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Ken Curtis

Gunsmoke

Ken Curtis

Festus Haggen

Festus Haggen

Ken Curtis, the son of a Colorado county sheriff, left his home state to seek his fortune as a singer in Los Angeles. He quickly met up with singer Jo Stafford who sent Ken's demo recording to band leader Tommy Dorsey. Dorsey signed Ken as a replacement for Frank Sinatra.

Curtis left Dorsey's band to serve in the Army during World War II. At the end of the war, he sang the tune "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" on Stafford's radio show. The song, an immediate hit, launched his career as a cowboy actor/singer. He subsequently appeared in several John Ford films, including The Searchers, How the West Was Won and Rio Grande. (Ken's ability to land such roles was probably due in part to his 1952 marriage to Ford's daughter, Barbara.)

Ken won the role of Gunsmoke deputy sheriff Festus Haggen in 1964. Although he was cast to fill the void left by the departing actor Dennis Weaver, Curtis' character proved extremely popular. As a result, he remained with the show for more than 10 years, until its cancellation in 1975.

In 1983-84, Ken appeared in another western, The Yellow Rose, with Cybill Shepherd and Sam Elliott. He then retired to Fresno, California, where he died in 1991 at age 74.

Character Bio

As Dodge City's Deputy Marshal, Festus is the pride of the Haggen family, a clan of no-account hillbillies who may have less than 32 teeth among them. Although illiterate and often incoherent, the dog-eared Deputy has earned the respect of Dodge's townspeople as a capable lawman. And he is easily the most colorful resident of this frontier town. Festus is fiercely loyal to Matt Dillon and counts Matt as one of his two best friendsthe other is his mule. His meager salary as a deputy forces him to do odd jobs to make ends meet, so when he's not covering Marshal Dillon's back, he's most likely painting a barn or digging a well to earn extra income.

Festus is a bachelor, which should come as no surprise given his educational background and lack of personal hygiene. In his spare time, he can be found at the Long Branch Saloon, waiting for someone to buy him a drink.

Gunsmoke TV Schedule

Monday
April 21
11:38am
Phoenix
A young convict makes a contract, upon release from prison, to kill a man he has never met.
TV-G
12:49pm
Waste Part 1
Matt Dillon delays his pursuit of an outlaw in order to help a young boy search for his mother. Ellen Burstyn guest-stars.
TV-G
2:00pm
Waste Part 2
Marshal Dillon confronts the outlaw whose pursuit he had delayed to help a small boy find his mother. Ellen Burstyn guest-stars.
TV-G
Tuesday
April 22
11:38am
The Lost
Kitty Russell, injured and isolated by a stagecoach accident, must rely on a strange, wild child for survival. Mercedes McCambridge guest-stars.
TV-G
12:49pm
New Doctor in Town
A new doctor faces the suspicion and mistrust of many of the townspeople when he fills in for the absent Doc Adams.
TV-G
2:00pm
The Legend
Against great odds, the mother of two infamous outlaw sons tries to steer her youngest boy into an honest life. Jan-Michael Vincent guest-stars.
TV-G
Wednesday
April 23
11:38am
The Bullet Part 1
Matt Dillon, bushwhacked, will either die or become paralyzed unless a bullet is removed from an area near his spine.
TV-G
12:49pm
The Bullet Part 2
Festus and Newly overpower outlaws transferring stolen gold from a train to a wagon and head off with the wagon and the gold.
TV-G
2:00pm
The Bullet Part 3
Doc Adams faces a critical decision as to whether he should personally operate on the gravely wounded Marshal Dillon.
TV-G