Art and Politics in Have Gun—Will Travel

The 1950s Television Western as Ethical Drama


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About the Book

From 1955 to 1964, American television was awash in adult Westerns, as much as one quarter of all prime-time programming. During its six seasons (1957–1963), Have Gun–Will Travel was recognized as one of the best shows on television—politically the most liberal, and intellectually and aesthetically the most sophisticated, largely because of Richard Boone. This work places the series in its larger historical context, exploring why the Western was so popular at the time, and examines how the early history of television affected the shows. A brief biography of Boone is included, revealing how his values and experiences shaped the series. Behind-the-scenes life on the show is compared with that of its most popular competitors, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train and Bonanza. Major themes and patterns of the shows are compared, in particular the figures of the lawman, the gunfighter and the outlaw, racial and ethnic minorities, and women.

About the Author(s)

Kathleen L. Spencer is a retired professor of literature and composition. She has published major essays on Dracula and on science fiction authors Samuel Delany, Ursula Le Guin, and Joanna Russ, and a book on English fantasist Charles Williams. She lives in Cincinnati.

Bibliographic Details

Kathleen L. Spencer
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 260
Bibliographic Info: appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7884-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1774-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 2

Part I: Contexts
An Overview 7
One: The TV Western: American Manhood in Crisis 11
Two: Television in the 1950s 28
Three: Richard Boone: An Unreasonable Man 45
Four: Behind the Scenes: Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Bonanza, Have Gun—Will Travel 70

Part II: Texts
An Overview 99
Five: Frontier Justice 106
Six: Gunfighters and Outlaws 128
Seven: The Other Americans: Racial and Ethnic Minorities 146
Eight: The Other Americans: Women 187

Epilogue: The Man Who Was Paladin 212
Appendix: Recommended Episodes 215
Chapter Notes 221
Works Cited 241
Index 243

Book Reviews & Awards

“expertly researched and thought provoking reading”—Western Clippings.