Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958)

Genres - Western  |   Run Time - 30 min.  |   Countries - United States   |  
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Synopsis by Hal Erickson

Among the best of the many Western series cluttering the TV landscape in the '50s, CBS' weekly, half-hour Wanted: Dead or Alive was introduced in pilot form as an episode of another Western, Trackdown, on March 7, 1958. Officially launching its run on September 6, 1958, Wanted, like Trackdown, dealt with the exploits of a professional bounty hunter, whose job it was to capture wanted criminals and deliver them to the authorities -- alive if possible, but dead if necessary. Steve McQueen, formerly a journeyman actor best known for his leading role in the drive-in horror epic The Blob, was catapulted to stardom in the role of taciturn bounty hunter Josh Randall. Though not bound to honor the edicts of the law, Josh adhered to a personal code of honor, like many other loner cowboy heroes of the era. He also toted a specially designed weapon which he affectionately referred to as his "Mare's Laig" -- a .30-.40 gauge sawed-off carbine which could be used as either a pistol or a rifle. During most of the series' first two seasons, Steve McQueen was the only regular. Beginning with the 57th episode in the spring of 1960, and continuing until episode number 68, Wright King was added to the cast as Josh's sometime partner, deputy sheriff Jason Nichols. Lasting 94 episodes, Wanted: Dead or Alive closed out its CBS run on March 29, 1961. Twenty-six years later, a modernized feature-film version of Wanted: Dead or Alive was released, with Rutger Hauer as Josh's great-grandson Nick Randall. (But where did he pick up that German accent?)