Richard Allen Boone (18 June 1917 – 10 January 1981) was an American actor who starred in over 50 films and was notable for his roles in Westerns and for the TV series Have Gun – Will Travel.
Boone was born in Los Angeles, California, the middle child of Cecile (née Beckerman) and Kirk E. Boone, a well-to-do corporate lawyer. His father was a descendant of Squire Boone, brother to frontiersmen 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 prior to graduation and went to work in oil-rigging, bartending, painting, and writing. He joined the United States Navy in 1941 and served on three ships in the Pacific during World War II, seeing combat as an aviation ordnanceman, enlisted Naval Aircrewman and tail gunner on Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers.
In his youth, Boone had attended the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad, California, near Oceanside. There, Boone was introduced to theatre under the tutelage of Virginia Atkinson, who spawned theatre interest in many who eventually found their way to Hollywood. Robert Walker, another Academy graduate and member of the school’s theatre club, Masque & Wig, became a close acquaintance of Boone's.
After the war, Boone used the G.I. Bill to study acting at the Actors Studio in New York. "Serious" and "methodical", Boone debuted on the Broadway theatrical scene in 1947 with the play Medea and then appeared in Macbeth (1948) and The Man (1950).
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. In 1953, he played Pontius Pilate in the first Cinemascope film released, The Robe. He had only one scene in the film, in which he gives instructions to Richard Burton, who plays the centurion ordered to crucify Christ. When he was ordered to appear in another film for Fox made at the same time as The Robe, he ended his contract with the studio.
During the filming of Halls of Montezuma he befriended Jack Webb, who was then producing and starring in Dragnet. The writer of Dragnet was preparing a series about a doctor for NBC. From 1954 to 1956, Boone became a familiar face in the lead role of that medical drama, Medic, receiving in 1955 an Emmy nomination for Best Actor Starring in a Regular Series. While on Medic, he also guest-starred as the character Everett Brayer on NBC's Frontier anthology series, in the episode "The Salt War". Boone also appeared in the 1954 Dragnet film based on Webb's series.
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 was first 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 to 1963, with Boone receiving two more Emmy nominations, in 1959 and 1960.
Boone starred in three movies with John Wayne: The Alamo as Sam Houston, Big Jake, and The Shootist.
During the 1960s, Boone appeared regularly on other television programs. He 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. Boone also had his own television anthology, The Richard Boone Show. Though it aired only from 1963 to 1964, Boone 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.
After the end of the run of his weekly show, Boone and his family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii. While 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, Jack Lord had appeared with Boone in the first episode of Have Gun – Will Travel, entitled "Three Bells to Perdido." Boone at that time had shot a pilot for CBS called Kona Coast, that he hoped CBS would adopt as a series, but they went instead only with Hawaii Five-O.
The six-foot-one-inch (1.85 m) actor continued to appear in movies, typically as the villain, including The Raid (1954), Man Without a Star (1955 King Vidor), The Tall T (1957 Budd Boetticher), The War Lord (1965 Franklin Schaffner), Hombre (1967 Martin Ritt), The Arrangement (1969 Elia Kazan), The Kremlin Letter (1970 John Huston), Big Jake (1971 George Sherman), The Shootist (1976 Don Siegel), and a second rendition of The Big Sleep (1978 Michael Winner).
In the early 1970s, Boone starred in the short-lived TV series Hec Ramsey, 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 was frontier lawman and gunman in his younger days and older Ramsey now is the deputy chief of police of a small Oklahoma city, 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." In the mid-1970s, Boone returned to The Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, where he had once studied acting, to teach.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Boone assisted the Israeli film industry at its inception. He appeared in the first Israeli-produced film shot outside Israel, the Western Madron (1970), with a story set in the American West of the 1800s. In 1979, he received an award from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin "for his contribution to Israeli cinema."
In 1965, he came in third in the Laurel Award for Rio Conchos in Best Action Performance; Sean Connery won first place with Goldfinger and Burt Lancaster won second place with The Train.
Boone was the voice actor for the dragon Smaug in the 1977 animated film of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.
Personal life and death
Boone was married three times: to Jane Hopper (1937–1940), Mimi Kelly (1949–1950), and Claire McAloon (from 1951 until his death). His son with Claire McAloon, Peter, worked as a child actor in several of his father's Have Gun-Will Travel television shows.
In her 2004 autobiography "'Tis Herself", Maureen O'Hara wrote that Boone and Peter Lawford, while filming Kangaroo in Melbourne, Australia, were arrested in a gay brothel, but the studio prevented this from being reported by the press.
