Richard Boone was just as tough as his onscreen characters

Paladin couldn't compete with the man who played him.

CBS Television Distribution

An entire era of stars was defined by its macho matinee idols. Onscreen, you'd see them on horseback or at war, performing some foregone swashbuckling idea of manliness. Offscreen, nobody embodied this ideal as fully as Richard Boone, star of TV's Have Gun — Will Travel.

Boone's adventurous lifestyle might only be rivaled, truly, by the likes of Ernest Hemingway. Even before he shot his way to fame and fortune, Boone's years were defined by a careful balance of art and action. While Have Gun — Will Travel has stood the test of time as one of television's great Westerns, they could've just as easily made an exciting show out of Boone's early life.

The man who would be Paladin studied acting at Stanford University. While he wasn't in class, Boone was busy earning the school's light-heavyweight boxing championship. During his summer vacations, he held down a job as a sailor aboard merchant ships, earning extra cash to continue his education and pursue his dreams.

Upon graduation, Boone again found a double life, splitting his time between the artistic and the rough-and-tumble. During the day, he worked as an unskilled laborer in the California oil fields. During the evenings, he'd polish up and head for Los Angeles, where he attended night classes at art school and dreamed of a life as a painter. Not even World War II deterred the resilient young man from his dual roles.

As the United States joined the War, Boone put down his paint brushes and enlisted in the Navy, where he served his country for four years, from 1941 to 1945. While he was often hesitant to share his experience during wartime, many details of Boone's squadron have since been made public record. They saw a ton of action in the Pacific, where the team was torpedoed, bombed, and kamikazed.

During brief interludes in which he wasn't under enemy fire, Boone was intent on not letting his skills atrophy. He continued boxing, often against fellow sailors, many of whom were boxing pros back home. He kept himself and other servicemen amused by writing short stories and plays, sharpening skills that would help him later in his career.

It's no surprise that this same man found success in Hollywood following his time in the Navy. Boone's determination and versatility brought him to Medic, and then to Have Gun — Will Travel, perhaps the role that defined his career. 

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11 Comments

jmworacle 1 day ago
A true classic. I can't imagine how they were able to have such plots done in a thirty minute show. As for topics this western was way ahead in dealing with "social justice" issue not associated in the late fifties. One of my favorite was "Hey Boy's Revenge" whe he learns that Kim Chan hasn't been at work for several days he tries and find out why. When informed that "these people are easily replaceable" it took the threat that "are your guests easily replaceable" To receive the information he needs. Here is where we learn of the Chinese workers on the railroad. A series WAY AHEAD of it's time.
MeFanFromSavan 10 days ago
Most of the male actors of that era were real tough guys, serving in the Armed Forces during WW2.
JJ614 12 days ago
He also TAUGHT acting. Robert Fuller studied with him.
jmworacle JJ614 1 day ago
In one episode (I'm at lost of which one" he directed an episode with students of his acting school.
Avie 13 days ago
The above omits a rather interesting moment in Boone's life: when he was in high school he took a mannequin, positioned it in the middle of a road, and decorated it with ketchup.

When a car inevitably came along, struck it and screeched to a stop, Boone jumped out of the bushes shouting "you killed my brother!"

Unfortunately for Boone, the driver of the car, his victim, was one Lou Henry Hoover, wife of former President Herbert Hoover, who was, as one may imagine, well short of being as amused by the stunt as Boone was.

Mrs Hoover used the weight of her position as former First Lady to complain in all the right places, resulting in Boone's being expelled from his school.

Have practical joke, will travel, but let no one ever say that Boone was ever a humorless stick in the mud.
jmworacle Avie 1 day ago
The was one of the late Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" episodes.
AgingDisgracefully 13 days ago
So...real-life Richard was Rough-and-Tougn-and-Took-No-Stuff years before Pam Grier appeared on-screen?
cperrynaples 16 days ago
Ever notice that he never really got the girl? Just as he was about to make his move, Hey Boy gave him his next assignment!
Runeshaper 18 days ago
Boone was AWESOME! It's cool that he had such a full life. Thanks for sharing, MeTV! (-:
McGillahooala 18 days ago
He is a great actor. I’ve liked him in every role.
Ironically, Paladin was by far his best know role but most of his roles were as the bad guy.
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