TV had never seen a western hero quite like Richard Boone's Paladin before Have Gun - Will Travel
moseyed onto screens in 1957. Paladin -- no other name is ever given -- is a rather dandyish fellow who quotes Virgil and avidly attends Shakespeare productions as well as the opera. Living in a suite at the plush Hotel Carlton in San Francisco, he enjoys good food, fine wine, expensive cigars and the company of beautiful women.
To pay for all this high living, West Point grad and Civil War vet Paladin (the word, incidentally, is defined as "A paragon of chivalry; a heroic champion; a strong supporter or defender of a cause") hires himself out as a gunfighter to whoever will pay his $1000 fee. Image: http://i.imgur.com/BMkkWC9.jpg width=450 Image: http://i.imgur.com/YVyVVr8.png width=450
But Paladin, as his name suggests, is a man of old-fashioned honor who lives by his own code. He may even change sides if he feels his opponent's cause is just.
Sounds a bit like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, doesn't he? Have Gun Will Travel
was actually conceived as a modern-day private eye series set in contemporary New York. But P.I.s were out of fashion and cowboys were at the height of their popularity, so the writers re-imagined the concept for the old west. And in the process made a TV star out of craggy-faced Richard Boone, as well as creating a new and iconic archetype for the genre.
The cultured yet deadly, empathizing yet stubbornly independent Paladin is a fascinating character, and the show's scripts are often of an extremely high quality; among the show's writers were Frank Pierson (Cool Hand Luke
; Oscar winner for Dog Day Afternoon
), Frank Gilroy (Pulitzer Prize winner for The Subject Was Roses
), and Sam Peckinpah (who should need no introduction for western fans). Have Gun Will Travel - "Squatter's Rights"
While Paladin protects widows, orphans, damsels in distress, etc... like any conventional horse opera hero, his unique character often gives the show a moral complexity seldom seen in westerns. This episode, for example, starts off like a standard evil-rancher-versus-loveable-homesteaders story, but Paladin's attitudes and actions may surprise you.