Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 1 Episode 19

The High-Graders

Aired Saturday 9:30 PM Jan 18, 1958 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
17 votes

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Episode Summary

The High-Graders

When his tailor is killed in an accident at a supposedly worthless gold mine, Paladin discovers that the man was murdered and his heirs are being swindled.

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  • A nicely ironic touch

    In the opening sequence, the camera dollies past a nice suit with the name Leland Stanford pinned to it. Stanford was an industrialist, Senator and Governor in California and founded the university near Palo Alto which bears his name and which Richard Boone attended a century later. Unfortunately, he and his frat brothers pulled a prank in which they made a dummy and left it in the street for a motorist to run over at which point Boone leapt out, crying that the driver had killed his brother. The driver turned out to be Mrs. Herbert Hoover, later the US President, but at the time President of Stanford. Boone was expelled.moreless
  • This is a pleasant episode, with an interesting situation and a well-matched pair of villains, but it has a character flaw in it that marred my enjoyment somewhat.

    It's always interesting when the opener takes place away from the Carlton. This time it's the Polo de Marcos tailor shop, a place patronized by both the current and the former governor of California. This is presumably to display Paladin's standards--nothing but the best for him! It is Mr. de Marcos' nephew who is attending to Paladin's fitting, equipped with a nifty little thing that I've never seen before, but which makes perfect sense: a pincushion strapped to his wrist for easy access. Paladin has lost his favorite tailor; Mr. de Marcos had died recently in a mining accident. Paladin is startled to learn that his heirs will have to sell the tailor shop; they're on the brink of bankruptcy. This is spite of the fact that de Marcos had purchased a gold mine. (Unless he had a separate source of income, the tailoring business has been very kind to the de Marcos'.) The mine had cost him $40,000 to buy, and apparently he had spent thousands more trying to make it a going concern. His little daughter (only not so little, anymore) has only liabilites, no assets. At this point, the daughter, Angela, dashes into the shop. Her severe mourning does not disguise the fact that she is, indeed, not so little anymore. Bubbling with excitement, she tells her cousin that Casey Brian, the foreman at her father's mine, had found a syndicate willing to purchase the mine for $20,000 dollars. Both of them are thrilled at the idea of retrieving less than half of what her father had put into the place, but Paladin's suspicions are immediately aroused. After all, what's the point in buying a worthless mine? He offers to look into the matter. Angela knows of him--her father always spoke well of him, his favorite client, but she is amazed to learn that the cultured man of taste is also a gun for hire. Paladin persuades her to give him one week to investigate. Perhaps it will turn out that her father's death was not an accident.

    Paladin comes riding up to the mine, a pleasant guitar theme playing in the background that has an innate Western feel to it. This episode came months before the radio version of "Have Gun--Will Travel" came out. I've not heard it since; perhaps they wanted the two shows kept distinctly separate. Paladin is confronted before he can reach the mine. This is Bob Steele, a well known, hard-working actor from the glory days of the theatrical Westerns, and he plays his part marvelously. Unlike other short men on this show, the Jockey (no doubt nicknamed for his size) acts as though he is as tall as Paladin. He's tough, competent, and stands no nonsense. Paladin is angling to get a job at the mine, but there's a waiting list a mile long. There's another mine down the road that might take him. Paladin offers him a cigar, hoping to keep on friendly terms, although he slyly suggests that he could have taken the man out while he lit the cigar. The Jockey is full of amused contempt. No one tries to draw on the Jockey. He has the fastest draw around. (One might guess that he cultivated the skill originally to keep others from picking on him.) Paladin gracefully withdraws.

    That evening, in town, a group of men are planning to ambush the Jockey when he leaves the saloon. Paldadin, coming upon them, learns that they are men from the other mine. The Jockey and his crew are getting too high hat, throwing money around and acting as though they are better than everyone else. Paladin quietly slips away, and the men position themselves. Somehow they know just when the Jockey is going to come out, and he does so, with a saloon girl on his arm. The girl had apparently been spending time with one of the other men, until the Jockey came along, buying her all kinds of fancy gewgaws. The Jockey confronts the men boldly, but he is somewhat outnumbered--until Paladin steps up beside him. It's too bad that Paladin didn't get that job at the mine. The Jockey instantly rethinks his position and says that he's welcome to the job. The two men swiftly draw and the other men, cowed, slowly slink away. The Jockey is respectful of Paladin's talents, although he believes that he "shaded" him a trifle. Paladin doesn't argue.

