The 1950s are often considered to be the Golden Age of classic television. During this decade, the budding medium produced some of the most memorable and groundbreaking dramas and situational comedies in TV history. The decade also gave us some of the most noteworthy stars as well. One of these stars is the man that we’ll be discussing today in this facts-packed video.
Richard Boone was an American actor who was best known for his starring roles in Westerns, including his iconic portrayal of a man called Paladin in CBS’ Have Gun – Will Travel. The series aired both on the radio and on television from 1957 to 1963. Not only did Boone star in the series, but he also directed many of it’s episodes and served as it’s narrator.
Boone’s perspective was always that television and the people that were making a living in the medium, weren’t really living up to it’s full potential. For the six years that he played Paladin, Boone did his best to prove that he was more than capable of providing audiences with a compelling and entertaining narrative. He intended for the series to capture the viewer’s imaginations and sweep them off to a bygone era of the American southwest that has come to take on this almost legendary status. To that aim, he was successful, but he never received the recognition that he believed he deserved.
Throughout his acting career, Boone starred in over 50 films, but by the 1970s he was in the twilight years of his time in the spotlight. Boone eventaully passed away on January 10, 1981, at the age of 63. In the years that proceeded his passing, he lived with strong resentment and deep animosity over how his career played out – especially in it’s latter years.
Join us as we attempt to unravel why Boone felt so cheated and disrespected by the industry that, at one point, paraded him around like their little poster boy. Sure, he was one of the best-known faces in Hollywood for a few years, but after his time playing Paladin ended, he essentially faded into obscurity. Reportedly, Boone also dealt with some very troubling personal issues in this final years that cast a very dark shadow over his once-glowing reputation.
Facts Verse Presents: Why Richard Boone Died with a Strong Hate in His Heart
He Never Thought Hollywood Was On The Artist’s Side
In 1960, Richard Boone told The Hanford Sentinel that, at least in his opinion, “most television” was a waste of time. He went on to say that the people connected with TV realized how bad programming had gotten but didn’t seem to care. Instead, they would just go about making their shows as cynically as possible.
Boone then told the outlet that the producers of his day were turning out programs that were literally making him sick and that every year it seemed as if television was “re-infecting” itself using the same approach to shows while making them worse and worse each season.
Boone wrapped up his scathing critique of the television industry by stating his belief that unless television changed it’s attitude, people were going to walk away from it just as they had with motion pictures in the late 1950s.
Boone’s rather negative sentiments regarding the television industry might come as a shock to some, especially considering how he was such an integral part of a show that was considered to be a success both on a critical and commercial level.
By all accounts, Boone was very proud of what he was able to accomplish with Have Gun – Will Travel. Still, the show seemed to perfectly embodied the driving force behind the actor, whose relentless push for quality – not to mention his frustration over the fact that it was much more difficult to achieve than it should have been – was something that proved be a near-constant motivaton throughout his life.
His Shifting Priorities
Richard Allen Boone was born in Los Angeles, California, on June 18, 1917. Initially, he had aspirations of becoming a painter. In fact, he attended the Los Angeles Art Students League, Standford University, and the Chouinard Art Institute in California with dreams of becoming a world-famous artist. One of the primary reasons why he chose to leavfe Stanford was addressed in a 1951 article that was published in the North Hollywood paper the Valley Times.
Apparently, Boone and some of his frat brothers acquired a very lifelike dummy with the intention of playing a practical joke. After getting a hold of the dummy, they called up a friend in another frat house and asked him to drive over immediately as something important had come up.
They then took the dummy and tucked it away in the shrubs that bordered the street a block away from their house. When they saw what they assumed was their friend’s car approaching, they pushed the dummy into the street.
To their surprise, the driver of the car that, mind you was the same make and model of their friend’s, actually belonged to Mrs. Herbert Hoover. When her car careened into the dummy, she lept out of the vehicle in a panic, terrified thinking that she had just killed an innocent pedestrian. In the commotion, Mrs. Hoover slipped and sprained her ankle.
The University conducted an investigation and decided that the jokesters were “wasting their flair for showmanship as Stanford students”.
After essentially getting ousted from Stanford, Boone moved into an artist’s colony, but things changed abruptly when the US entered World War II. From there, Boone joined the Navy and spent the following four years serving as a gunner in the South Pacific.
