With shows like Yellowstone, 1883, and That Dirty Black Bag performing well on streaming services. It’s pretty clear that the television Western is still alive and well. Audiences will probably never lose their appetite for gunslingin’, cattle lassoing, and bad guy bustin’.
Westerns are more so novelty these days. Travel back in time to the 1940s to 60s, you will find a chunk of the programming on the airwaves. It dedicates to chronicling the bygone era of the Wild West.
Shows like Wagon Train, Bonanza, Rawhide, and The Virginian were some of the most popular offerings at the time. A whole generation of kids grows up daydreaming about donning boots and spurs. Busting out their Winchester and Colt firearms, and riding around on their trusty steeds.
One such Western from the late 50s and early 60s was Have Gun Will Travel. For its first four seasons, this CBS series rated number three or four in the Nielsen ratings. It was so popular, that it even spawned a successful radio version.
Have Gun Will Travel stars Richard Boone as the hero Paladin. A gentlemen mercenary who prefer to settle matters without violence but seldom ever get the chance. He uses a fake name, and Paladin is a champion, a Civil War veteran, and a West Point grad.
Paladin wasn’t your typical Western hero. He had a permanent residence at the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco. There, he lived the life of a successful businessman and bon viveur. He donned expensive custom suits, drank the finest of wines, and regularly attended the opera.
Paladin was also a master chess player and fencer. He trains in martial arts and in multiple episodes receives instruction from a Kung Fu master in the Bay Area. As a wise man, he is also able to quote philosophy, classic literature, and case law, and is a polyglot.
Paladin handed out business cards featuring the phrase ‘Have Gun Will Travel‘ and an engraving of a white knight chess piece. Whenever he was out working, he would change into a black set of Western-style attire while toting his custom-made .45 Caliber Colt Single Action revolver which he carried in a black leather holster featuring that same chess knight symbol from his card.
Have Gun Will Travel was a fine series, to say the least. It premiered in 1957 and ran until 1963. Since it’s been well over a half-century since wrapping up, many of the actors that appeared in the program have since passed away. Join Facts Verse as we discover how each of the Have Gun Will Travel cast members passed away.
Richard A. Boone was born on the 18th of June, 1917, in Los Angeles. He was the middle child of Kirk E. Boone, a corporate lawyer, and Cecile Boone, a homemaker. Fittingly, Richard was the 4th great-grandson of American Frontiersman Squire Boone, the brother of the legendary Daniel Boone.
After graduating from Hoover High School in Glendale, California, Richard attended Stanford University in Palo Alto. Eventually, however, he dropped out to work as an oil rigger, painter, writer, and bartender.
In 1941, he joined the Navy and served on several ships in the Pacific during the second world war. During his time in the military, he saw combat as an aviation ordnanceman, tail gunner, and aircrewman. By the time he discharges, he earns the rank of petty officer first class.
Boone was introduced to acting while attending the Sand Diego Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad, California. After the war was over, He used the GI Bill to study acting at the prestigious Actors Studio in Manhattan.
He got his start acting professionally on Broadway, appearing in productions like Macbeth, The Front Page, and The Man.
In 1950, Boone made his film debut, appearing in the film Halls of Montezuma. He followed that up with performances in films like Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel, Return of the Texan, and Way of a Gaucho.
In 1953, Boone played Pontius Pilate in the first Cinemascope film, the Robe. The following year, Boone appeared in the film version of Dragnet. From 1954 to 1956, he enjoyed his first significant television role when he played the lead in the NBC medical drama Medic. He would receive an Emmy nod in 1955 for Best Actor Starring in a Regular Series
While starring in Medic, Boone appeared in films such as Ten Wanted Men, Man Without a Star, Robbers Roost, and Star in the Dust. Arguably one of the best roles of his career came in 1957 when he appeared alongside Randolph Scott in The Tall T.
Boone’s next role would prove to be the biggest one of his career. He was transformed into a national star when he was cast to play Paladin on Have Gun Will Travel in 1957. The role had originally been offered to actor Randolph Scott, but he turned it down and handed the script over to Boone, who was making Ten Wanted Men at the time.
