"I may no longer be an officer and a gentleman, but I am not an assassin."
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 Bad Ass. 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 version, 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.Note: Although Gene Roddenberry regularly claimed to have been the show's head writer, he wasn't - the show didn't have one - but he penned numerous episodes as a freelance writer. In fact, he has more writing credits on this show than any other series he worked on. (Yes, including this one.)
Have Gun - Will Travel contains examples of the following tropes:
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.
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.
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).
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. See Berserk Button just above this entry if you need any more proof that it is NOT a good idea to push the genteel, cultured Paladin too far.
Billing Displacement: Although "The Ballad Of Paladin" is credited to singer-actor Johnny Western, star Richard Boone and co-creator Sam Rolfe, it was actually written entirely by Western (at the recording session Boone suggested it be performed more urgently, and Rolfe changed exactly one line). Western was fine with sharing credit, however, because he had initially written the song for them as "a thank-you" for giving him a role on the show - Boone and Rolfe had discussed the song without Western's knowledge and decided to use it as the closing credits theme from season two.
Boy Meets Girl: In "Ella West," it is done in reverse. Ella meets Tracey, loses him when he refuses to commit, meets him again at a Wild West Show where they are both performing.
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.
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 ...
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.
She Cleans Up Nicely: In "Ella West," Paladin convinces the cursing, drinking, filthy woman shooter to take a bath. She puts on a dress and becomes a beautiful woman.