Created by Herb Meadow and Sam Rolfe, Have Gun, Will Travel was first aired on CBS-TV September 14, 1957 and starred Richard Boone as Paladin, a cultured, educated, and sophisticated man with an eye for the ladies, a taste for gourmet food, wine, and cigars, and enough skill, nerve, and well-oiled artillery to make him a top-notch gunfighter. Headquartered at the fashionable Carlton Hotel in San Francisco, Paladin had earlier attended West Point and was also a former Army officer, but now chose to finance his luxurious lifestyle by being a combination go-between, negotiator, and hired gun - a white knight, as it were - for those who needed such assistance. Unlike the more scruffy gunsels of the wild west, Paladin relied on his brains as much as his nerve -- and made his reputation by use of a distinctive business card that featured the symbol of a white chess knight and read, simply, "Have Gun, Will Travel. Wire Paladin, San Francisco." When one hired Paladin to do a job, he did it...for a sizeable fee, of course. Questions of morality did come into play - Paladin was, after all, intending to be more of a protector of the helpless than a murdering hit man - so, throughout the series, most who eventually came to face to face with the barrel of his custom-made six shooter had already done quite a lot to deserve their fate. (He also had the good sense to conceal a derringer under his belt, as well as a few expensive cigars in his boot. Classy guy.)
On radio, Paladin was played by John Dehner, a talented character actor who had made his name in featured roles on similar radio series such asGunsmoke and Frontier Gentleman. (Dehner, whose portrayal of Paladin was a bit more arch, suave, and sleek than his TV counterpart, had in fact earlier turned down the leading role of Sheriff Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke for fear of being typecast in western roles.) Dehner was understandably concerned about becoming nothing more than a pale copy of Richard Boone, and so insisted on making the role uniquely his own; radio historian John Dunning describes Dehner's portrayal as "a streamlined version, perhaps slighter of build...but just as deadly." The same smooth and slightly menacing voice that had made him such an effective villain on such series as Escape and The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, made him an equally effective Paladin -- someone you might enjoy an intellectual discussion with over a glass of decent sherry, but also someone you wouldn't want to disagree with too aggressively for too long.
There were, of course, many similarities between the TV and radio series, particularly since many (though not all) of the radio scripts were based on earlier television episodes. Both programs used the same musical themes and bridges and relied much more upon dialogue and atmosphere than rip-roaring action to attract audiences. (Paladin, who was well versed in the classics, was frequently given to quoting Shakespeare and recalling obscure bits of history when considering the best way to deal with his various assignments.) On radio, Have Gun, Will Travel also benefited from the presence of Gunsmoke and Fort Laramie producer/director Norman Macdonnell as well as writers Marian Clark and Les Crutchfield, sound effects men Tom Hanley and Ray Kemper, and a host of talented performers such as Sam Edwards, Jack Moyles, Larry Dobkin, and Harry Bartell. The stories were rich with detail, realistic, and typical of the more adult types of western that had evolved in the 1950s; less shoot 'em up, more introspection.
Have Gun, Will Travel was one of the last continuing radio dramas to leave the airwaves, ending a two-year CBS run on November 27, 1960. (The TV series lasted a bit longer - six years in total - and closed up shop on September 21, 1963.) While it lasted, however, Have Gun, Will Travel demonstrated that, even with television capturing the largest audiences and the most advertising dollars, radio could still effectively hold its own when given the opportunity to present quality programming. Heard today, even those who have never experienced quality radio drama firsthand can enjoy the programs simply as effective and engrossing pieces of well-produced audio entertainment.
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A gambling club was the next target of the strange band. Police had arrived at the club as the crooks were escaping with a large amount of cash. Again, the perpetrators escaped by some strange unknown method. And on the green felt of the central card table in the club was a huge dab of dulled crimson. The Red Blot had struck again.Then there was the theft of a painting valued at many thousands. Left behind, a large red blot. Once again the criminals departed with impunity, disappearing before the police could gather them up. And most recently, a big-time fight promoter was strangled in his apartment. His bankroll of a hundred thousand dollars was stolen; on his white starched shirt front was the familiar dread sign of spattered crimson.
The police were baffled. They had not gathered a single clue. As we view The Shadow in his sanctum, he begins piecing together what few meager clues his agents have accumulated. The report sheets and clippings seem to point The Shadow in the right direction: old Timothy Baruch's pawnshop.Timothy Baruch is one of the oddest characters on the East Side. He's been a pawnbroker for years and rumor has it that his safe contains jewels and other wealth of great enough value to tempt the Red Blot. The Shadow decides a visit to the pawnshop is in order. Word from the underworld, via his secret agents, is that the pawnshop will be struck at 11 PM. The Shadow decides to show up early.
With plenty of time to spare, The Shadow appears at Baruch's pawnshop and ...
I really have enjoyed the shows I have ordered from Radio Archives this year. The sound quality of Box Thirteen, The Third Man, Dr. Jekyll, Cinnamon Bear, etc., is fantastic for shows that far into the past. Keep up the good work!
Ernst H. Spellmeyer writes:
Volumes #1 and #2 of Fort Laramie, and the two samples: Mr. President and Boston Blackie arrived this afternoon. The sound and quality are great! They rank right up there with Have Gun, Will Travel and Luke Slaughter of Tombstone.