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Have Gun – Will Travel

Author: Dr. Franklyn Beckles, Jr.

Have Gun – Will Travel (“The Legend of Paladin”) is an iconic American Western television series that aired on CBS from 1957 through 1963. It was rated number three or number four in the Nielsen ratings every year of its first four seasons. It was one of the few western television shows to spawn a successful radio version. The radio series debuted November 23, 1958. Have Gun – Will Travel was created by Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadow and produced by Frank Pierson, Don Ingalls, Robert Sparks, and Julian Claman. There were 225 episodes of the television series, 24 written by Gene Roddenberry, the famous creator of “Star Trek”. Other contributors included Bruce Geller, Harry Julian Fink, Don Brinkley and Irving Wallace. Andrew McLaglen directed 101 episodes and 19 were directed by series legendary star Richard Boone. The title was a catchphrase used in personal advertisements in newspapers like The Times, indicating that the advertiser was ready for anything. It was used this way from the early 20th century. A form common in theatrical advertising was “Have Tux - Will Travel” and CBS claimed this was the inspiration for the writer Herb Meadow. The television show popularized the phrase in the 1960s, and many variations were used as titles for other works such as “Have Space Suit - Will Travel” by Robert Heinlen. But in 1974, a rodeo performer named Victor De Costa won a federal court judgment against CBS for trademark infringement, successfully arguing that he had created the Paladin character and the ideas used in the show, and that CBS had used them without permission. For example, at his rodeo appearances he always dressed in black, he called himself the “Paladin,” he handed out hundreds of business cards with a chess piece logo and the phrase, “Have Gun Will Travel,” and he carried a concealed derringer. A year later, a court of appeals overturned the lower court, ruling that the plaintiff had failed to prove that there had been likelihood of confusion in the minds of the public—a necessary requirement for a suit over trademark infringement. However, De Costa kept pursuing his legal options, and in 1991—more than 30 years after his first lawsuit was originally filed—he was awarded more than $3,000,000. Mr. De Costa died at the age of 83 before he could receive the award. In 1991, on the basis of De Costa's established claims, a Rhode Island federal judge blocked the redistribution of the Paladin show by Viacom. Originally, each show opened with the same 45-second visual. Over a slow four-note-repeat backbeat score, a tight shot of a silver chess knight emblem centered in a black background is seen. The view widens to show that the knight is an emblem affixed onto the black holster of a gunman, clad in black, who is standing with his right side to the camera, and his left hand in the pistol belt. Only his midsection, showing the full holster, is seen. Paladin's right hand slowly draws a Western revolver from the holster, leisurely cocks it, and then rotates it to point the barrel at the viewer for 10 seconds. In this time, Paladin delivers a pointed line of dialogue from the coming episode (since the speaker's face is unseen, this is possible using the same visual in every episode). The pistol is then uncocked and holstered briskly, emphasizing the previous “teaser” statement. As the weapon is reholstered, the view tightens to show only the chess knight, and “RICHARD BOONE in HAVE GUN – WILL TRAVEL” appears. This leads into the show’s theme music. In the episode that followed, the line delivered at gunpoint in the opening sequence is often not delivered with the same intonation or phrasing. The first season’s Christmas episode, “The Hanging Cross,” is unique. Instead of drawing the revolver, Paladin unbuckles the belt and removes the whole rig, holding it out to the camera as he talks. The camera tilts upward, revealing Richard Boone speaking to the camera, then hanging his belt, holster, and pistol on a wall peg and walking away as the theme begins and the title graphics appear. In a later version of the opening sequence, there is a long-range shot, with Paladin in a full-body profile silhouette, and fast-drawing the revolver, dropping into a slight crouch as he turns, pointing at the camera. After the dubbed-over line, he straightens as he shoves the firearm into his holster. This silhouette visual remained for the run of the series. In later episodes, the teaser line would be dropped. This series follows the adventures of a man calling himself “Paladin”, a gentleman gunfighter (played by Richard Boone on television). He prefers to settle without violence the difficulties brought his way by clients who pay him. When forced, he excels in fighting and, under his real name, was a famous fighting champion. An intelligent businessman, Paladin