Have Gun – Will Travel

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For the band, see Have Gun, Will Travel (band).
Have Gun – Will Travel
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 "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. There were 225 episodes of the television 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.


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. Paladin may charge steep fees to clients who can afford to hire him, typically $1000 per job, but will provide his services for free 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 form 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 such as Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert Heinlein.[5]



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

This series follows the adventures of a man calling himself "Paladin," taking his name from that of the foremost knights in Charlemagne’s court. He is a gentleman gunfighter (played by Richard Boone on television and voiced by John Dehner on radio). Paladin is a mercenary, a soldier of fortune, accepting commissions from people who seek to engage his services. Paladin may charge steep fees from clients who can afford to hire him, but will work for free when poor people need his help.

He 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 bespoke 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 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.

Paladin gives out a business card 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.

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

Other recurring characters[edit]

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 Chang), 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[edit]

Jack Lord appeared in the first episode, "Three Bells To Perdido," as the villain, Dave Enderby.[7]

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.[8]

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. Victor McLaglen was the father of HGWT's original and main director Andrew McLaglen.

Kevin Hagen, who later portrayed Dr. Baker on Little House on the Prairie appeared five times.[9]

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

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.

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

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

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

Denver Pyle, best known as "Uncle Jesse" on The Dukes of Hazzard, appeared eight times.

George Kennedy appears in six segments.

Charles Bronson 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. 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.

Pernell Roberts, before starring as Adam Cartwright on Bonanza and Trapper John McIntyre on Trapper John, MD, was a scheming railroad employee in "Hey Boy's Revenge".

Carol Thurston appeared twice, as Martha Whitehorse in "Winchester Quarantine" (1957) and as Nita in "Heritage of Anger" (1959).[10]

Johnny Crawford appeared in the first season's Christmas episode "The Hanging Cross" (1958).[11]

Opening sequence[edit]

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[edit]

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 re-used 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 TV 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 1962–63, 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. However in the 1963 episode "Sweet Lady in the Moon" the ballad was played complete over the closing credits.

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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgvxu8QY01s

Broadcast history and ratings[edit]

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.

Franchise in other media[edit]

Radio show[edit]

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.[12]


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.[13] 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.[14]

Television reboot[edit]

In August 2012, it was announced in several venues that David Mamet is developing a reboot of the television series for CBS.[15][16]

Home video and DVD[edit]

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.[17]

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

Cultural influence[edit]

  • Boon was a hit British Drama series and was heavily influenced by Have Gun – Will Travel. The series followed the adventures an ex-fireman who was invalided out of the service and became a 'modern-day hero'. Of Have Gun – Will Travel's influence, co-creator Jim Hill said: "Boon had been derived from an American TV series from the 1950s that Bill Stair and I both watched and liked. It was called Have Gun – Will Travel – a troubleshooting cowboy answered distress calls. He was called Paladin and was played by the actor Richard Boone. We dropped the E and we had BOON – a modern-day trouble shooter on a motorbike instead of a steed." Boon ran from 1986 to 1992, with a special one-off episode in 1995.
  • Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958) is a "space opera" novel by Robert Heinlein. The narrator is called to space to do the typical hero's job of defending humanity and saving the earth.
  • Have 'Twangy' Guitar Will Travel (1958) is an album by guitarist Duane Eddy.
  • Have Guitar Will Travel (1960) is an album by guitarist and vocalist Bo Diddley.
  • Have Guitar, Will Travel (2009) is an album by guitarist Joe Perry. The accompanying tour also used the name.
  • "Have Love, Will Travel" is a song written and recorded in 1959 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 Johnny 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 Tom and Jerry cartoon Tall in the Trap (1962, directed by Gene Deitch) was a parody of Have Gun – Will Travel.
  • A feature of Frank Zappa's 1970 tour's performances was the "Paladin Routine," a brief improvised comedy sketch based on the Have Gun – Will Travel characters, culminating in a vocalization of the music from the series' opening-credit sequence. One such performance is documented on the bootleg album Freaks & Motherfu*#@%! (later released as part 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".
  • Got Dust, Will Travel", a mission from Saints Row 2
  • Have Mask, Will Travel, the title of the second part of the Mask/Ace Ventura crossover and the final episode of the latter's second season.
  • 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.

Legal battle[edit]

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. Mr. De Costa died at the age of 83 before he could receive the award.[18]

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.[19]


  1. ^ "Richard Boone". 
  2. ^ a b The Museum of Broadcast Communications (Encyclopedia of Television) – Have Gun, Will Travel by Peter Orlick
  3. ^ a b "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. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0597682/?ref_=ttep_ep1
  8. ^ Hal Erickson, "Return of Dr. Thackeray," All Movie Guide
  9. ^ "Kevin Hagen". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved October 26, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Carol Thurston". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved August 16, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Johnny Crawford in The Hanging Cross". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  12. ^ Dunning, John (1998), On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 311, ISBN 0-19-507678-8 
  13. ^ Michael Fleming (1997-05-15). "Krane Takes Bull by Horns". Variety. Retrieved December 31, 2007. 
  14. ^ "Eminem to star in Have Gun – Will Travel film remake". CBC News. 2006-06-14. Archived from the original on June 14, 2007. Retrieved February 16, 2008. 
  15. ^ Rose, Lacey (2012-08-21). "CBS, David Mamet Developing 'Have Gun – Will Travel' Reboot". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  16. ^ Tucker, Ken (2012-08-22). "David Mamet's 'Have Gun, Will Travel' reboot: Why it's a great idea". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  17. ^ "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 May 13, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Have Gun, Will Travel". Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  19. ^ Kleid, Beth (October 7, 1991). "Television". Los Angeles Times. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]