Boone in 1959
Richard Allen Boone
June 18, 1917
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||January 10, 1981 (aged 63)|
St. Augustine, Florida, U.S.
Jane H. Hopper
(m. 1937; div. 1940)
(m. 1949; div. 1950)
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1941-1945|
|Rank||Petty officer first class|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Richard Allen Boone (June 18, 1917 - January 10, 1981) was an American actor who starred in over 50 films and was notable for his roles in Westerns, including his starring role in the television series Have Gun - Will Travel.
Boone was born in Los Angeles, California, the middle child of Cecile (née Beckerman) and Kirk E. Boone, a corporate lawyer and 4th great-grandson of Squire Boone 1696-1765, a brother to frontiersman Daniel Boone. His mother was Jewish, the daughter of immigrants from Russia.
Richard Boone graduated from Hoover High School in Glendale, California. He attended Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, where he was a member of Theta Xi fraternity. He dropped out of Stanford prior to graduation and then worked as an oil-rigger, bartender, painter, and writer. In 1941 Boone joined the United States Navy and served on three ships in the Pacific during World War II, seeing combat as an aviation ordnanceman, aircrewman and tail gunner on Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers and ended his service with the rank of petty officer first class.
"Serious" and "methodical," Boone debuted on the Broadway theatrical scene in 1947 with Medea, starring Judith Anderson and John Gielgud; it ran for 214 performances. He was then in a production of Macbeth (1948). Boone appeared in a short lived TV series based on the play The Front Page (1949-50), and on anthology series' such as Actor's Studio and Suspense
Elia Kazan used Boone to feed lines to an actress for a film screen-test done for director Lewis Milestone. Milestone was not impressed with the actress, but he was impressed enough with Boone's voice to summon him to Hollywood, where he was given a seven-year contract with Fox.
In 1950, Boone made his screen debut as a Marine officer in Milestone's Halls of Montezuma (1951). Fox used him in military parts in Call Me Mister (1951) and The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951). He had bigger roles in Red Skies of Montana (1952), Return of the Texan (1952), Kangaroo (1952) (directed by Milestone), and Way of a Gaucho (1952).
In 1953, he played Pontius Pilate in The Robe, the first Cinemascope film. He had only one scene in the film, in which he gives instructions to Richard Burton, who plays the centurion ordered to crucify Christ. Boone also appeared in the second Cinemascope film, Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953).
Webb was preparing a series about a doctor for NBC. From 1954-56, Boone became a familiar face in the lead role of that medical drama, titled Medic, and in 1955 received an Emmy nomination for Best Actor Starring in a Regular Series.
While on Medic, Boone continued to appear in films and guest-star on television shows. He was cast in Westerns like Ten Wanted Men (1955) with Randolph Scott, Man Without a Star (1955) with Kirk Douglas, Robbers' Roost (1955) with George Montgomery, Battle Stations (1955) with John Lund, Star in the Dust (1956) with John Agar, and Away All Boats (1956) with Jeff Chandler.
He also guest-starred on General Electric Theater, Matinee Theatre (a production of Wuthering Heights where he played Heathcliff), Frontier, Lux Video Theatre, The Ford Television Theatre, Studio One in Hollywood, and Climax!.
Boone's next television series, Have Gun - Will Travel, made him a national star because of his role as Paladin, the intelligent and sophisticated, but tough, gun-for-hire in the late 19th-century American West. The show had first been offered to actor Randolph Scott, who turned it down and gave the script to Boone while they were making the film Ten Wanted Men. The show ran from 1957-63, with Boone receiving two more Emmy nominations, in 1959 and 1960. Have Gun - Will Travel, replete with literary references by Paladin, may have been the most literate and sophisticated western in television history.
He occasionally did other acting appearances such as episodes of Playhouse 90 and The United States Steel Hour and TV movie The Right Man (1960). He had a cameo as Sam Houston in The Alamo (1960), a starring role in A Thunder of Drums (1961) and narrated a TV version of John Brown's Body.