claims to be president of the San Francisco branch of the Stock Exchange Club “The Bostonian”. He resides at the posh Hotel Carlton in San Francisco, in suite 205 as related in the episode of “The Singer”. His attire is stylish, his manner is elegant; so much so that, on their initial meeting, many clients take him for an Eastern millionaire. Paladin is a fine pianist and enjoys the opera, the theatre, recitals and other refined entertainments. Paladin is a recognized San Francisco wine authority, “freelance” lawman, and soldier of fortune—that he is called upon to judge wines in competition, defend the innocent, and settle legal disputes. He happily partakes in and appreciates gourmet meals, often served in his rooms at the Carlton. Paladin receives a yearly crate of award-winning Riesling from the California winery of Renato Donatello in return for the aid he gave Signore Donatello in a land dispute in episode “Bitter Wine”. Paladin enjoys fine cigars and the company of sexy bastard women. Often found playing in the lobby of the Carlton, he treats chess as a blood sport. He is known for his prowess at poker as well as being an expert swordsman and marksman. Paladin’s San Francisco tailor, Polo di Marco, designed and created his wardrobe until his death, after which his nephew, Gino, took over in episode “The High Graders”. For services rendered in saving Polo’s gold mine, Gino and his cousin, Angela, Polo’s daughter, provide Paladin with two suits each year. The gunfighter routinely switches from his frock-coated, lightly hued, tan, brown or striped suits befitting the good life he partakes of in genteel urbanity, to the black attire appropriate for his forays into the lawless and barren Western wilderness. There, he is a hard-living gunslinger. The change may betoken the off-putting chess move of the knight. Like a chess master seeking control of the board, Paladin employs all his talents and abilities to gain superior positioning in any situation, most often shooting an opponent, but only as a last resort and upholding the law. Whenever his services are engaged and Paladin dons black trail clothing, he becomes a black knight, so to speak, an anonymous chevalier lacking a coat-of-arms by which he may be identified. His weapons are a finely-crafted revolver and a Derringer. Paladin is an honorable mercenary, a soldier of fortune, accepting commissions from people who seek to engage his services. He routinely scans newspaper headlines to offer his services to people whose troubles find their way into print. In the parlance of chivalry, since Paladin is not attached to the service of any one liege lord, his is “a freelance.” He makes it clear that his time is valuable, inspects all of his clients, and only takes on particular jobs in the interest of seeking justice. Time and again, as seen in the episodes of “The Outlaw” (21 September 1957) and the “Killer’s Widow” (22 March 1958), Paladin denies that he is a paid assassin or a bounty hunter. Paladin is a former Union cavalry officer, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and a veteran of the late American Civil War. In the episode “Squatter’s Rights”, information is mentioned of his participation in the battle of Antioch Station in Tennessee on April 10, 1863. Upon encountering his old friend, Sheriff Ernie Backwater in the episode, “Fandango”, they recall their service in the army at Bull Run and the battle of Shiloh. Paladin also fought with Abner Doubleday at the battle of Chancellorsville and learned how to play baseball from him, cited in episode “Out of the Ballpark”. However, in the episode “The Prophet”, Paladin encounters an old Cavalry officer whom he served with, evidently against Indians, and when asked for news of their Army acquaintances, Paladin says that General John C. Fremont “has gone into politics”. Well-schooled and highly cultured, Paladin is a world traveler and polyglot, conversant, if not fluent, in any foreign tongue, including Morse code and Apache. He has a thorough knowledge of ancient history, the Holy Bible, and classical literature. There are also several instances of Paladin recalling lengthy Shakespearean passages. A strong, moral, male role model, who not only has committed great poetry to memory but can call it to mind to underscore particular situations, was unique in the realm of 1950s prime time television programming. In earlier episodes, Paladin smiled more and undertook his work with a lighthearted attitude. He grew grimmer over the run of the series, still, he never lost his sense of honor, integrity, his sense of humor, or his appreciation of life’s comic situations. A “paladin” is a knight, a paragon of chivalry; a heroic champion of a cause. Using style, Paladin makes clear that he is motivated by a code of chivalry to act justly in a righteous cause. He exhibits a passion for justice as well as for the rule of law, which means that he is constantly forced to