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Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 1 Episode 1

Three Bells to Perdido

Aired Saturday 9:30 PM Sep 14, 1957 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
24 votes

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Episode Summary

Three Bells to Perdido
New Mexico rancher Jesse Reade hires Paladin for $1,000 to bring back outlaw Dave Enderby, who has run off to Perdido, Mexico with Reade's daughter Nancy.

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  • Sex and Paladin

    Interesting that unmarried, fortyish Paladin evinces an eye for the ladies at the beginning of most episodes. Casual sex, among non-professionals, was harshly punished by both church & state in that era. It had to be since fatherless children risked starvation in poor communtities with few social safety nets, short lifespans and paltry employment opportunities for women. A woman's reputation, rich or poor, was priceless in a society where gossip was the main recreation.

    In a society where most married in their teens, aging Paladin's sexual interests were, of necessity, confined to high-priced call girls depicted at the start of most episodes. One has to wonder about the psychological origins of such strange behavior.moreless
  • In this first episode, Paladin must ride into dangerous Perdido, Mexico to save a rancher's abducted daughter and bring justice to the bad guy.

    I assume that this first episode is the "pilot" episode and the very first episode ever shown...it seems to me that it probably is. I can just imagine what a thrill it was to see this classic opening sequence of the holster and pistol for the first time in 1957 television land.

    "Three Bells of Perdido" quickly establishes the long-running elements that are the basis of Richard Boone's Paladin character. We first see Paladin dressed up as a dandy in the lobby of San Francisco's Hotel Carlton, strolling amongst the other guests and tenants of this swank palace...we can only guess about what's behind the coy expressions traded between Paladin and the

    beautiful Asian lady as they pass! Paladin then begins working, studying several newspapers from afar (Wichita Star, Oregon Times, Abilene Gazette)for otential "business" opportunities. He spots an interesting headline in the

    New Mexico Journal ("Rancher Invades Mexico"!)...Paladin produces his classic "Have Gun Will Travel--Wire Paladin San Francisco" business card to be sent to this

    potential client, and so begins our first (and most every) adventure.

    Paladin is wired back that he is hired to resolve this particular problem, and when he arrives at the rancher's house, we get our first look at his working clothes.

    Shot from the rancher's POV as he first opens the door, the camera pans upward from the chess knight emblem holster to Paladin's sly smile. Paladin dresses in a sharp, all-black outfit...I'm sure this was unusual for 1950's tv, as the hero stereotypically wore white and the villain black, but this is our first clue that Paladin is a very unusual, a non-typical and complex hero.

    The elderly rancher's daughter, Nancy, has been abducted by bad guy Dave Enderly (Jack Lord) and held in Perdido, Mexico. 26 men went down to rescue her, but only 5 returned (including the injured rancher) and without Nancy. The rancher is reluctant to hire Paladin (it was actually a ranch hand that wired Paladin for help), since 21 of his men were killed by outlaws guarding the town and Paladin must be crazy to think that he could do the job by himself. But Paladin convinces his client by threatening him with both his six-shooter and his hidden two-shot derringer! A

    strange way of doing business, but Paladin gets the job for his usual $1000 fee.

    We quickly see Paladin's plan forming as he rides past the guarded hills and into Perdido (and this sequence is very stylishly filmed with excellent framing, nice fades,

    and well-placed music.) Paladin sizes up the situation as he sees things, and goes right to the logical place to find Dave, the cantina.

    Paladin toys with both his clients and his targets even in this first episode. He manipulates his way to Dave's home, even to the point of having a friendly dinner with Dave and his wife, the "abducted" Nancy. Paladin doesn't hold back over the dinner table, explaining to Nancy that Dave is a very bad guy and that she needs togo home to dad. She doesn't believe Paladin, so he moves on to Plan B. He calls Dave all kinds of bad names, beats the snot out of him, and threatens to shoot Nancy's unconcious husband in the head unless she promises to go back with him right away.

    She agrees and they leave Perdido, passing by the unalerted sentries. They almost get past the last one before Dave comes to and rings the town bell, which is the alert for the sentries to kill anyone passing by. Paladin quickly dispatches the sentry and they head for the Rio Grande.

    Nancy leaves a trail of objects for Dave to follow, but we learn that this is also part of Paladin's plan...he's bringing Dave back too. Dave shows up, shooting at them both, but proves Paladin is right about him being a slimey coward, tossing his rifle down as Paladin confronts him with drawn pistol.

    Paladin brings them both back to the rancher, who mmediately wants to kill Dave. Paladin convinces the rancher to hold off since "the hangman will arrange for a quick divorce" between Nancy and Dave. Father and daughter reconcile as Nancy realizes her father is limping from Dave's bullet and that she is glad to be back home after all. Paladin takes a minute to rub it all in to the beaten Dave at gunpoint before returning to San Francisco ($1000 richer) where he has another coy moment with the Asian lady.

    Even in this earliest episode, Paladin's character is well developed and shows the trademarks that make this series a classic. Paladin is a man who works for more than just money, and the viewer is often left to judge and ponder the character's sometimes obscure motives and overt rough tactics. As with any complex character, we can ultimately presume that the end justifies the means, and were we in Paladin's universe, we would be glad that Paladin chooses to work for justice.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (8)

    • (Reade looks at Paladin's card)

      Reade: Oh. A fast gun, eh?
      Paladin: Fast enough.

    • Reade: I know the breed. They can't work. Can't sleep. Gotta have action. And money.
      Paladin: And that brings me to my fee.

    • Reade: If I couldn't bring him back here with 26 men, just how do you think you can bring him back here alone?
      Paladin: The Greek phalanx was developed out of a specific need. They fought shoulder-to-shoulder on small battlefields, and they were considered invincible. Then the Macedonians hit them with cavalry, and that was the end of the phalanx. There are all kinds of tactics, Mr. Reade.
      Reade: Ex-Army officer, huh?
      Paladin: Among other things.

    • Enderby: If I did half the things folks say I did, I'd be dancing at rope's end long ago.
      Paladin: There's still time.

    • Paladin: Well, Dave, the marshal's waiting for you. Let's travel. It's the Golden Gate for me, and I wonder what kind for you.

    • Nancy: Aren't we ever going to rest?
      Paladin: I guess we can now. He'll be catching up to us about now. Between the two of us, we left a clear enough trail for him to follow.
      Nancy: Between the two--?
      Paladin: If the trail was any longer, you'd have a real problem in modesty.

    • Paladin: I didn't agree to become an accessory to murder. There's a warrant out for this bushwhacker, and you're going to let the law take him.
      Reade: I'm paying for him and he's mine!
      Paladin: Only as a son-in-law. And the hangman will arrange a quick divorce.

    • Paladin: I don't think you got a very good look at this gun while you had it. The balance is perfect. This trigger responds to a pressure of one ounce. If you look carefully in the barrel you'll see the lines of rifling. It's a rarity in a hand weapon. This gun was handcrafted to my specifications and I rarely draw it unless I mean to use it....Would you care for a demonstration?

  • NOTES (1)

    • In an extreme rarity, Janice Rule and Jack Lord are listed at the opening, after Richard Boone. In the closing credits, they are listed with a larger font than the other guest stars.