Saturday, December 19, 2015

25 More Days of Old Time Radio Christmas: Day 19 - Have Gun, Will Travel's Hanging Cross

When the great radio westerns are recalled, one program almost is always included in the list.  Have Gun, Will Travel tells the story of Paladin, a San Francisco based gun for hire.  Yet there are times when Paladin knows when it pays to use his gun, and when a different solution is needed.  Such was the case in the Christmas episode that first aired on December 21, 1958.

This is the second year I have showcased different Old Time Radio programs for Christmas.  Here is a link to all the 2014 OTR Christmas entries.  If you have Sirius/XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148).  He does a great job of showcasing great holiday themed episodes, especially as we get closer to Christmas and the end of December.  I actually heard this driving the other week as part of the Frank Sinatra blocks that he setup to celebrate the centennial of his birth.

Visit to Mission San Buenaventura (Ventura, California) - Friday November 1, 2013
Visit to Mission San Buenaventura (Ventura, California) - Friday November 1, 2013
When I recently posted an entry about John Dehner Centennial Celebration, I did not have an entry from one of his more famous roles on radio.  Have Gun, Will Travel was a CBS Radio Network western late during the Golden Age of Radio.  The radio program would be fairly unique in that it was created after the television program (starring Richard Boone) started in 1957.  The radio drama was created by Sam Rolfe & Herb Meadow and starred John Dehner as Paladin.  Dehner was on practically every Gunsmoke episode at the same time, but this was his show (like Frontier Gentleman - a CBS show that ended the week before Have Gun started).  Have Gun, Will Travel ran for two years until November 1960 and also started Ben Wright as the Carleton Hotel's Chinese bell hop, and Virginia Gregg as his girlfriend.  The name for Ben Wright's character was 'Hey-Boy' - not the most sensitive or potentially accurate portrayal of an Asian American on radio.  But it was the late 1950s...

On December 21, 1958, only a few weeks into the series, the Christmas episode, called "Hanging Cross" aired over the CBS Network.  Paladin is called out to a ranch by its owner Matt Beecher who wanted help finding his son who had been long since kidnapped and taken by the Pawnee Indians. When Paladin arrived at the Beecher property, he was informed that the boy had been returned and that his services were not needed.  Paladin insisted that he talk with the Pawnee chief and make sure that this child was indeed the Beecher boy.  Upon going to their camp, Paladin discovered the the Pawnee were tired and hungry, with little prospects of help this winter.  A war between the Pawnee and the settlers was imminent when they took the boy back.  But it was Paladin with his heart and his compassion, not his gun, that saved the day.  At one point, Paladin says that Christmas is the time when "...people pretend there is no evil in the world."  It is a nice way to think about this time of the year.

The program was directed by CBS great Norman Macdonnell and the script was penned by a 37 year old Gene Roddenberry, who would gain greater noteriety eight years later as the creator of Star Trek.   I hope you enjoy this Christmas program.

The Hanging Cross (December 21, 1958)

Here are some links to programs relating to Have Gun, Will Travel:

                25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

                25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

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