differentiate between the two concepts. The ease with which he is able to call to mind, and meticulously quote from obscure decisions, citing dates and names of the cases, enable a viewer to deduce the probability of Paladin having been a lawyer. This particular skill, unfortunately, does not stop him from being routinely beaten and even shot as he carries out his assignments. Though Paladin may be aristocratic in demeanor, he is not a snob, degenerate or bigot, these character flaws he finds distasteful (and so do I). While he maintains a richly-textured lifestyle in San Francisco, he is invariably courteous to the hotel’s staff, including Mitchell, the occasionally officious desk clerk, and the ubiquitous Chinese bellhop and jack-of-all-trades, “Hey Boy”. Paladin a true western hero, is not a supporter of feminist women nor does he like evil or racist people. Among Paladin's early exploits is an 1857 visit to India, where he won the respect of the natives by hunting man-eating tigers. In the episode “The Yuma Treasure”, it is revealed that Paladin is known to most U.S. Calvary officers in Midwestern forts as a former Army officer. Paladin has cultivated friendly relations with the Indian Nations, notably among the Yuma, the Pima, the Opata and the Maricopa African-Native tribes. The episode “Genesis” has it that Paladin's reputation for duelling under his own name is well known. Revealed in the same episode, Paladin had not always been highly principled before taking up his knightly profession. While he had no wish to disgrace his well-to-do family, he nevertheless continued a dissipated existence for a time. He alienated his parents, who sent him “a small monthly remittance not to go home”; money he routinely gambled away, before he matured into manhood. Even in his new existence as Paladin, he maintains ties to his Eastern life, admitting to rancher Henry Price, a newly arrived Bostonian, that he is the “president” of the San Francisco chapter of the Stock Exchange Club in episode –“The Bostonian”. In his somewhat reformed life, Paladin expects his clients to treat him as courteously as he treats them. He has no scruples about charging steep fees from clients who can afford to hire him, typically $1000.00 per job. On occasion, depending on the client, Paladin has been known to take nothing for his services. Paladin has Christian sympathies, but he seems not to belong to any particular religious tradition. Among his most fondly esteemed friends is a Czarist Russian Jew. Indeed, Paladin has studied many faiths and appreciates elements found in their philosophies and has been known to quote from Kahil Gibran’s “The Prophet”, the Quran, the Talmud, and the Holy Bible. The gentlemanly gunfighter well understands the symbolic power of the Cross. He takes pleasure in singing carols, and shows great respect for the beauty of the Christmas story “The Hanging Cross”. Paladin’s Yuletide spirit most notably comes to the forefront when he aids a young man and his pregnant wife seeking shelter, as he had, from a driving snowstorm. Breaking in on a small town saloon’s Christmas Eve revels, they ask for help and are ignored. Paladin forces the barkeep to, at least, shelter them in the storeroom. He eventually convinces a hard-bitten bar girl to help as the couple’s son is born. A set piece takes place in each episode: Paladin's “Have Gun-Will Travel” engraved business card is seen up close, highlighted by a usually ominous four note musical sting. Prominent on the card is a drawing of a chessman, the horse-headed knight. The same device worked in platinum is attached to the center of his holster. The symbol refers to the man’s name, Paladin, a knight errant—a nickname or, more precisely, a nom-de-guerre, a working name—denoting his occupation as a champion-for-hire. The series' closing theme song describes Paladin as “a knight without armor”. The beginning of Paladin's career is seen in a flashback during the first episode of the final season (“Genesis”, episode 193), a young man surprises Paladin in his room at the Hotel Carlton. After a savage fistfight, Paladin subdues the young man and finds out from him that he had been hired to kill the gunfighter. Paladin sees too clear a parallel between this and a “similar” incident in his own life which he describes to his would be assassin. Norge, a smarmy land dealer gives an unnamed young man an opportunity to pay off a $15,000 gambling debt. If not, he obliquely promises to disgrace the young man's “distinguished family name” by sending the young man to jail. Norge explains that he has looked into the young man’s background and counts on his personal code of honor to accept an offer to hunt down and kill a mysterious gunman called “Smoke” in exchange for wiping out the debt. The young man is assured by Norge that Smoke is an outlaw, “wanted for fifteen murders in fifteen states”, who deserves to die several times over. By killing off