Richard Boone moved to St. Augustine, Florida, from Hawaii in 1970 and worked with the production of Cross and Sword, when he was not acting on television or in movies, until 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 the St. Augustine Record called "It Seems To Me". He also gave acting lectures at Flagler College in 1972–1973. In his final role, Boone played Commodore Matthew C. Perry in Bushido Blade. He died soon afterward in St. Augustine of pneumonia while suffering from throat cancer. His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii.
- Halls of Montezuma (1951) as Lt. Col. Gilfillan
- Call Me Mister (1951) as Mess Sergeant
- The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) as Captain Hermann Aldinger
- Red Skies of Montana (1952) as Richard 'Dick' Dryer
- Return of the Texan (1952) as Rod Murray
- Kangaroo (1952) as John W. Gamble
- Way of a Gaucho(1952) as Major Salinas
- Pony Soldier (1952) (uncredited)
- Man on a Tightrope (1953) as Krofta
- Vicki (1953) as Lt. Ed Cornell
- The Robe (1953) as Pontius Pilate
- City of Bad Men (1953) as John Ringo
- Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953) as Thomas Rhys
- Siege at Red River (1954) as Brett Manning
- The Raid (1954) as Capt. Lionel Foster
- Dragnet (1954) as Captain Jim Hamilton
- Ten Wanted Men (1955) as Wick Campbell
- Man Without a Star (1955) as Steve Miles
- Robbers' Roost (1955) as Hank Hays
- The Big Knife (1955) as Narrator (voice, uncredited)
- Battle Stations (1956) as The Captain
- Star in the Dust (1956) as Sam Hall
- Away All Boats (1956) as Lieut. Fraser
- The Tall T (1957) as Frank Usher
- Lizzie (1957) as Dr. Neal Wright
- The Garment Jungle (1957) as Artie Ravidge
- I Bury the Living (1958) as Robert Kraft
- Ocean's 11 (1960) as Minister (voice, uncredited)
- The Alamo (1960) as General Sam Houston
- A Thunder of Drums (1961) as Captain Stephen Maddocks
- Rio Conchos (1964) as James Lassiter
- The War Lord (1965) as Bors
- Hombre (1967) as Grimes
- Kona Coast (1968) as Capt. Sam Moran
- The Night of the Following Day (1968) as Leer
- The Arrangement (1969) as Sam Arness
- The Kremlin Letter (1970) as Ward
- Madron (1970) as Madron
- Big Jake (1971) as John Fain
- The Singing Filipina (1971) as Himself
- Against a Crooked Sky (1975) as Russian
- Diamante Lobo (1976) as The Sheriff
- The Shootist (1976) as Mike Sweeney
- The Last Dinosaur (1977) as Maston Thrust Jr.
- The Big Sleep (1978) as Lash Canino
- Winter Kills (1979) as Keifitz
- The Bushido Blade (1981) as Commodore Matthew C. Perry (final film role)
- Actors Studio : 3 episodes (1949-1950)
- The Front Page : 10 episodes (CBS, 1949-1950)
- Suspense : episode "Photo Finish", as Mercer (1950)
- Medic : 59 episodes, as Dr. Konrad Styner (1954-1956)
- Climax! : 4 episodes, various roles (1955-1957)
- Matinee Theatre : episode "Wuthering Height", Heathcliff (1955)
- General Electric Theater : episode "Love Is Eternal", Abraham Lincoln (1955)
- Lux Video Theatre : episode "The Hunted", Saxon (1955)
- The Ford Television Theatre, Catch at Straws, local press man (1956)
- Lux Video Theatre : episode "A House of His Own", Vincent Giel (1956)
- Frontier : episode "The Salt War", Everett Brayer (1956)
- Studio One in Hollywood : episode "Dead of Noon", as John Wesley Hardin (1957)
- Have Gun – Will Travel : all 225 episodes, as Paladin, and Smoke, (1957–1963)
- Playhouse 90 : 3 episodes, in various roles, (1958-1960)
- The United States Steel Hour : 2 episodes in various roles, (1959-1960)
- The Right Man (TV movie) : as Abraham Lincoln (1960)
- The Richard Boone Show : 25 episodes, in various roles, (1963–1964)
- Cimarron Strip : episode "The Roarer", as Sergeant Bill Disher (1967)
- The Mark Waters Story (1969)
- In Broad Daylight : as Tony Chappel (1971)
- Deadly Harvest : as Anton Solca (1972)
- Hec Ramsey : all 10 episodes, as Deputy Police Chief Hec Ramsey, (1972-1974)
- Goodnight, My Love : as Francis Hogan (1972)
- The Great Niagara (TV movie) : as Aaron Grant (1974)
- The Last Dinosaur (1977)
- The Hobbit : as the dragon Smaug (voice) (1977)