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Wanted: Dead or Alive (TV series)


Wanted, Dead or Alive: Railroaded

446px-Steve_McQueen_Virginia_Gregg_Wanted_Dead_or_Alive_1959Randall pleads with a mother (Virginia Gregg) to obtain medical treatment for her son. (1959)

Wanted: Dead or Alive is an American Western television series starring Steve McQueen as the bounty hunter Josh Randall. It aired on CBS for three seasons from 1958–61. The black-and-white program was a spin-off of a March 1958 episode of Trackdown, a 1957–59 western series starring Robert Culp. Both series were produced by Four Star Television in association with CBS Television.

The series launched McQueen into becoming the first television star to cross over into comparable status on the big screen.


300px-Wanted_-_Dead_or_Alive_PosterMcQueen’s character of Josh Randall is a Confederate veteran and bounty hunter with a soft heart. He often donates his earnings to the needy and helps his prisoners if they have been wrongly accused. Randall carries a shortened Winchester Model 1892 carbine, called the “Mare’s Leg,” in a holster patterned after “gunslinger” rigs then popular in movies and television. Randall had the ability to draw and fire this gun with blazing speed, as fast as, or in many cases much faster than, his adversaries with handguns that were much smaller. Two Mare’s Legs were used in the series, differing in the shape of the lever, round versus oval.

For several episodes in 1960 Randall had a sidekick named Jason Nichols (Wright King) a former deputy sheriff turned bounty hunter. They worked very well together onscreen, sharing a brotherly chemistry audiences enjoyed. By the start of the third season, Nichols was no longer anywhere to be seen. The episode called, “The Partners”, where Nichols killed three men, much to the chagrin of Randall who felt the men could have been taken alive, has been speculated to be the episode that broke up the partnership, but was actually only the second episode where Wright King was shown and far from the last episode in which he appeared.

485px-MareLegMare’s Leg

“Three hard mother-grabbin’ years, but I learned my trade and it gave me discipline.”
—McQueen, commenting about his experience on the series.

Guest Stars

Wright King appeared in 1960 as the recurring character, Jason Nichols, in eleven episodes of Wanted: Dead or Alive.

Guest stars included Jay NorthNoah Beery, Jr.Lon Chaney, Jr.Alan Hale, Jr.James BestJames CoburnLawrence DobkinJohn DehnerDeForest KelleyMichael LandonWarren OatesSusan OliverLuana PattenSuzanne Storrs, Claire Griswold (wife of Sydney Pollack), Lee Van CleefJay Silverheels and William Schallert.

Production Notes

WantedDeadOrAlive_CompleteSEThe series was filmed in black and white at the Selznick Studios and produced by Four Star Television. Writers included Samuel A. Peeples and Charles Beaumont.

The first season theme song was written and conducted by Bill Loose. It was replaced by a new theme titled “Wanted.” This theme was used until the end of the series and was written and supervised by Herschel Burke Gilbert.

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