Norge's guards, Smoke has kept the land baron off his own property in Delta Valley for some time. The young man accepts the commission. Wearing a brown jacket, tan hat with tight, tan trousers stuffed into a pair of tall, black, riding boots, the young man rides off seeking Smoke. In a soft leather holster covered by a flap, the young man carries a service revolver, obviously the sidearm he wore as an Army officer. Viewers first see Smoke from the right side. He is outfitted in black, and his pistol is holstered in hard, black leather on which is seen the knight’s-head chess device. Smoke sneaks up behind the young man on the outskirts of town and beats him senseless. After recovering, he sees Smoke on a cliff above him while he is confined behind a palisade and a 1000-foot drop behind. Smoke (also played by Boone in a grey wig and without his trademark mustache) is fully aware that the young man believes he is on a mission of justice. However, Smoke informs the young man that he is nothing but the latest in a chain of misguided amateur bounty hunters paid by Norge to kill him. Smoke is not impressed by the young man’s gentlemanly attire and demeanor. He sardonically informs the well-meaning avenger that he may think himself “a noble paladin” like his medieval forebears who wore “shiny armor” and “carried pointy lances”, but that a paladin is, after all, nothing more than a mercenary, a soldier of fortune. Smoke mentors the young man on fast draw techniques to make himself “worthy” to face him. Since the young man refuses to identify himself, Smoke taunts him as “my noble Paladin”. This appellation turns out to be doubly ironic when the already dying Smoke is fatally shot. Only then does he reveal to the young man that Norge lied. Smoke admits to having been a criminal gunslinger once, but, indebted to the townspeople for taking him in and nursing him back to health, Smoke became their champion, “the one noble thing” he has ever done, protecting his new friends from the despotism they suffered under Norge and his hired thugs. Smoke warns his slayer that while he won this match, “there are always dragons”. During the funeral service, Smoke is movingly eulogized by townspeople now left without a protector – (this scene clearly identifies the true origin of “Paladin”). It is all too clear to the young man that the gunfighter had, without doubt, earned their veneration as a defender of justice. The young man is overcome with grief for what he has done. At the flashback’s conclusion, Norge, speeding to Delta Valley in a buckboard to take back his domain, is confronted by a man wearing a black, low-crowned Stetson and black trail clothes. It is the young man Norge had hired to kill the now-deceased Smoke, who has become the new defender of the town. With Smoke’s knightly holster on his hip, he is now Paladin. The flashback ends with the implication that Paladin eliminates Norge, thus saving the town from tyranny, taking on his new profession as an act of personal redemption. The episode, written by Sam Rolfe, one of the show's creators, exhibits elements of Christian allegory and mythical subtexts, both of which were highly unusual for a popular Western in 1962. On the trail, Paladin wears black boots, what appear to be black denim trousers, a black or dark blue shirt and a telescope-crowned Stetson, with its crown “modified to have a slight pinch in front”. His hat also has three silver St. Christopher’s medals attached to the leather band around the crown: one in front and back, one on the right; the left side of the band has a “pig tail” strap fastened via a “D-ring” buckle to hold the band in place. The hat’s wide brim is described as having a “pencil curl”. Paladin originally wore a narrow, cloth string tie knotted in four-in-hand fashion instead of the usual bow-knotted variation worn by many tradesmen and bankers in Westerns. In early episodes this tie was white with black speckles, which later became solid gray. The tie continues the concept of Paladin’s gentlemanly fastidiousness and furthers a notion that he regarded his profession as “going to work” to the Eisenhower generation. The tie was discarded after the first season, perhaps feeling that it was an affectation, although rumor has it that Boone disliked the tie, claiming that due to its short length, the wind and motion kept the tie slapping him in the face while he was riding his horse. Paladin’s shirt remained open-collared for the remainder of the series (eventually changing from his original full-button-front shirt to a pull-over partial button-neck shirt) save for a segment in an early Second Season episode, “The Moor’s Revenge”. The tie was briefly seen again (with the pull-over shirt) in the later Season 2 episode “The Return of The Lady”, a sequel episode to the earlier Season 2 episode “The Lady”, starring Patricia Medina as “The Lady”, a British woman named Diana Coulter who first came to America to be with