Have Gun Will Travel – A Game of Chess

Posted on Sep 20, 2011 under ARCHIVES | No Comment

I never saw Have Gun Will Travel in prime time yet I did get to enjoy it in reruns.  I always felt this show was a league ahead of the typical Westerns in the 50s.  It was intelligent and marched to its own beat; it was a game of Chess!

Paladin was the Chess Knight.  I honestly believe, after watching it as of late, that Have Gun Will Travel was one huge Chess Game. Moves were deliberate and strategically orchestrated.

A Quick Scenario:

Paladin (played by Richard Boone) lived in the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco, he dressed in very expensive suits, dined on gourmet foods and attended the Opera.  His intelligence included being Bilingual, reciting poetry when it fit the moment, and sited everyone from Shakespeare to Plato when it worked to his advantage.

He was the Master Chess Player and his alter ego was the Chess Knight.  Changing from his elegant attire to solid black for his quests into the lawless and barren Western frontier.  Always moving, always having a different move in order to control the situation. This is also a chess reference.

His calling card was an emblem of the chess knight and his holster also donned the chess knight in silver.

From the lyrics of the “Ballad of Paladin” by Johnny Western “A Chess Knight of Silver is his badge of trust.”

The Chess Knight on a chess board is the most versatile, it can move in eight different ways, over barriers and is always unexpected!

Like a Chess Master, he sought control of the board through superior positioning and usually only killed as a last resort.

Paladin was usually the mediator in many disputes trying to find a common agreement among oppositions.

Unlike the popular belief that he was a “hired gun” to kill someone if the price was right. He was the defender of the under dog and protector of the innocent.  After all, it was the 50s and no one would applaud a killer!

The Definition of Paladin:

- Any one of the 12 legendary peers or knightly champions in attendance
 to Charlemagne.
- Any knightly or heroic champion
- Any determined advocate or defender of a noble cause

As quoted in one episode, Paladin remarks: “I might no longer be an Officer and a Gentleman, but I am Not an Assassin.”

Richard Boone was perfectly cast in the role of Paladin as he also was an extremely intelligent man and very learned.   I still watch Have Gun Will Travel, as it is on Encore Westerns.  I never grow tired of it and have never felt it dated. I’m not sure why it didn’t run longer than it did.  Shows were going to 1 hour long vs. half hour long and that might of had something to do with it.

I loved the old Westerns and Have Gun Will Travel is one of the Very Best.


Many Thanks to Mac – Firsthighlander1 for allowing me to place his video on my blog.

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