    The next morning, Paladin, looking almost unrecognizeable in sturdy, light-colored work clothes, shows up promptly for work. The foreman, who had seen Paladin ride off the day before, looks at him with surprise, but catches the Jockey's eye and passes him on. Paladin maintains his composure as he sees Angela de Marcos standing beside Casey Brian. She stares at him, but says nothing. Paladin puts in a long day, swinging a pick, and incidently saving the lives of his colleagues by noting a weakness in the tunnel roof and preventing a man from setting off dynamite that might have caused the whole place to collapse. (Although who ever heard of lighting a stick of dynamite in a mine full of men?) The roof is shored up, and Casey is rather grudgingly appreciative. Paladin grabs the chance to slip in a question about the death of the mine's former owner, but Casey coldly puts him in his place. The whistle blows, announcing the end of the work day, and Paladin gazes at the men around him as they quickly grab up handfuls of ore, stowing them in pockets, down shirt fronts, and in dinner pails. Outside, Casey brusquely asks each one in turn if he was carrying any gold, passing them on almost before the words are completely out of his mouth. Paladin clowns a little, trying to show him his gold filling, and is shooed on. Paladin questions the Jockey, who pretends that the security check had been done in earnest. Wouldn't want the work crew to be trying a little high-grading, would we? His suspicions confirmed, Paladin chuckles along with the Jockey.

    That evening, Paladin visits Angela at the town's hotel. Angela had come to town practically on Paladin's heels, because she had gotten another letter from Casey. The syndicate's offer had been raised to thirty thousand, but she would have to accept it quickly. Paladin informs her that she is being "high-graded". The miners are keeping the good ore for themselves, leaving the scanty, poor-quality ore for the mining company. The mine can be very valuable if it's allowed to be. This is where the character flaw emerges. Angela de Marcos is a lovely and refined young lady--who is as stupid as a box of rocks. She refuses to believe Paladin, although he did not present the information as a theory, but as a fact. She ignores the fact that Paladin was there, in the mine, and witnessed what was going on. She says that she knows Casey Brian better than she knows Paladin, but she can't know him that much better, and she does know Paladin through her father. And then there is the fact of her father's death. If that had been my father, and I had the slightest hint that his death might have been foul play, I would have insisted on a thorough investigation. The ending of the episode is an exciting one, but it's only possible because of her obstinate stupidity. I wish they could have found another way of bringing it off. Keeping her mouth shut when she first saw Paladin was the only intelligent thing she did throughout the show. For his part, Paladin isn't behaving very much smarter. He does not mention the fact that he observed men stuffing ore in their pockets, nor does he mention the utterly farcical security check. He does manage to hold her to her promise of waiting a week.

    Elsewhere, Casey meets up with the Jockey. He's not happy; the miners pay for the priviledge of picking up ore for themselves, and Paladin had not paid his daily installment. The Jockey shrugs this off; Paladin probably just forgot. The actual reason, of course, is that Paladin had not been told, and the foreman certainly would not have informed him while Angela stood at his elbow. However, Casey has more disquieting news. Paladin made a bad strategic error. (He does make mistakes. Not often, but he does.) He should have taken more care in coming to the hotel. Casey knows that he went to see Angela. He must be a company spy. The Jockey instantly agrees that he must be dealt with, but scornfully brushes off the notion that he should bring assistants. He will bring witnesses, if Casey insists, but he will deal with Paladin all by himself.

    Casually strolling through town, Paladin meets up with the Jockey and his entourage. The Jockey informs him that the men are simply there to witness the fact that Paladin attacked him and that he killed Paladin in self-defense, in a fair fight. He's seen Paladin's draw, and is certain that he's faster. Paladin, as always, keeps his cool, and proves that speed doesn't count for much if it's not combined with accuracy. He challenges the witnesses, who shrink back. They seem to be familiar with the protocols; as one, they reach down to the Jockey and haul his body away.