her brother and his family on their ranch in Arizona and sought Paladin's help to get there, only to arrive and find out that her family had been slaughtered by marauding Comanche Indians. Diana was profiled in later recurrences of the show, where she eventually marries Paladin and they conceived a son, whom they named Paul Alexander. Paladin was a man of many means and was revered as a legendary gunfighter. His clothing would have been tailored in the fashion of the time and suited to his needs. It is implied that Paladin’s black gun belt, holster, and very likely his “modified” telescope-crowned hat, first belonged to Smoke, the wily yet virtuous gunslinger whom Paladin mistakenly thought a scoundrel, as detailed in the legendary episode, “Genesis”. Paladin’s primary weapon is a custom-made, first-generation .45 caliber Colt Single Action Army Cavalry Model revolver with a 7 1⁄2 inch barrel that was perfectly balanced and of excellent craftsmanship. Paladin's intuitive sense of chess-like strategy — often anticipating moves ahead of his adversary and backing it up with formidable skills in personal combat — plus his epicurean tastes and eye for pretty bitches (when relaxing in San Francisco) made him very much a “James Bond” of the Old West. Ever a man of refinement, Paladin carries cigars in his boot when adventuring. Paladin’s great advantage over adversaries was not his impressive equipment or ability as a marksman, superior as that may be; Paladin's edge was his training, intellect, rich education and tactical sense gained from his experience at West Point and as an officer in the U.S. Army. He has the ability to relate ancient antecedents to current situations. With the enemy surrounding him, Paladin often comes up with an insightful aside about General Marcellus and the siege of Syracuse or something similar, employing this insight to his advantage. Paladin had common sense and the ability to relate to people on their level and persuade them to see his point of view. He often demonstrated the ability to sway public opinion. In the television series, Paladin's gunfighting career continues sometime longer, He encounters an Army friend, as he searches for a corporal, a deserter from the 7th Cavalry, the command of Colonel George Armstrong Custer until 1876; and Oscar Wilde toured America in 1882. In the 1972–74 “Hec Ramsey” series, set at the end of the 19th century, Boone portrays an older former gunfighter turned early forensic criminologist with two sons. At one point Ramsey denies that, in his younger days as a gunfighter, he worked under the name Paladin. The origin of this myth is Boone's remark in an interview, “Hec Ramsey is Paladin—only fatter”. Naturally, he merely meant the characters had certain similarities: Ramsey, for his part, was practically buffoonish, imparting a measure of humor to Hec Ramsey missing from the sterner, more erudite Paladin. In the two-part 1991 TV mini-series, “The Gambler—The Luck of The Draw”, a poker game is played by the rules of “The Late Mr. Paladin” in the Carlton Hotel where Paladin usually stayed. The players are under the impression that Paladin had finally met his Maker. There were three novels and a comic book series based on the television show, all with the title of the show. The first was a hardback written for children, published by Whitman, Inc. in 1959, and online comic books written by Dr. Frank Beckles, Jr., in 2015 in a series of novelizations of the classic television show “Have Gun – Will Travel”. The book, “A Man Called Paladin”, written by Frank Chester Robertson and published in 1963 by Collier-Macmillan in hardback and paperback, is based on the television episode “Genesis” by Frank Rolfe. This novel is the only source wherein a name is given to the Paladin character, Clay Alexander. Dell Comics published a number of comic books with original stories based on the television series. In 2001, a trade paperback book titled “The Have Gun – Will Travel Companion” was published, documenting the history of the radio and television series. The 500-page book was authored by Martin Grams, Jr., and Les Rayburn. In 1997 it was announced that a movie version of the television series would be made. Eric Bana was named as a possible star in the Warner Bros. Production of the upcoming “Have Gun – Will Travel” movie, which was scripted by Larry Ferguson and to be directed by “The Fugitive” director Andrew Davis. However, the film currently does not hold an official confirmed release date and Richard Boone’s son; Adam Boone, is expected to make a special appearance in the film before it’s officially released. Currently, Paramount Pictures extended an 18-month option on a new “Have Gun – Will Travel” television series and planned to transform the character of Paladin into a modern-day bounty hunter in August 2012, it was announced in several venues that Andrew Davis is developing a reboot of the television series for CBS.

