The (Back)Story of The Man in Black

Paladin in SF_1 Paladin in SF2 Paladin on the job 2

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Have Gun – Will Travel tells the story of a “gentleman gunfighter” known only as Paladin, who is excellently portrayed by Richard Boone.  It debuted on CBS television in 1957 and ran for 225 (or 226 depending on your research) episodes. It debuted on radio in 1958 and ran for 106 episodes with John Dehner as Paladin. Therefore, Have Gun -Will Travel has the distinction of being perhaps the only television show to spawn a radio series as opposed to the other way around.

The Story:

It is the mid-1870s and our hero, Paladin, lives at the Carlton Hotel in San Francisco where he has a taste for fine dining and expensive cigars. Educated at West Point and a former Union officer during the Civil War, Paladin is a cultured man.

Paladin might be described as the perfect character. He is handsome, wealthy, smart, educated, speaks multiple languages, is well read and well versed, respected by men and loved by women. He has a strong moral code that guides him through all situations and, oh yes, he kills people for a living. That last part is not quite true. He is quick to remind any potential employer that he is not an assassin. He is a professional gunslinger who attends opera and seeks non violent options to all situations. But when he is forced to violence, he is deadly, accurate and devastating. We should make no mistake about it, people do die when Paladin decides they need killing. That is never sugarcoated in the series and that is what makes this character, and the program, wonderful.

He is, per his theme song, a knight without armor in a savage land.

The Production Staff:

The production staff of this series reads like the “Who’s Who” of Hollywood. Writers included Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek), Bruce Geller (Mission: Impossible & Mannix) and Sam Pechinpah (The Wild Bunch). Directors included Ida Lupino, Sam Pechinpah, Richard Boone and Andrew McLaglen.

And the acting talents reads like a roll-call of the A list of 1960’s television. From Jack Lord (Hawaii Five-O), James Best (Dukes of Hazzard), Charles Bronson, Peter Falk, James Coburn, Suzanne Pleshette, Sidney Pollack  (yes, the director Sidney Pollack), king of the stuntmen in his first role as Richard Boone’s stunt-double, Hal Needham and many, many more; they all gave sterling performances and made this show a joy to watch.

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