Festus – A Better Singer Than Talker?

Festus Haggen

Festus Haggen

We have all seen Festus (Ken Curtis) talk on the Gunsmoke TV series. He manages to get the words out but it seems to be a struggle. Here is an example:

 

But did you know that Ken Curtis was a singer before he became an actor? He sang with the Sons of the Pioneers from 1949 to 1953. Then he moved on to the Tommy Dorsey band where he replaced Frank Sinatra as the lead vocalist.

Later, he signed a contract with Columbia Pictures and played in a series of musical westerns with The Hoosier Hotspots. For nearly a year he was the featured singer on WWVA Jamboree, a long running country music radio program.

OK – so can Ken Curtis sing? Take a look at this video and decide for yourself:

Not bad eh?

 For more information on Ken Curtis, Click Here.

Gunsmoke – The Eighth Season

A Look at the Eighth Season of Gunsmoke

Gunsmoke Cast

Gunsmoke Cast

The eighth season of Gunsmoke was the second season of the one hour format. Prior to that, it was only one half hour. The longer time was an asset to the series because there was more time to develop more characters. Prior to that, most shows concentrated on the four main characters: Matt Dillon, Chester Good, Miss Kitty and Doc Adams.

Dennis Weaver was growing weary of his character when the eighth season rolled around. He was allowed to direct a few episodes but that didn’t help. He appeared in only 15 out of 38 shows. This opened the door for Burt Reynolds to become involved in the show as Quint Asper, a half-Comanche that usually got into scrapes because of his darker color.  Interestingly, Reynolds appeared in 16 shows, more than Weaver. It was rumored that Reynolds got more fan mail than all other cast members combined.

Another new face this season was the appearance of Ken Curtis as Festus although he only appeared in one episode. He became a full time cast member in season 9.

Here is what one reviewer said about the season:

As before, U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) and his eccentric, game-leg assistant (not deputy) Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver) are still maintaining the peace in unruly, barely-tamed Dodge City, Kansas. The various gunslingers and cattle rustlers causing Marshal Dillon no end of grief usually can be found drinking and gambling at one of the innumerable saloons. Matt’s friend Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake), formerly a (coded) prostitute, is now half-owner of the city’s finest, the Long Branch Saloon. She’s also its madam, and though the audience doesn’t get to see much of that business, it’s implied. Matt’s line of work often requires the services of cantankerous Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), another close friend of Matt, Chester, and Miss Kitty.

Writer John Meston (1914-1979) was to Gunsmoke what Rod Serling was to Twilight Zone; he penned an incredible 257 episodes of the series during its 20-year run, and that’s not counting episodes of the radio show he also wrote (though there was a lot of crossover, apparently). Two of his favorite devices are the “What’s Going On Here?” and “How’s Matt Going to Solve/Get Out of This?” structures, with Matt presented with a puzzling situation/irresolvable conflict at the beginning of the episode, and he and other characters working through the mystery which is revealed/resolved, often violently, at the end. A favorite plot Meston did myriad riffs on has cool cucumber Matt withholding judgment on an accused killer’s guilt or innocence while all of Dodge City is ready to lynch the accused. Sometimes in these shows the accused is a friend of Matt’s, like Chester, sometimes he’s a guest star, but always, even with a mountain of evidence stacked against him, Matt remains calm and just.

Gunsmoke – The Eighth Season, Volume 2 : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video

 

Here is the Gunsmoke Eighth Season Videos, Volumes 1 & 2:

 

Any Gunsmoke Actors Still Alive?

The TV series Gunsmoke aired for 20 years from 1955 to 1975 which is pretty incredible. Most of the original cast members have passed on including James Arness who played marshal Matt Dillon who died at the age of 88. But a few cast members are still around:

Buck Taylor

Buck Taylor

Buck Taylor Then

Buck Taylor 3

Buck Taylor Now

Buck Taylor played Newly  O’Brien for 8 episodes and 13 seasons from 1967-1975. He was born on May 13, 1938 in Hollywood Ca. and currently resides on a ranch outside Fort Worth, Texas. Before becoming a regular cast member, he was on several episodes as a “bad guy”. However, his character afterwards was definitely a “good guy”. He liked Gunsmoke so much that he named two of his sons Mathew Taylor and Cooper Glen Taylor after Matt Dillon and Glenn Strange who played the bartender for many years before dying of lung cancer.