    Meanwhile, Casey has come to the hotel, wooing Angela with wine and urging her to make her decision. Paladin imposes himself, mentioning, almost as an aside, that Casey is going to need to hire a new lieutenant. He tells Angela that there is no syndicate; Casey is going to buy the mine himself, using money stolen from Angela and her father. With the amount of money he's collecting from all of his miners, it will take him no time to recoup the thirty thousand he plans to pay Angela. Angela persists in her stupidity. Casey benevolently offers to show her around the mine, so that she can see how worthless it is--except, of course, to men who can afford to put more money into it. Paladin warns her that her father made an identical trip to the mine, and this slides right past her. She agrees to visit the mine, and Paladin, faced with her obstinacy, quits. Good riddance, I say, but Paladin, of course, is a gentleman.

    Angela looks wide-eyed around the mine, noting all that yellow stuff in the walls. Casey assures her that it is only fool's gold, and the fool, of course, believes him without question. Casey steps aside for a moment to confer with a man who lights a stick of dynamite with a long fuse. This finally catches Angela's attention, and she turns to find Casey aiming a shovel at her. This is pretty stupid on Casey's part; did he really think that he could get away with two mine owners dying in the same place, of the same cause? Surely Angela's cousin Gino would question this, as the presumed new heir, and certainly Paladin wouldn't keep his mouth shut. Angela lets out a ladylike scream, and Paladin springs out from where he has probably been hiding all night. He flattens Casey, but makes no attempt to pull the fuse on the dynamite. Leaving Casey to be caught in his own trap, he scoops up Angela, tosses her into a mine cart, and gives it a running shove down the rails before leaping in himself. I should think it would have been as fast to simply run out the mine, but that wouldn't have looked nearly as dramatic. Some of the other men, who of course know what's going on, attempt to stop them, but Paladin's bellowed warning sends them scrambling. Paladin has time to grab Angela out of the cart and reach a more protected spot before the explosion occurs. This could have been much better; all they did was shake the camera. Paladin and Angela should have been shown staggering a bit, or even falling down.

    Back in San Francisco, Gino is attending to the governor, trying to persuade him that the flashy cut is just the thing. Paladin and Angela enter the shop. Paladin, presumably, spent whatever time was needed at the mine, kicking out the old miners and hiring a complete new, honest crew and administrators. Certainly bubbleheaded Angela couldn't do it. Enough time has passed that the news has reached San Francisco. Paladin casts his discerning eye on the governor's tailoring, and chides Gino; the governor is too conservative for such a style. Gino reluctantly agrees. Angela, coming to Paladin's side and clinging to his arm, states proudly that her good fortune is all due to Paladin (as she darn well should). Paladin, interestingly, accepts her clingyness, but shows no signs of romantic interest. He is charging as his fee two suits a year for life, and, as he points out, it will add up. If he doesn't get himself shot, he will end up costing Angela quite a tidy sum. If Angela were smarter, she would realize that she would have been better off paying a flat fee.

    A fun outing, but it could have been better.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • The governor is identified at the end as Irwin, meaning he is William Irwin, who served between 1875 and 1880. That would place the time period of this episode sometime in those five years.

    • At the beginning of the episode, at the tailor shop, the camera pans in on a completed garment with a note pinned to it: Mr. Leland Stanford. Leland Stanford (March 9, 1824--June 21, 1893) was the eighth governor of California (January 10 1862--December 10 1863). He later became a senator (1885-1893). He moved to San Francisco in 1874 and founded Stanford University in 1885. He is also the man who commissioned Eadweard Muybridge to determine, using new camera technology, if a galloping horse ever had all four feet off the ground (it does). Muybridge's means of capturing this information led to the birth of the film industry.

    • (goof) There is a scene where Paladin and "The Jockey" almost simultaneously draw their guns against a small band of men from a rival mine. The draw is shown in close-up, but when the camera angle switches to a long view, the two are still in the process of drawing.

  • QUOTES (5)

  • NOTES (3)

    • There is a catchy guitar theme that plays in two scenes showing the outside of the Grail mine--when Paladin first arrives, and when he comes the next day to work. The theme is the same music used as the closing theme for the radio program "Have Gun--Will Travel".

    • Bob Steele ("The Jockey") was apparently known as having the fastest draw of the B-movie cowboys.

    • Paladin collected an unusual fee this time, 2 tailored suits a year...for life (and he plans to live a long time).