If you’re into 1950s TV, you’ll recognize Paladin’s business card from Have Gun, Will Travel. But how many of you know the show only turned out the way it did because a famous Hollywood producer suffered from a reading disability?
Believe it or not, Have Gun, Will Travel was originally set in East Africa, not the Old West, and Richard Boone’s “Paladin” was originally named “Dinalap” and was not a gunslinger-for-hire, but a safari guide. And the show’s title was Have Gnu, Will Travel.
Then the script fell into the hands of producer Izzy Kidden, who had dyslexia and didn’t usually read scripts himself. But he read this one, and confused “Gnu” with “Gun” and his imagination did the rest. Westerns were the hottest thing on TV, anyhow–the studio could hardly go wrong, offering another one.
What is not known by hardly anyone is that the associate producers had already gone ahead and obtained a tame gnu, or wildebeest, to co-star with Richard Boone. Boone took an instant liking to the animal, named it “Jambo Jimbo,” and used to drive it around in his car. He threw one of Hollywood’s more famous tantrums when he was informed that the new show would be a Western without Jambo Jimbo in it.
The director, however, who had gotten on Jambo’s bad side and been chased up ladders by the wildebeest several times, felt greatly relieved by the studio’s decision.
“No gnus is good news!” he said.