Have Gun – Will Travel

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Have Gun – Will Travel

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Have Gun – Will Travel
Richard Boone as Paladin
Created bySam Rolfe
Herb Meadow
Directed byAndrew V. McLaglen
Richard Donner
Lamont Johnson
Ida Lupino
Richard Boone
William Conrad
StarringRichard Boone
Kam Tong
Narrated byRichard Boone
Opening themecomposed by
Bernard Herrmann
Ending themeThe Ballad of Paladin” composed by
Johnny Western
Richard Boone
Sam Rolfe
performed by
Johnny Western
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes225 (list of episodes)
ProducersJulian Claman
Sam Rolfe
Running time25 mins.
Production companiesCBS Productions
Filmaster Productions
DistributorCBS Films
Viacom Enterprises
Paramount Domestic Television
CBS Television Distribution
Original networkCBS
Picture format4:3 black and white
Audio formatMono
Original releaseSeptember 14, 1957 –
April 20, 1963

Have Gun – Will Travel is an American Western series that was produced and originally broadcast by CBS on both television and radio from 1957 through 1963. The television version of the series starring Richard Boone was rated number three or number four in the Nielsen ratings every year of its first four seasons, and it is one of the few shows in television history to spawn a successful radio version.[1] That radio series starring John Dehner debuted November 23, 1958, more than a year after the premiere of its televised counterpart.[1]



Have Gun – Will Travel was created by Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadow and produced by Frank PiersonDon Ingalls, Robert Sparks, and Julian Claman. Of the 225 episodes of the television series, 24 were written by Gene Roddenberry.[2] Other major contributors included Bruce GellerHarry Julian FinkDon Brinkley, and Irving WallaceAndrew V. McLaglen directed 101 episodes,[3] and 28 were directed by series star Richard Boone.[4]


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 knights in Charlemagne‘s court. He is a gentleman investigator/gunfighter who travels around the Old West working as a mercenary for people who hire him to solve their problems.

Although Paladin charges steep fees to clients who can afford to hire him, typically $1000 per job, he provides his services for free to poor people who need his help. Like many Westerns, the television show was set in a time vaguely indicated to be some years after the American Civil War. The radio show announced the year of the story that followed in the opening of each episode.[5]

The season 5 television episode, “A Drop of Blood”, gives the specific date of July 3, 1879.[6] In the fourteenth and seventeenth (“Lazarus”, March 6 and 7, 1875) episodes of season 5, it is 1875.


The title is a variation on a cliche used in personal advertisements in newspapers like The Times, indicating that the advertiser is ready for anything. It has been used this way from the early twentieth century.[7]

trope common in theatrical advertising at the time was “Have tux, will travel” (originally from comedian Bob Hope in 1954[8]), and CBS has claimed this was the specific inspiration for the writer Herb Meadow. The television show popularized the phrase in the 1950s and 1960s, and many variations have been used as titles for other works, including the 1958 science fiction novel Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein.[9]



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

Paladin prefers to settle the difficulties clients bring his way without violence, but this rarely happens. When forced, he excels in fisticuffs. Under his real name, which is never revealed, he was a dueling champion of some renown. Paladin is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a veteran of the American Civil War, in which he served as a Union cavalry officer.

His permanent place of residence is the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco, where he lives the life of a successful businessman and 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. He is also president of the San Francisco Stock Exchange Club.[10]

When out working, Paladin changes into all-black Western-style clothing. His primary weapon is a custom-made, first-generation .45 caliber Colt Single Action Army Cavalry Model revolver[11] with an unusual rifled barrel, carried in a black leather holster (with a platinum chess knight symbol facing the rear), hanging from a black leather gunbelt. He also carries a lever action Marlin rifle strapped to his saddle. In some episodes, he has a two-shot Remington derringer concealed under his belt; in other episodes, it is a single-shot Merrimack Arms “Southerner” derringer.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 an engraving of a white knight chess piece, which evokes the proverbial white knight and the knight in shining armor. A closeup of this card is used as a title card between scenes in the program.

Other recurring characters[edit]

The one other major semiregular character in the show is 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) five times as Kim Chan and then on the sixth incident Paladin states Hey Boy’s name as Kim Chang and thereafter he is referred to as Kim Chang every time. No explanation is given for the name change. Hey Boy is played by Kam Tong. According to author and historian Martin Grams, Jr., Hey Boy is 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.[3] Lisa Lu had previously played Hey Boy’s sister, Kim Li, in “Hey Boy’s Revenge”.

Character actor Olan Soule appears across all six seasons in ten episodes of Have Gun – Will Travel as an employee of the Carlton Hotel, usually identified as the manager/desk clerk. The character’s name is inconsistent, being given as “Cartwright” in two episodes, and “Matthews” in another. Tony Regan also appears as an unnamed desk clerk in over a dozen episodes, between seasons 2 and 5. Hal Needham, later a noted director, worked on the show as a stunt performer and can be seen as a bit part player (in a wide variety of roles) in nearly fifty episodes.

Notable guest stars[edit]

With Christine White, 1958With Patricia Medina, 1960

Guest stars included[12]

Opening sequence[edit]

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With Lisa Gaye, 1958With Roxane Berard, who appeared in three episodes

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. Then as he draws his revolver from the holster, the four-note-repeat backbeat fades to a light, almost harp-like strumming. He cocks the hammer, and then rotates the gun to point the barrel at the viewer for 10 seconds, often delivering a line of dialogue from the coming episode, after which the pistol is uncocked and holstered briskly. As the weapon is reholstered and the view tightens to show only the chess knight, again, the four-note-repeat backbeat returns.

As only the chess knight emblem in a black background is back, the name “RICHARD BOONE” appears across the screen for about 5 seconds. The name fades out and immediately the words “in HAVE GUN – WILL TRAVEL” fade in, again for about 5 seconds. Boone’s name and the show’s title is accompanied by a four-note “stinger” that overshadows the four-note-repeat. The “stinger” is roughly the same as that heard when Paladin’s business card is flashed on screen (in almost every episode). The words fade away after those 5 seconds leaving only the chess knight emblem against the black background, and the four-note-repeat fades out. This opening then fades out and the show fades in on its opening scene.[13]

In a later version of the opening sequence (Seasons 3–6), 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 was dropped; as seen in many of the episodes of the final two seasons’ opening titles, when Paladin crouches and points his gun at the camera, first “RICHARD BOONE”, and then “HAVE GUN – WILL TRAVEL” would appear as before, and Boone would reholster his gun as the words faded out. Due to the networks not always airing episodes in the order they were filmed, the omission of the voice-over dialogue was inconsistent for some of the episodes, as seen in the opening titles. Season 6 did have the most opening titles without the voice-over dialogue, especially as the season progressed, again as seen when the episodes opened.[14]

Τrademark infringement litigation[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, called himself the “Paladin”, handed out hundreds of business cards featuring a chess piece logo along with the phrase “Have gun will travel”, and carried a concealed derringer pistol.[15] 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.[16] In 1977, De Costa was awarded a federal trademark for the Paladin character.[17]

De Costa kept pursuing his legal options, and in 1991—more than 30 years after his first lawsuit was originally filed—a federal jury awarded DeCosta $3.5-million from Viacom International, by then a CBS subsidiary, which has distributed the show’s reruns in defiance of De Costa’s registered trademark, ordering Viacom to pay DeCosta $1-million for his loss and $2.5-million in punitive damages.[18] Rhode Island District Judge Ernest C. Torres blocked the redistribution of the Paladin show by Viacom.[19]

De Costa died on 29 January 1993 at the age of 84, before he could receive the award.[20]

Filming locations[edit]

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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.[21]


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