawford in The Hanging Cross". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved 2015-01-15.
  32. firsthighlander1 (2009-02-04). Ballad of Paladin Have Gun Will Travel. firsthighlander1's channel, uploaded on 4 February 2009. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgvxu8QY01s.
  33. Dunning, John (1998), On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 311, ISBN 0-19-507678-8
  34. Michael Fleming (1997-05-15). "Krane Takes Bull by Horns". Variety. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  35. "Eminem to star in Have Gun – Will Travel film remake". CBC News. 2006-06-14. Archived from the original on 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2008-02-16.
  36. Rose, Lacey (2012-08-21). "CBS, David Mamet Developing 'Have Gun – Will Travel' Reboot". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-02-28.
  37. Tucker, Ken (2012-08-22). "David Mamet's 'Have Gun, Will Travel' reboot: Why it's a great idea". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2013-02-28.
  38. "Have Gun Will Travel DVD news: Announcement for The 6th and Final Year, Volume 1 and The 6th and Final Year, Volume 2". TVShowsOnDVD.com. 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  39. Richard Boone Stars in 'The Complete Series' 35-DVD Set
  40. "Have Gun, Will Travel". Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  41. Kleid, Beth (October 7, 1991). "Television". Los Angeles Times.


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