Friday, August 17, 2012


Photo courtesy of Les Rayburn.
When actor Dick Beals was asked whether he was more fond of the radio series or the television series, Have Gun-Will Travel, he contemplated for a moment. After all, anyone who watches a number of television episodes has a hard time thinking of who could have played role other than Richard Boone. “John Dehner was tall, distinguished looking somewhat like David Niven, and all business,” remarked Beals. “Now you have to remember that radio drama and on-camera drama are two separate entities. A radio show is fast moving and with the best voice actors in the voice business making it work. Television is slower with many unknowns in the key roles. Boone was a totally different Paladin than Dehner, but Norm was after a ‘voice’ rather than a face. So I definitely favor the radio version of Have Gun.”

The calendar year of 1960 marked the final months of the radio program. The television series would continue until spring of 1963. But before the radio program went off the air, the series would provide a number of intriguing adventures -- including a superb closing chapter in the Paladin saga. Unique casting on the radio program (including the commercials) included Burgess Meredith in “Montana Vendetta” (March 13, 1960), who delivered a public service announcement about hearing loss and the importance of hearing aids, which have recently undergone new breakthroughs. Singer Russell Arms played the role of Dutch Talbot, a wanted man who Paladin seeks to apprehend in “Lina Countryman” (May 15, 1960). Jeanne Bates played the role of his wife, Doss Talbot. “Jeanne Bates was in the first of four Have Gun radio shows I did. She was a high school classmate where we played in several stage shows together. Frank Paris knew this and arranged for her to be on the show and as a surprise for me… and it was!” Arms was also on the Your Hit Parade for six years live from New York on Saturday nights, and later wrote his autobiography for Bear Manor Media.

Russell Arms autobiography
Peggy Webber played the role of Maria Dawson in “Search for Wylie Dawson” (June 12, 1960). Webber was not a frequent cast member on the series. She was married to a doctor in Japan ad stayed overseas for about two and a half years. “That was around the time they were doing the radio version of Have Gun-Will Travel,” she recalled, “and it was only when I would come home on vacation that I would work on those shows… It wasn’t one of my regular shows, but boy -- I remember doing 22 shows a week!”

Hey Boy tagged along with Paladin for an adventure in “So True, Mr. Barnum” (April 10, 1960), one of the better episodes of the series. The week prior, in “Shanghai is a Verb” (April 3, 1960), Hey Boy was kidnapped and Paladin had to go out and rescue him. In “Prunella’s Fella” (April 17, 1960), Paladin found himself the victim of a shotgun wedding. At the close of “Dressed to Kill” (May 1, 1960), John Dehner stood before the microphone, out of character, to deliver a short talk about the current and forth-coming summit meetings and radio free Europe. His speech was a crusade for freedom donations. In “Way for the Delta Queen” (July 24, 1960), Vic Perrin played the role of Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain. Two weeks later, the radio program featured a two-part adventure, “Viva” (August 7, 1960) and “Extended Viva (August 14, 1960). To ensure characters in both episodes were played by the same actors, both episodes were recorded on the same day, June 25. During the closing of “Nellie Watson’s Boy” (September 18, 1960), John Dehner, speaking for the cast and management of Have Gun, gave a sincere congratulations to KNX in Los Angeles. The station celebrated their 40th Anniversary that week. Actor Jack Moyles is credited for writing “Oil” (October 30, 1960), but soundman Tom Hanley wrote the script. Moyles provided the story idea and Hanley provided the typewriter.

Have Gun-Will Travel is still protected by copyright. The above photo (Radio Spirits) is an example of a licensed product of the radio program. Most CD and mp3 releases sold on the internet are not legal, so don't be fooled by the attractive packaging.

