Wanted: Dead or Alive (TV series)

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Wanted: Dead or Alive
Steve McQueen Virginia Gregg Wanted Dead or Alive 1959.JPG
Randall pleads with a mother (Virginia Gregg) to obtain medical treatment for her son. (1959)
Genre Western
Starring Steve McQueen
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 94
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 25 mins.
Production company(s) Four Star Television
Malcom Enterprises, Inc
CBS Productions
Original channel CBS
Picture format Black-and-white
Audio format Monaural
Original run September 6, 1958 (1958-09-06) – March 29, 1961 (1961-03-29)
Followed by Wanted: Dead or Alive
Related shows Trackdown

Wanted: Dead or Alive is an American Western television series starring Steve McQueen as the bounty hunter Josh Randall. It aired on CBS for three seasons in 1958–61. The black-and-white program was a spin-off of a March 1958 episode of Trackdown, a 1957–59 western series starring Robert Culp. Both series were produced by Four Star Television in association with CBS Television.[1]

The series launched McQueen, known for the concept of "cool" in entertainment,[1] as the first television star to cross over into comparable status on the big screen.[2]


McQueen's character of Josh Randall is a Confederate veteran and bounty hunter with a soft heart.[3] He often donates his earnings to the needy and helps his prisoners if they have been wrongly accused. Randall carries a shortened Winchester Model 1892 carbine, called the "Mare's Leg," in a holster patterned after "gunslinger" rigs then popular in movies and television.[4] Randall had the ability to draw and fire this gun with blazing speed, as fast as, or in many cases much faster than, his adversaries with handguns that were much smaller. Two Mare's Legs were used in the series, differing in the shape of the lever, round versus oval.

For several episodes in 1960 Randall had a sidekick named Jason Nichols (Wright King), a former deputy sheriff turned bounty hunter. They worked very well together onscreen, sharing a brotherly chemistry audiences enjoyed. By the start of the third season, Nichols was no longer anywhere to be seen. The episode called "The Partners", where Nichols killed three men, much to the chagrin of Randall who felt the men could have been taken alive, has been speculated to be the episode that broke up the partnership, but was actually only the second episode where Wright King was shown and far from the last episode in which he appeared.[5]

Three hard mother-grabbin' years, but I learned my trade and it gave me discipline.

—McQueen, commenting about his experience on the series.[6]

Guest stars[edit]

Wright King appeared as Jason Nichols in eleven episodes in 1960.

Guest stars included Jay North, Noah Beery, Jr., Lon Chaney, Jr., Alan Hale, Jr., James Best, James Coburn, Lawrence Dobkin, John Dehner, DeForest Kelley, Michael Landon, Nan Leslie, Warren Oates, Susan Oliver, Luana Patten, Suzanne Storrs, Claire Griswold (wife of Sydney Pollack), Lee Van Cleef, Jay Silverheels and William Schallert.

Production notes[edit]

The series was filmed in black and white at the Selznick Studios and produced by Four Star Television. Writers included Samuel A. Peeples and Charles Beaumont.

The first season theme song was written and conducted by Bill Loose. It was replaced by a new theme titled "Wanted". This theme was used until the end of the series and was written and supervised by Herschel Burke Gilbert.


  • October 1958 – April 1959: No. 16 – 28.0 (tied with Peter Gunn)
  • October 1959 – April 1960: No. 9 – 28.7
  • October 1960 – April 1961: not in top 30

Colorized version[edit]

In December 1987, Four Star International colorized Wanted: Dead or Alive making it the first vintage TV series to be completely colorized; the colorized version aired on at least 50 independent television stations.[7]

1987 film[edit]

In 1987, New World Pictures adapted the series into a low-budget film of the same name;[8] Rutger Hauer played modern-day bounty hunter Nick Randall, Josh's grandson.

DVD releases[edit]

On June 7, 2005, New Line Home Video released season 1 of Wanted: Dead or Alive on DVD in Region 1. In 2007, BCI Eclipse acquired the distribution rights to the series and released the final two seasons on DVD. Season 2 was released on July 17, 2007, and season 3 on October 16, 2007. These releases are now out of print as BCI Eclipse ceased operations in December 2008.[9]

In June 2009, Mill Creek Entertainment acquired the rights to the series and have subsequently re-released the first two seasons.[10][11] On August 25, 2009, they released an 11-disc box set featuring all 94 episodes of the series on DVD for the first time.[12]

DVD name Ep# Release date
Season One 36 August 25, 2009
Season Two 32 March 9, 2010


  1. ^ a b Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), pp. 103-104
  2. ^ Todd, McCarthy (March 31, 1998). "Steve McQueen: The King of Cool". Variety. Retrieved 2010-07-28. "As Daily Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart points out, McQueen was the first TV star – 'Wanted Dead or Alive' made him one – to cross over to comparable status on the big screen." 
  3. ^ Chance, Norman (2011). Who was who on TV. Xlibris Corporation. p. 442. ISBN 978-1-4568-2456-3. 
  4. ^ Glover, Fjh (5 April 2011). 1000 Famous Horses Fact and Fictional Throughout the Ages: (Not Race Horses and Not Show Jumping Horses). Xlibris Corporation. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-4568-8530-4. 
  5. ^ Brode, Douglas (2010). Shooting Stars of the Small Screen: Encyclopedia of TV Western Actors, 1946–Present. Dallas: University of Texas Press. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-292-78331-7. 
  6. ^ "Steve McQueen: The King of Cool". Time. June 28, 1963. Retrieved 2010-07-28. "He was TV's Hessian headhunter in Wanted—Dead or Alive, serving what he describes as "three hard mother-grabbin' years, but I learned my trade and it gave me discipline."" 
  7. ^ Farber, Stephen (June 7, 1987). "Will Colorizing Revitalize Old TV Series". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-28. "In December, Four Star International will offer to independent television stations the first completely colorized version of a vintage TV series, Wanted: Dead or Alive, the Steve McQueen western that had been shown on CBS from 1958 to '61. About 50 stations have already bought the package of 94 half-hour episodes." 
  8. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (February 21, 1987). "Will Colorizing Revitalize Old TV Series". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-28. "In Wanted: Dead or Alive, New World turned the character played by Steve McQueen, a bounty hunter roaming the western United States 100 years ago, into a bounty hunter as special agent for hire in 1987. Terrorists were the bounty Rutger Hauer hunted in the $4.5 million film." 
  9. ^ Lambert, David (December 18, 2008). "Navarre Shuts Down BCI, Makers of He-Man, Day Break, Price is Right and other DVDs". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2009-11-03. 
  10. ^ Wanted Dead or Alive – Season One
  11. ^ Wanted Dead or Alive – Season Two
  12. ^ Lambert, David (June 17, 2009). "Wanted: Dead or Alive – Cover Art for Mill Creek's Complete Series and Season 1 Sets". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2009-11-03. 

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