For his leading role on the show, Boone received another two Emmy nominations in 1959 and 1960.
After Have Gun Will Travel ended, Boone was given his own anthology TV series called The Richard Boone Show, which ran from 1963 to 1964. He earned his fourth Emmy Nomination. In 1964 and The Ricihard Boone Show was awarded with the4 Golden Globe for Best Show that same year.
He and his family then moved to Hawaii for the next seven years. During this period, he appeared in several more Westerns, including 1964s Rio Conchos, although largely he would his acting career slowed down. In the 70s, he relocated once again to Florida and returned back to television and cinema with a new burst of energy. In 1972, he appeared in Jack Webb’s Hec Ramsey television series. The show lasted for two seasons.
Boone continued to act until the end of the 70s, but he died of throat cancer in 1981.
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Harry Carry Jr.
This American actor, born in 1921, appeared in more than 90 films, including quite a few John Ford Westerns. He also made appearances in a significant number of TV shows. Carey was the son of Harry Carey, an actor best known for his role in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
After serving in the Navy in World War II, Harry returned back to the United States to work with his dad’s old Hollywood buddy, director John Ford, serving in a Naval photographic unit. He worked with Ford to make training films for the Navy and the Office of Strategic Services.
After being discharged, he took a stab, albeit unsuccessfully, at a singing career. After that didn’t go anywhere, he started acting in the John Ford Stock Company with his father. This ultimately led to him having a prolific acting career in films and television.
Some of his biggest credits were in films like Tombstone, Gremlins, and The Exorcist III, On TV, he appeared in shows like Knight Rider, Little House on the Prairie, Hec Ramsey, Gunsmoke, and The Virginian, just to name a few.
Carey Jr appeared in 12 episodes of Have Gun Will Travel in various roles including that of Earl Tibner, Thad Taylor and Ben Murdock.
He died of natural causes at the age of 91 in Santa Barbara, California.
Sadly we know very little about this actor.
We do know taht East was born in 1913. He was best known for his roles in shows like Have Gun Will Travel, The Buccaneer, and The Richard Boone Show. He passed away of natural causes on February 18, 2007, in Woodland Hills, California.
Needham was the highest-paid and most prolific stuntman around back in his day and had the scars to prove it. Throughout his career, he broke 56 bones, punctured a lung, broke his back twice, and had several of his teeth knocked out of his head.
He appeared in over 4500 TV episodes and over 300 feature-length films as a stuntman, stunt coordinator and director. His first big break was working as a stunt double for Richard Boone on Have Gun Will Travel.
As a screenwriter, he helped bring some of the most financially successful action-comedy films to the big screen. He made his directorial debut with 1977s Smokey and the Bandit and followed that up with movies like Hooper and The Cannonball Run.
Needham died of Cancer on October 25, 2013, in LA. He was 82.
Born in 1906, Tong was a Chinese-American actor best known for his role as Hey Boy on Have Gun Will Travel. He also gained widespread recognition for his role as Dr. Li in the film adaptation of Flower Drum Song.
Perhaps due to racial discrimination prevalent in Hollywood at the time, Tong was never given a regular featured credit on Have Gun Will Travel even though he appeared on the series extensively.
Besides the previously mentioned credits, Tong also made appearances in television shows like The Man From UNCLE, The Big Valley, The Time Tunnel, I Spy, and War of Olly Winter.
While the cause of his death isn’t listed anywhere, we do know that he passed away on November 8, 1969, at the age of 62.
Have Gun Will Travel might not seem like a very significant television show by today’s standards, but it was a fan favorite back during it’s initial run and it’s enjoyed a devoted following ever since. Audiences fell in love with Paladin and couldn’t wait to see what kind of adventures he would wind up in each week.
Were you a fan of Have Gun Will Travel? If so, what are some of your favorite characters and episodes from the series? Let us know in the comments.
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