The final episode of the series, “From Here to Boston” (November 27, 1960), is regarded by fans of Have Gun-Will Travel as a landmark in the series. Paladin receives a fat envelope from attorneys in Boston, alerting him of the recent death of his Aunt Grace. Paladin has inherited $100,000 and must travel East to collect. Meanwhile, the gunman is unaware that his latest romantic fling, Louvenia Todd Hunter, was responsible for the death of his Aunt and plans with Myles Todd Hunter, to murder Paladin and make it look like an accident. They stand to gain the inheritance after Paladin is found dead. Outsmarting the woman, a struggle occurs with a gun and Myles is shot by accident. The episode closes with Hey Boy riding to Oregon with Paladin, so he can board the East Bound stage. Hey Boy asks when the man in black will return. “At least until I can settle my Aunt’s estate,” he explains. “Who knows? I might take a liking there and decide to settle down personally.” Paladin suggest a future marriage for Hey Boy and Missy Wong, asking to be notified in advance so he can return for the wedding. Instead of riding horseback into the sunset (West), he board a train into the sunrise (East).

A conclusion to the Paladin saga was never dramatized on television, but it did feature an origin -- something the radio series did not touch upon. Sam Rolfe scripted “Genesis,” an episode heavily-laden with mythology and a general purpose for Paladin’s motives as a bounty hunter.

The radio program, however, faded away with no notoriety in the trade columns. “There was no feedback, really,” recalled John Dehner. “And there would have been no way of our getting feedback really, in terms of fan letters and audio response. It dwindled away to nothing -- like a dead leaf in the wind. And that was it. We as actor, were aghast at the brutality of the networks. I don’t want to sound too dramatic about this, but after all, it was an industry and an important industry and a very big industry. But all of a sudden the powers that were in charge of the industry just said ‘The hell with it. We don’t need you. Good-bye and go home.’ And they closed the doors and it was that fast. It was a shock to all of us.”

“I guess I didn’t think much about it, but that happened a lot,” Lillian Buyeff added. “We wouldn’t be told in advance that this was going to be the last show or anything. I guess in the back of my mind I was always thinking, ‘Oh, this new-fangled thing called television. Maybe it will just dry up and go away. But it didn’t. We loved radio and it was a great medium and wonderful because -- how should I put it -- as a woman I could still be married and have a family and kind of a normal life because I knew what time I had to be at the studio and what time I would come home. In film, you don’t have that. You don’t really know how long you’re going to be gone. Also, the people in radio were very special. The people themselves were just warm and kind and good and we all liked each other a lot. Definitely one of the best moments of my life.”

“The only show that struggled on was Gunsmoke,” Larry Dobkin concluded, “but otherwise, that was early in the years of labor relations and the actors were employees and so were the engineers. The crew were of course, contract employees, and they went from one newscast to a comedy to a drama, with a total disregard of continuity of employment -- or continuity of showcase. The actors were different. They were just day players, and there was no notice given. When I was replaced as the voice of Ellery Queen, nobody gave me any notice. They just told me not to come back next week. They never told me why. I had done it for two years. I think I was the ninth or tenth Ellery Queen.”

After Have Gun folded on radio, Frank Paris joined Macdonnell as associate producer on television’s Gunsmoke. He remained in that capacity until Macdonnell left the show. “Frank Paris was the assistant producer. If Norman was quiet, Frank was quieter,” recalled actor Larry Dobkin. “Frank defined quiet for Norman. He was about my height, 5 feet 10 inches, oval faced, rimless glasses or wire-rimmed glasses, clean shaven, brown hair cut short, he had a pleasant manner. I think the additive would be divident.”

If you don’t have time to listen to all 106 radio broadcasts, the following are recommended.

Shameless pitch: The information below is reprinted from my book, The Have Gun-Will Travel Companion, published in 2000 by OTR Publishing, LLC. For a complete list of all 106 episodes (including plots and trivia, visit

Episode #27  “IN AN EVIL TIME”  Broadcast May 24, 1960
Recording Date:
April 25, 1959, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Harry Bartell (Morley and Malone); and Joseph Kearns (Pappy French).
Producer/Director: Norman Macdonnell
Story origin: Based on the teleplay of the same name by Shimon Wincelberg, originally telecast June 14, 1958.
Script writer: Frank Paris
Commercials: Pepsi-Cola, Longine Watches and Mutual of Omaha Insurance
Opening narration: As birds are caught in a snare, so are the sons of man snared… in an evil time.