Since military life wasn’t conducive for his painting, Boone instead took to writing. Throughout his time serving his country, he wrote a series of short stories imitating those of Dos Passos and Hemingway, although he quickly realized that his dialogue wasn’t all that great. So after the war ended, he joined the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, taking full advantage of the GI Bill, with the hopes of seeing how professional actors handled dialogue. After discovering that he actually had some natural talent for acting, however, he shifted gears once again and decided to pursue acting full-time.
While learning the ropes at the Neighborhood Playhouse, Boone studied under Martha Graham and Sanford Meisner. Later on in the 70s, Boone would return to the Playhouse to serve as a director and teacher.
In 1948, Boone made his Broadway debut in Medea, working alongside John Gielgud and Judith Anderson. The production ran for 214 performances, and the following year he appeared in Macbeth.
In 1950, Boone made his film debut as a Marine Officer in Halls of Montezuma. He went on to appear in several other 20th Century Fox military films such as Call Me Mister, The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommell, Return of the Texan, and Way of Gaucho – all of which saw releases between 1951 and 1952.
For the next several years, Boone would be cast in a variety of different roles, including that of Pontius Pilate in 1953s The Robe and Krofta in Ella Kazan’s Man on A Tightrope.
While filming Halls of Montezuma, Boone befriended Jack Webb, who subsequently cast him in the film version of Dragnet. Webb was very impressed with Boone’s delivery in his film, so he ended up casting him in the lead role in his 1954 medical drama Medic. For that role, Boone received a nomination for Best Actor Starring in a Regular Series at the 1955 Emmy awards. The series ran for a total of two seasons, and during that time, Boone continued to appear in films such as 1957s The Tall T.
In 1957, Boone was given what would prove to be the most significant role of his career when he was offered the lead part of Paladin in Have Gun – Will Travel. The series ran from 1957 to 1963, and during that time, Boone received two more Emmy nods.
Throughout the show’s run, Boone continued to act in other films and television shows, including The United States Steel Hour and Playhouse 90.
After Have Gun – Will Travel ended, Boone was given his own anthology series fittingly titled The Richard Boone Show. While the series only aired from 1963 to 1964, he received his fourth Emmy nomination for it in ’64.
After that series wrapped, Boone and his family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii. He did occasionally return to Hollywood to appear in movies such as 1965s The War Lord and 1967s Hombre, but he never quite achieved the same level of success as he had found with Have Gun – Will Travel.
Boone continued to act until the late-70s appearing in films like 1971s Big Jake and 1972s Goodnight, My Love – that latter of which was a TV film.
Boone’s final appearance was in 1979s The Bushido Blade.
Two years later, in 1981, he died at his home in St. Augustine, Florida, due to complications from throat cancer.
His Final Years Were Consumed With Resentment
When The Richard Boone Show premiered to shockingly low ratings, Richard Boone was deeply disappointed. In fact, he felt almost betrayed by NBC when they decided to pull the plug on the program.
The network reportedly didn’t even have the courage or common courtesy to tell him that his show was canceled in person. Instead, Boone learned of the cancellation only by reading the news in the Hollywood trade papers.
After discovering that his series had been given the ax, Boone told reporters that the network had done so in the most “chicken, gutless way possible”.
Although he kept his acting career alive for the next decade or so, he never really recovered both professionally or emotionally, and even years later he was still telling reporters how angry he was with NBC’s actions.
Apparently, Boone was so upset that his decision to move away from Hollywood was directly tied to his feelings on this matter. Those close to him recall that he remained heartbroken and resentful right up until the end.
To cope with his feelings of bitter animosity – as well as deal with his old battle scars from the war – Boone took to heavy drinking in his later years. Not only that, but he also frequently cheated on his wife, Claire McAloon.
Claire, no doubt was hurt by his escapades, but she realized that a man in his position was frequently presented with temptations. As such, she remained faithfully by his side until his death.
While it’s always heartbreaking when a star passes away, it’s especially troubling to know that Boone took so much anger and hate for the industry that he dedicated his life to for so many years to the grave.
Do you think that NBC gave Richard Boone a raw deal by canceling his anthology series, The Richard Boone Show, or do you think they had every right to pull the plug on an underperforming show? Let us know in the comments, and as always, thanks for watching!