These days, Taylor is known for his paintings. They are mostly Western paintings and include a portrait of James Arness.

Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds Then

Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds Now

Most of us remember Burt Reynolds for his roles in Smokey and the Bandit, Deliverance, White Lightning, Gator, All Dogs Go To Heaven, The Longest Yard and Boogie Nights. However, he did have a role on Gunsmoke from 1962 to 1965. He played Quint Asper who was a blacksmith and part native American. He sometimes assisted marshal Matt Dillon in solving crimes.

Reynolds was born on February 11, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan. His family moved to Rivieria Beach, Florida where his father became the Chief of Police. Reynolds played high school football and was named first team all state. He received a scholarship to play football at Florida State University.

Roger Ewing

Roger Ewing

Roger Ewing Then

Roger Ewing

Roger Ewing Now

Roger Ewing was born on January 2, 1942 in Los Angeles, CA. He appeared in 36 episodes of Gunsmoke from 1965 to 1967. His character was Clayton Thaddeus “Thad” Greenwood, a part time deputy to marshal Matt Dillon.  Interestingly, his character was superseded by Buck Taylor (above).

He appeared in a number of TV and movie roles including Bewitched, The Bing Crosby Show and the WWII film None But the Brave.

Name This Actor

Ken CurtisHe was born on July 2, 1916 in Colorado. His father was the sheriff of Bent County. His family lived above the jail and his mother cooked for the prisoners.

He was initially a singer who sang with The Sons of the Pioneers and later with the Tommy Dorsey band. He began in pictures in 1945. He was the son-in-law of director John Ford and appeared a number of his pictures including Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, The Wings of Eagles, The Searchers, The Horse Soldiers, The Alamo and How The West Was Won. In the late 1950’s he appeared in the C.V. Whitney pictures The Missouri Traveler and The Young Land. He guest starred on the TV Series Have Gun Will Travel as a character called Monk.

In the early 1960’s he costarred Larry Pennell in a TV series called Ripcord which was about sky diving.

After that he joined the series that he is probably most famous for – Gunsmoke. Who is this actor? It is Ken Curtis known as Festus on the show. While marshal Matt Dillon had five assistants over the 20 year history of Gunsmoke, Festus held that role the longest – 11 years and 239 episodes.

Ken Curtis 3We remember Festus because of his quirky character and unusual accent which he developed for the show. He was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame and National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK.

Ken Curtis died on April 28, 1991 and was cremated. His ashes was scattered in the Colorado flatlands.

 

 

Gunsmoke Meet The Cast

The Gunsmoke Cast

  • Ken Curtis
    Festus

If you are too young to remember the original episodes of Gunsmoke, don’t worry. There are many places where you can find reruns or even purchase DVD’s of the classic show. Watching it today is still very relevant with interesting story lines.

This show ran for 20 years for pete’s sake from 1955 to 1975 with 635 episodes. With many of today’s “one and dones”, this seems almost incredible. So what did this show have to make it so popular? No doubt there were great writers. But surely the cast was what brought viewers back time and time again. Here is a run down of the most popular cast members (you can read in depth biographies by clicking on the name).

James Arness

Played Marshall Matt Dillon of Dodge City, KS. It is not known if he appeared in every episode but he did stay with the show for the entire 20 years. It is not widely known that Arness was injured in the leg during a battle at Anzio. If you watch closely, there are instances where he appears to have difficulty mounting his horse – the old injury never went completely away. Read more….

Amanda Blake

Known to everyone as Ms. Kitty, she was the owner of the Long Branch salon in Dodge City. Although there was never any explicit proof that she and Matt Dillon had a relationship it was sometimes implied. She appeared in 19 of the 20 seasons that Gunsmoke was on the air. Tragically, she died of AIDS in 1989 at the age of 60. Read more…

Dennis Weaver

Dennis Weaver played Chester Good who was an assistant to Matt Dillon. He appeared in 9 seasons from 1955 to 1964. Although he appeared with a stiff leg, he was actually a good athlete appearing in decathlon’s and track. At one point he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, USA. Read more…

Milburn Stone

He played Doc Adams, the only doctor in the town of Dodge City, KN. He acted in all 20 seasons. Doc and Chester always had good natured fun that came out comical. He passed away in 1980 at the age of 75. Read more…

Here is a short video with scenes from the first season of Gunsmoke: