"Wanted: Dead or Alive" was one of the "greatest" if not the "best" of the Four Star produced television Westerns to come out of the late- 1950's and continued into the early-1960's that made an unknown actor by the name of Steve McQueen into a bonafide star. This was his first and only attempt to star in a weekly series before he went on to become a huge theatrical star in his own right. His first big exposure in either film or television. Long before "Wanted:Dead or Alive" went into production,Steve McQueen was already making headway as a huge star in the 1958 theatrical release "The Blob"(which was released in theaters by Paramount Pictures on September 12, 1958)that became a runaway box office hit. But it was McQueen's performance in "The Blob" that caught the attention of Founder and Executive of Four Star Television Dick Powell. It was here that Steve McQueen made his television appearance as bounty hunter Josh Randall in an episode of another Four Star produced series "Trackdown" starring Robert Culp titled "The Bounty Hunter"(Season 1, Episode 21 of the series)that aired on March 7, 1958. His performance was the greenlight for the spin-off to the series "Trackdown" titled "Wanted:Dead or Alive" that premiered on CBS' Saturday night schedule in prime-time on September 6, 1958. It was sometime after "Wanted" premiered on television that his movie debut in "The Blob" was released in theaters a week after his television series premiered. By that time McQueen was already a star and with his success as bounty hunter Josh Randall on "Wanted:Dead or Alive" the series became one of the biggest hits of the late-1950's and a huge ratings boost for the CBS Television Network.Out of the eight television Westerns that premiered in 1958(which included "Northwest Passage"-one of the earliest short-lived series that was produced in color,and the ones that were in classic black and white included "The Texan","Bronco", "Bat Masterson","Cimarron City","The Rough Riders",and "Yancy Derringer" not to mention the premiere of another successful Four Star produced Western "The Rifleman" which became a huge colossal hit for ABC)only "Wanted" had a premise,and it worked.
"Wanted:Dead or Alive" for the three seasons that it aired on CBS, was placed on it's Saturday night time slot in prime-time between the courtroom drama "Perry Mason",and "The Gale Storm Show",and it faced strong competition against NBC's "The Perry Como Show In Color",and also the variety series "Jubilee USA" over at ABC. "Wanted:Dead or Alive" aired from September 6, 1958 until March 29, 1961 producing 94 episodes all in classic black and white and was produced by Malcolm Enterprises in association with Four Star Television and the CBS Television Network. Steve McQueen was the only actor that starred in all 94 episodes but during the show's second season McQueen's Josh Randall had a sidekick or assistant bounty hunter named Jason Nichols(Wright King) that appeared in 11 episodes from 1959-1960. Some of the best writers were in hand for some great episodes of this series ranging from D.D. and Mary Beauchamp, Don Brinkley, Calvin Clements, Christopher Knopf, Fred Freiberger, to Richard Matheson, Dan Ullman, Frank Gilroy, David Lang, Richard H. Landau, Tom Gries, Cy Chermak, Samuel A. Peeples, John Robinson, to Wells Root, George Slavin,and Tony Barrett to Ed Adamson contribute to some of the stories. Great directors ranging from Thomas Carr, George Blair, to future film director Richard Donner. Others included Harry Harris, to Murray Golden, Gene Reynolds, Don McDougall and actor-director-producer R.G. Springsteen just to name a few.
The guest stars that appeared on in this series were some of Hollywood's best ranging from future "Bonanza" television stars Michael Landon and Pernell Roberts,to future box office superstars Warren Oates, James Coburn, and Martin Landau. Others were Fay Spain, Mala Powers, Nick Adams, Cloris Leachman, Paul Burke, Constance Ford, Susan Oliver, Mara Corday, to Frank Silvera, Dyan Cannon, Royal Dano, Denver Pyle, Clu Gulager, along with Mary Tyler Moore, Vic Perrin, J. Pat O'Malley, Lee Van Cleef, Claude Akins, Jay Silverheels, John Carradine, Stafford Repp, Ed Nelson, Gerald Mohr, John Lupton, Wayne Rogers, Harold J. Stone, Beverly Garland, to Howard Morris, Stephen Talbot, Jay North, Jay C. Flippen, Regis Toomey and R.G. Armstrong(who directed and star in several episodes).
The best episodes from the series ranged from "Desert Seed"(Season 2, Episode 11), "Three For One"(Season 3, Episode 13), "The Prison Trail" (Season 2,Episode 31), "The Voice of Silence"(Season 3, Episode 20), "The Sheriff of Red Rock"(Season 1,Episode 13), "Eight Cent Reward:The Christmas Story"(Season 1, Episode 16), "Twelve Hours to Crazy Horse" (Season 2,Episode 12), "The Bounty"(Season 1,Episode 3) and from the premiere episode that started it all "The Martin Poster"(Season 1, Episode 1). Others included "Bounty on Josh"(Season 3, Episode 17), "The Bad Gun"(Season 2, Episode 8), "The Hostage"(Season 2,Episode 6), "The Choice"(Season 3, Episode 12), "The Trial"(Season 3, Episode 1),to "Death Divided By Three"(Season 2, Episode 29), "The Empty Cell" (Season 2, Episode 7),to the comedial "The Twain Shall Meet"(Season 3, Episode 5).
The phenomenal success of the "Wanted:Dead or Alive" television series propelled Steve McQueen's career as a bonafide Hollywood superstar. And it showcased his great talent in such great theatrical films as "The Magnificent Seven","Baby,The Rain Must Fall", "Soldier In The Rain","Nevada Smith","Love With The Proper Stranger","The Reivers", "Junior Bonner", "The Getaway","The Cincinnati Kid",not to mention the movie that cemented his status as a top box office star "Bullitt"(who became one of the top ten highest grossing pictures of 1968). Not to mention his Oscar nominated performance in "The Sand Pebbles"(Oscar nominated for Best Actor in 1966),and also for his work in "Papillion" (Oscar nominated for Best Actor in 1973). And to also mentioned his work opposite Paul Newman in Irwin Allen's "The Towering Inferno",and the movie that would be his last theatrical feature was 1980's "The Hunter"....the lists goes on and on.