Thursday, March 16, 2017

An Unusual Pairing of Guest Stars

For the second time inside of a month, I'm going to talk about a TV show. I used to whine and complain a lot about how awful television is because it killed old-time radio and usually isn't as effective a medium for good storytelling. In fact, I still whine and complain about that a lot. It think that's why I never get invited to parties anymore.

But while writing for this blog over the last decade, I have found myself from time to time obligated to admit that there occasionally was some really good stuff on the small screen.

An episode from Have Gun Will Travel's second season is evidence of this. Broadcast on December 27, 1958, it is a pure delight. And it brings us the oddest pairing of guest stars that might ever have appeared together.

 The episode begins with Paladin (Richard Boone) attending a performance of Othello in San Francisco. Impressed by the leads, he invites them to dinner. He then learns they have accepted an engagement in San Diego, which was then a rough cattle town. Paladin warns them of potential danger, but the actors are unable to recognize the fact that these dangers are real. San Francisco, after all, is a large and cultured city. So the rest of the so-called "Wild West" can't be that bad, can't it?

The actors are beautifully played by Vincent Price and Patricia Morison, who bring just the right notes to their roles. Yes, they are making a dumb decision in going to San Diego, but it's not out of stupidity. We never doubt that they are skilled actors and relatively intelligent people. But they are naive and unable to see past their own romantic view of the world.

Paladin rides to San Diego ahead of them and wrangles a job working security for the saloon at which the actors will be performing. That was actually one of the neat things about Have Gun Will Travel. Clients often came to Paladin, but just as often he would search out employment after learning of a potentially dangerous situation somewhere.

Anyway, the saloon owner is Morey Amsterdam. So we have Morey Amsterdam and Vincent Price together in the same story. For no particular reason, I just think this is way cool.

Anyway, the actors show up and are shocked--SHOCKED, I SAY--to discover that they are being advertised as cheap vaudeville performers and that the theater is actually a saloon. They initially decide to pack up and leave. But a local gunfighter (with a reputation for maybe--just maybe--being faster than Paladin) is somewhat smitten with Patricia Morison and threatens to tear up the saloon and kill the owner if the performance is cancelled. The actors, in the meantime, decide to stay and ram some culture down San Diego's throat, but only after publishing insulting remarks about the gunfighter in the local paper.

So Paladin has to see that the performance goes on--that no one gets shot--and that the saloon remains intact. It's a job that's not made any easier by the fact that the actors still refuse to accept the idea that their lives are really in danger.

It's a fun episode, with a light-hearted feel that does not distract from a real feeling of danger at the right moments. And it's got Vincent and Morey on the same screen together. That is way cool. I still can't explain why. It just is.

1 comment:

  1. Now I have to ust off the old dvd set and rewatch that episode. HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL was one of the best tv series of the 50s, a Renaissance man western hero, all dressed in black, with his own calling card.... Couldn't be cooler!


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