Have Gun, Will Travel: From Here to Boston (CBS, 1960)
Black Friday in old-time radio terms is barely two days gone when CBS cancels the radio version of one of the extremely few television hits adapted for radio after it was born on the box.
With radio veteran John Dehner (Escape, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, Gunsmoke, Frontier Gentleman) as radio’s Paladin, the gentlemanly, intellectual former soldier and knight-for-hire based out of late-19th century San Francisco, Have Gun, Will Travel premiered two years earlier, with a cast drawn from the same Radio Row personnel out west who have populated Gunsmoke over its long and distinguished radio life: Ben Wright, Virginia Gregg, and more. The similarities didn’t stop before the microphone, either. Have Gun‘s radio writers have included Gunsmoke veteran Les Crutchfield, as well as Ken Kobe and Marian Clark, but they have also included a barely-known future science fiction legend named Gene Roddenberry. Not to mention that, like Gunsmoke, Have Gun, Will Travel is fashioned as a genuinely adult Western.
Paladin doesn’t lack for his resemblance to Frontier Gentleman‘s J.B. Kendall, and not just because he is played on radio by the same actor. Paladin, too, is a cultivated gentleman who can and does handle a gun like a slinger when he needs to handle it. He also handles it like a businessman, of course; the show’s title comes from the legend on Paladin’s calling card, and he’s a gun for hire with a conscience and a slightly sardonic wit. His card and his holster carry the image of a chess knight. (A paladin, if you will.) He is a West Point graduate and former soldier who pursues his passions for ancient history, classical literature, and opera; he has a complete knowledge of legal principle and the law itself; he dresses neatly enough to be mistaken for an Eastern dandy.
The show’s wit is understated; unlike another television hit, Maverick, Have Gun, Will Travel doesn’t play the Western theme for laughs overtly, but neither does it shy from getting a few thanks to Paladin’s calm wryness. (Which is saying something, considering Dehner has already had two memorable guest shots on Maverick.)
Tonight: Paladin stands to inherit six figures from his late Aunt Grace, whose husband has come to kill him while his sister romances Paladin to throw him off, but Paladin manages to thwart the attempt in time to leave San Francisco for New England to settle his aunt’s estate.
Heyboy: Ben Wright. Miles Todhunter: Vic Perrin. Lavinia Todhunter: Virginia Gregg. Additional Cast: Martin Robinson, John James, Lynn Allen. Announcer: Hugh Douglas. Director: Frank Paris. Sound: Ray Kemper, Tom Hanley. Writer: Frank Paris.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .
Town Hall Tonight: Voopie on the Volga; or, They Drank and Drank Until They Borscht (NBC, 1935)—“A fear-raising melodrama of darkest Russia,” as Fred Allen describes the classic Mighty Allen Art Players sketch—once thought among the missing for many years—surrounding which come the usual lacerations of the news, a quick plug for Allen’s appearance in the Dick Powell film Thanks a Million, and a round of amateurs competing for prizes and a week’s stand at the Roxy Theater. With Portland Hoffa. The Mighty Allen Art Players: Jack Smart, Eileen Douglas, Minerva Pious, Lionel Stander. Announcer: Harry Von Zell. Music: Peter van Steeden and his Orchestra. Writers: Fred Allen, Harry Tugend.
The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny: Flash Benny, Football Coach; or, Hold That Line (NBC, 1938)—Or: The gridiron becomes more like a flat iron. Cast: Mary Livingstone, Eddie Anderson, Phil Harris, Kenny Baker. Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris and his Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Writers: Ed Morrow, Bill Meloin.
Fibber McGee & Molly: Fibber Chops Down the Old Oak Tree (NBC, 1945)—The Sage of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) does it reluctantly, after a tree surgeon (possibly Jackson Beck) pronounces it a long-dead hunk of perpendicular firewood. Molly: Marian Jordan. Doc Gamble: Arthur Q. Bryan. Mrs. Carstairs: Bea Benaderet. LaTrivia: Gale Gordon. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.
Vic & Sade: Sade’s Parade of Interruptions (CBS, 1945)—That’ll teach Sade (Bernadine Flynn) to think of such heinous acts as cleaning the attic. Vic: Art Van Harvey. Rush: Johnny Coons. Uncle Fletcher: Clarence Hartzell. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.
My Favourite Husband: Is There a Baby in the House? (CBS; rebroadcast: Armed Forces Radio Service, 1947)—While the new neighbours moving into the building pique Liz’s (Lucille Ball) curiosity, George (Richard Denning) is the designated supervisor for an orphan’s group run by a major bank client. Iris: Bea Benaderet. Atterbury: Gale Gordon. Additional cast: Unknown. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: Jess Oppenheimer. Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Gunsmoke: Amy’s Good Deed (CBS, 1955)—It’s one thing to know, as Dillon (William Conrad) knows only too well, that there are people in this world just looking to be killed . . . but he gets a genuine jolt, as may you, when Amy Slater (Virginia Gregg) hits town asking him to kill her. Chester: Parley Baer. Doc: Howard McNear. Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Additional cast: Virginia Gregg, Harry Bartell. Announcer: George Fenneman. Music: Rex Khoury. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Sound: Tom Hanley, Bill James. Writer: John Meston.