Saturday, July 05, 2008

Have Gun Will Travel

...reads the card of a man"

This was one of my favorite TV shows. It was in an era when the most popular television series were Westerns. The Lone Ranger, Wild Bill Hickock, Rin Tin Tin, Maverick, Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, Wanted Dead or Alive, The Rifleman, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson.
I could go on an on.

Have Gun Will Travel stands out from the rest for several reasons. Each show was a morality play. It was probably one of the few shows to be on television before becoming a radio series. The main character is never identified by his real name. He is called Paladin.

Paladin is a name derived from ancient Roman times and was a high level government official or one belonging to Palatin Hill, the home of the emperor. It later was used to identify the 12 retainers or knights of King Charlmagne that protected him and did good works. It is from the latter definition that the character is named.

Oddly enough he is named in the first episode. To pay off a gambling debt, he is forced to hunt down and kill a mysterious gunman named Smoke. As Smoke lay dying of a bullet wound, he reveals that he was not a criminal gunfighter, but a protector of the helpless and disinfranchised. He calls his killer a "noble Paladin". Not only did the name stick, but Paladin adopted the all-black clothing that Smoke wore and became the avenging angel of those in need.

Paladin lived in The Carlton Hotel in San Francisco and lead the life of a dandy as he enjoyed the finer things in life. According to his history, he was a West Point graduate and an officer in the Union Army. He spoke many different languages and was well read in the classics. He was also a world traveler and had a passion for the law. He only killed when necessary. Frequently he would quip lines from classical works. You could also tell he was a military historian as he would strategize out his plan to overtake his opponent. When he was in his gunfigher persona he dressed in a black hat, black shirt, black jeans and black boots. His gunbelt and holster were black. He wore a black mustache.

At the Carlton Hotel, Paladin has a Chinese servant named Hey Boy that sets up his appointments, greets any guests, takes messages and does everything else required of a gentleman of leisure. Paladin charges a steep fee for his services. $1,000 plus expenses.

Paladin carried a Colt 45 caliber handgun in a fancy black holster with the knight head chess piece engraved in silver. The handgrips of the Colt were made of ivory. In his belt was a 2 shot derringer that he often had to use. On his saddle was a Winchester 1892 rifle with the logo engraved in the rifle's buttstock. Inside his gunbelt was a hidden Lady Derringer that he frequently had to use.

As impressive as his arsonal was his business card. A picture of it closed the show as Johnny Western (that's the singer's name) sings:">

"Have Gun Will Travel reads the card of a man.
A knight without armor in a savage land.
His fast gun for hire heeds the calling wind.
A soldier of fortune is the man called Paladin.

Paladin, Paladin Where do you roam?
Paladin, Paladin, Far, far from home.

He travels on to wherever he must
A chess knight of silver is his badge of trust.

There are campfire legends that the trailmen spin.
Of the man with the gun Of the man called Paladin.

Paladin Paladin Where do you roam?
Paladin Paladin Far, far from home
Far from home. Far from home."

The show lasted for five seasons and the main character was played by Richard Boone.

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