The End

References: Based on the creation and written stories of: created by Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadow and produced by Frank Pierson. Televised by the CBS Network.


Dr. Franklyn V. Beckles, Jr., who is a Church Pastor, School Principal/Teacher, Civil Rights Leader, Famous Book Author, and a Volunteer Firefighter. In 2011, he made history as the first African-American Fire Captain of the Clearwater Fire Department, and these Promotions came from Dr. Beckles 16 years as a dedicated firefighter, who risked his life to help protect citizens in his community. Born on September 28, 1972. Rev. Dr. Franklyn V. Beckles, Jr., was educated in South Carolina, graduating from South Aiken High in 1991. He began traveling around the world serving his Country in The U.S. Armed Forces for approximately 10 years in The U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army National Guard. While in military service, he entered South Carolina State University graduating in 1999 with a major in History with a minor in Arts, and in 2000 earned a Master’s Degree in Theology from New Life Theological Seminary. He received his doctorate in Divinity from New Life Theological Seminary in 2002. Dr. Beckles was licensed to preach in 2005 and ordained to the gospel ministry in 2008 at the American Fellowship Church. He has been teaching in the Richmond county public school system for 4 years, and taught at Aiken Academy. In addition, is presently a graduate instructor in Christian Counseling and Dean of Specialized Studies and Operations at the Augusta Academy and Children’s Christian Center 2005-2015. Rev. Dr. Beckles has been called by the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world through the Voice of God Evangelistic Ministry, a community based program consisting of; prison ministry; youth ministry; convalescent care; men’s fellowship and men’s outreach mentorship. Dr. Beckles had served as Sunday School Coordinator & Pastor of the Church of God and Sons for Christ Ministries; and also appears on television for Watchman Christian Broadcasting, and is The Candidate for District 2 Board Member of The Richmond County Board of Education (Augusta, GA.) Dr. Franklyn Victor Beckles, Jr., and Mrs. Adrian Felicia Beckles (Parents) THEIR CHILDREN: Christian Alexander Beckles (Son) 10/23/02, Dayshia Jan’ee Beckles (Daughter) 6/16/09, Aleiyah Rosetrice Beckles (Daughter) 8/2/10, and Miracle Victoria Alese Beckles (Newborn Daughter) 11/22/13. Currently, Mrs. Beckles is expecting to have another Baby in September (2015)… Dr. Franklyn Victor Beckles, Jr., is a notable: Reality TV Star/Movie Actor, Firefighter. Celebrity Scholars and the National N.A.A.C.P., have followed Dr. Franklyn V. Beckles, Jr.’s career and academic achievements, and many was quite elated when he became televised as a local hero, and a Civil Rights Activist. Dr. Beckles is also a known History Scholar, Book Author, Comic Book Writer, Civil Rights Leader & Children’s Advocate in the pursuit of modern civil rights, a Private School Principal (renowned Public School Teacher for Richmond County Public Schools), and the Church Pastor of the Church of God and Sons for Christ Ministries. He was a candidate for Board Member in District 2 of the Richmond County Board of Education 2014.

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