Episode #36  “THE WAGER”  Broadcast July 26, 1959
Recording Date:
May 30, 1959, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Lynn Allen (Stacy Neal), Lawrence Dobkin (Sid Morgan); Victor Perrin (Shawcross); Barney Phillips (Howard Gorman); and Ben Wright (the clerk).
Producer/Director: Norman Macdonnell
Story origin: Based on the teleplay of the same name by Denis and Terry Saunders, originally telecast January 3, 1959.
Script writer: Ann Doud
Commercials: Columbia Phonographs, Winston Cigarettes, K-Side Smooth Sealer and General Motors
Opening narration: You forced me to wager my life against a thousand dollars. Now you can wager your life against thirty miles of desert, with a companion who hates you and half a canteen of water.

Episode #47  “STOPOVER IN TOMBSTONE”  Broadcast October 11, 1959
Recording Date:
September 5, 1959, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Harry Bartell (Whitie Harold); Joseph Cranston (Jim Aikens); Betty Garde (Rosie Doogan); and Bartlett Robinson (Sheriff Clay Corbett).
Producer/Director: Frank Paris
Script writer: Ann Doud
Commercials: Fitch Shampoo, Ex-Lax, Swiss Watches and Camel Cigarettes
Opening narration: If you give yourself up, I’ll see that you get a fair trial. If you don’t, I’ll be forced to use this gun and you’ll be a long, time dead.

Episode #49  “WHEN IN ROME”  Broadcast October 25, 1959
Recording Date:
September 19, 1959, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Harry Bartell (Sheriff Miller and the stagecoach driver); Ralph Moody (Mr. Charlie Temple); Barney Phillips (Mr. Brailey); Olan Soule (The Professor); Lurene Tuttle (Mrs. Dora Temple); and Ben Wright (the doctor).
Producer/Director: Frank Paris
Script writer: Frank Paris
Commercials: Fitch Shampoo, Ex-Lax and Camel Cigarettes
Opening narration: If you kill me because of a mistake I made, it won’t save your husband’s life.

Broadcast February 14, 1960
Recording Date:
January 9, 1960, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Harry Bartell (Wake Lockton); Betty Harford (Lydia Lockton) and Clayton Post (the stage driver).
Producer/Director: Frank Paris
Script writer: Frank Paris
Commercials: Fitch Shampoo, Ex-Lax, Fritos Corn Chips, Dristan Cold Tablets and Camel Cigarettes
Opening narration: It’s always good to meet up with an old friend. But I didn’t know when we renewed this friendship that it would lead to your destruction.

Episode #73  “SO TRUE, MR. BARNUM”  Broadcast April 10, 1960
Recording Date:
March 12, 1960, 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Cast: Lawrence Dobkin (Professor Burdick); Sam Edwards (Bill Sweeney); and Barney Phillips (Louis).
Producer/Director: Frank Paris
Script writer: Ann Doud
Commercials: Winston Cigarettes, U.S. Census and Doan’s Pills
Opening narration: All right, Hey Boy. I’ll take you out there. You can dig for your treasure, you can dig up the whole desert. But let me tell you something. You won’t find a thing.

Episode #83  “THE TOO, TOO SOLID TOWN”  
Broadcast June 19, 1960
Recording Date: May 28, 1960, 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Cast: Joseph Kearns (Tod Clum); Vic Perrin (Billy Bedlow) and Barney Phillips (the voice).
Producer/Director: Frank Paris
Script writer: Ann Doud
Commercials: French’s sauce, Pepsi-Cola, Camel Cigarettes and General Motors.
Opening narration: Why not re-open the case? It won’t give you back the five years you’ve lost, but it might give you back the most important thing in your life.

Episode #106  “FROM HERE TO BOSTON”  Broadcast November 27, 1960
Recording Date:
November 19, 1960, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Lynn Allen (Louvenia Todd Hunter); John James (the conductor); Vic Perrin (Myles Todd Hunter); and Bartlett Robinson (the waiter and the driver).
Producer/Director: Frank Paris
Script writer: Frank Paris
Commercials: Philip Morris Cigarettes
Opening narration: Whenever I’m hired for a job, I can always expect the worst. Little did I know that this time, it would mean leaving my dearest friends.

This is the third and final write-up of a three-part feature about the radio program, Have Gun-Will Travel.
Click here to read Part Two.