Wanted: Dead or Alive

1958 | United States

The series that set Steve McQueen off on the road to super-stardom drew on the real life exploits of the bounty hunters of the late 19th century, a small band of independent men who earned their living from the rewards offered for the capture of wanted criminals, whether they be dead or alive. 

These men were virtually a law unto themselves and few of them felt any emotion when tracking and capturing those with a price on their head. Josh Randall was no exception to this rule, and his portrayal as the mean-and-moody man-of-little-words was almost a blueprint for the future screen persona of McQueen. Randall wasn't equipped with the usual type of gun and instead armed himself with a wicked sawn-off carbine referred to as a "Mare's Leg" -a cross between a handgun and a rifle that handled like a pistol but had an explosive impact when it found its target. Randall acquired a sidekick in the form of Jason Nichols (Wright King) for a brief period of time before going it alone for the final season. 

The series was developed from an episode of another Western series, Trackdown (starring Robert Culp of I Spy fame), which ran from 1957-59. Trackdown was taken from the records of the Texas Rangers thereby winning it the official approval of the state of Texas (the only show ever to have this distinction) and the episode in which Randall first appeared was entitled 'Bounty'. Wanted: Dead or Alive was computer-colourized in the 1980's for US syndication and although 94 episodes were made between 1958 and 1961 it didn't debut in Britain until 1985!

Published on February 11th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.