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"I may no longer be an officer and a gentleman, but I am not an assassin."—Paladin
Have Gun — Will Travel is an American western television series that ran from 1957 to 1963, starring Richard Boone as the gentleman gunfighter Paladin, a West Point-educated former army officer who worked as a "fixer" of sorts, settling disputes and solving problems that would normally escalate into unnecessary violence, charging a standard fee of $1000. Paladin would attempt to solve the problem with minimal conflict using his cunning and education, but if the situation called for it his skill with both his fists and his gun would prove more than sufficient.
Paladin would advertise his services through business cards which read simply:
Have Gun — Will Travel
Wire Paladin, San Francisco
This would as often as not lead to the mistaken idea that Paladin was a professional killer — a term he resented — which would either result in people who wanted to avoid violence turning down his offer without hearing him out, or people who wanted a killer demanding he assassinate someone. In response, Paladin would either prove himself a good person, wait for the situation to become dire enough that his would be clients realized they had no other choice but to hire him, or turn to work for the innocent people his crooked client wanted him to kill. Another common mishap was that Paladin would often be mistaken as a "dandy" from the east before proving himself to be a Badass. Equally common were episodes taking place after one of Paladin's jobs, where he stumbled upon an adventure quite by accident.
Episodes ranged in tone from dark and deadly serious, to light hearted comedy, giving Boone excellent chance to display his range as an actor. The setting could vary from the prairie of the old west, the deserts of Mexico, the snow covered rocky mountains, the small town, to the big city. The show attracted dozens of guest stars, including Charles Bronson, Vincent Price, John Carradine (father of David Carradine), and Lee Van Cleef. There was also a Radio Show, running from 1958 to 1960, which starred John Dehner as Paladin; it was one of the last radio dramas with regular characters. In addition, there have been three books published based on the TV show, and a movie is in the works, but has languished in Development Hell since 1997. It's currently set for a 2013 release; here's hoping. All six seasons are available instantly on Netflix.
Have Gun - Will Travel contains examples of the following tropes:
- Adventure Towns
- And Your Reward Is Clothes: Non video-game example, Paladin once did a job for a high-class tailor, and for payment would only accept two custom suits a year for the rest of his life. He noted it was actually more expensive than his standard charge; he intended to live for a very long time.
- Appropriated Appellation: A flashback shows that Paladin got his name in this manner. A villainous employer falsely made him believe that a gunfighter calling himself Smoke was a villain terrorizing a town. The dying Smoke revealed the truth and sarcastically referred to his killer as a "paladin". His killer adopted that name and to atone, becoming a hero while wearing Smoke's costume.
- Audio Adaptation: It was one of the few television shows that then had an adaptation for radio, as opposed to the other way around.
- Berserk Button: One episode had Paladin taking a job to help his star crossed lover, and over the course of the case a ranch hand slaps her. Paladin nearly beats him to death, and only stops from a combination of her pleading and the ranch owner threatening to kill him if he continued his assault.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Paladin is generally a fairly friendly guy, and even gentle to nice people, but can be a terrible enemy if you cross him/hurt innocents.
- Chess Motifs: Paladin's card and the design on his gun holster feature a white knight.
- Chinese Laborer: Hey Boy, the porter at the Carlton Hotel.
- Cultured Badass: Paladin is an excellent example of this; he recites poetry and classical literature off the top of his head, regularly takes in opera and ballet, enjoys fine dining, fine clothes, and displaying skill as an artist. But his status as a badass can't be questioned.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Despite his nickname correctly conveying his Knight in Shining Armor personality, Paladin dresses in a black outfit that's more along the lines of what a villainous gunfighter would wear in a traditional Western. In fact, a flashback shows that it was originally worn by a gunfighter who Paladin mistakenly thought was a villain and killed him, and he wears the outfit as a form of atonement.
- Genius Bruiser: While not particularly huge, Richard Boone is a good sized man, and Paladin's intelligence is a defining characteristic.
- Girl of the Week: The radio show of has Paladin returning from his adventures to a new Girl of the Week. Subverted in that he wasn't always successful in the attempt.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: In "The Great Mojave Chase", Paladin gambles on eluding an accomplished team of man-hunters in their own stretch of arid wasteland.
- Knight Errant: Paladin
- Knight in Shining Armor: Paladin, as the name suggests, although he wears what looks more like a villainous oufit if you go by traditional Color Coded for Your Convenience.
- In some of the darker stories stories he can come off as more of a Knight in Sour Armor, when dealing with more disgusting individuals his bitterness can shine through.
- Mail Order Bride: "The Bride" features Paladin escorting a mail order bride to her new husband.
- Meaningful Rename: A later episode revealed that this is why he calls himself Paladin.
- My Card: Obviously.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Paladin isn't the main character's real name.
- Even people who'd known him since before the Civil War only used that name!
- Poor Communication Kills: As mentioned, Paladin's business card can cause some confusion over his profession that can occasionally lead to rather unfortunate mix-ups. More often than not the confusion is resolved without anyone dying, but on every now and then ...
- Put on a Bus: The ending of the radio series has Paladin inheriting a small fortune and heading back East to handle the estate, though he does promise to be back for Hey Boy's wedding.
- Rich Idiot With No Day Job: Sort of. Paladin plays the role of city dandy in San Francisco, and generally wears light colored clothing there, but when hired for a job, puts on an all-black ensemble. However, he calls himself Paladin in whatever location he's in, so there isn't a pure Secret Identity here.
- Smoking Is Cool: Paladin regularly smoked cigars.
- The American Civil War: Paladin served as an officer in the Union Army (apparently under that name) and frequently runs into people he served with.
- The Atoner: Paladin's backstory makes him this along with an interesting spin on Redeeming Replacement. He was hired to challenge a man named Smoke who he believed to be a villain terrorizing a town. Smoke sarcastically referred to him as a paladin during their gunfight, and the future Paladin fatally wounded him, learning too late that Smoke was defending the town and the villain was his employer. Thus, he decided to don Smoke's costume and do good in that guise (starting with killing his treacherous employer).
- The Charmer: Paladin's a classic example.
- The Gunslinger: Typical of westerns, Paladin is classic type D.
- The Paladin: Of course.
- The Sheriff: Paladin often interacts with sheriffs in the course of his jobs. In one episode of the Radio Drama, Paladin helps out a "sheriff" (town marshal version) who's just returned from an Eastern education and is trying to enforce the Philadelphia city ordinances on a small cow town.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Paladin will avoid killing if possible, and more than one episode ends without anyone dying. When it becomes necessary, however, he won't hesitate.
- Utility Belt: Not the superhero style, but his belt carries bullets, and he keeps a derringer behind the belt buckle.
- Walking the Earth
- We Help the Helpless
- Weapon for Intimidation: Paladin will often use his gun as a deterrent, either simply pulling it out or shooting an object to scare his enemy into backing down.