Boone was an occasional guest panelist and also a mystery guest on What's My Line?, the Sunday night CBS-TV quiz show. On that show, he talked with host John Charles Daly about their days working together on the TV show The Front Page.
In 1963 he was injured in a car accident.
Boone had his own television anthology, The Richard Boone Show. Although it aired only from 1963-64, he received his fourth Emmy nomination for it in 1964 along with The Danny Kaye Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. The Richard Boone Show won a Golden Globe for Best Show in 1964.
He would return to the mainland to appear in films like Rio Conchos (1964), The War Lord (1965) with Charlton Heston, Hombre (1967) with Paul Newman and an episode of Cimarron Strip. The latter was the first time he guest starred on someone else's show and he did it as a favor for the director, friend Lamont Johnson. "It's harder and harder to do your best work on TV," he said.
While he was living on Oahu, Boone helped persuade Leonard Freeman to film Hawaii Five-O exclusively in Hawaii. Prior to that, Freeman had planned to do "establishing" location shots in Hawaii, but principal production in Southern California. Boone and others convinced Freeman that the islands could offer all necessary support for a major TV series and would provide an authenticity otherwise unobtainable.
Freeman, impressed by Boone's love of Hawaii, offered him the role of Steve McGarrett; Boone turned it down, however, and the role went to Jack Lord, who shared Boone's enthusiasm for the region, which Freeman considered vital. Coincidentally, Lord had appeared alongside Boone in the first episode of Have Gun - Will Travel, titled "Three Bells to Perdido."
At the time, Boone had shot a pilot for CBS called Kona Coast (1968), which he hoped CBS would adopt as a series ("I really don't want to do another series," he said "but I've been battling for three years to get production going in Hawaii and if a series will do it, I'll do it."), but the network went instead only with Hawaii Five-O.Kona Coast - which Boone co produced - was released theatrically.
Boone then focused on films: The Night of the Following Day (1969) with Marlon Brando, The Arrangement (1969) with Douglas for Elia Kazan, The Kremlin Letter (1970) for John Huston, Madron (1970) (first Israeli-produced film shot outside Israel although set in the American West of the 1800s), and Big Jake (1971) with John Wayne.
In the early 1970s, Boone starred in the short-lived TV series Hec Ramsey, which Jack Webb produced for Mark VII Limited Productions, and which was about a turn-of-the-20th-century Western-style police detective who preferred to use his brain and criminal forensic skills instead of his gun. Ramsey had been a frontier lawman and gunman in his younger days, and, older now, he was the deputy chief of police of a small city in Oklahoma, still a skilled shooter and carrying a short-barreled Colt Single Action Army revolver.
Boone said to an interviewer in 1972, "You know, Hec Ramsey is a lot like Paladin, only fatter." This quote was often misinterpreted[by whom?] to mean that Hec Ramsey was a sequel to Have Gun - Will Travel, when it actually was not.
In the mid-1970s, Boone returned to The Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, where he had once studied acting, to teach.
Boone did God's Gun (1976) with Leif Garrett, Lee Van Cleef and Jack Palance. He appeared in The Last Dinosaur (1977) and The Big Sleep (1978), and provided the character voice of the dragon Smaug in the 1977 animated film version of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.
Boone was married three times: to Jane Hopper (1937-1940), Mimi Kelly (1949-1950), and Claire McAloon (from 1951 until his death).
Richard Boone moved to St. Augustine, Florida, from Hawaii in 1970 and worked with the annual local production of Cross and Sword, when he was not acting on television or in movies, until shortly before his death in 1981. In the last year of his life, Boone was appointed Florida's cultural ambassador.
During the 1970s, he wrote a newspaper column for a small free publication called The Town and Traveler. His column was called "It Seems To Me". Some paper copies are in his biographical file at the St. Augustine Historical Society. He also gave acting lectures at Flagler College in 1972-1973. In his final role, Boone played Commodore Matthew C. Perry in The Bushido Blade.