Gunsmoke

Ken Curtis

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 friends—the 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

Thursday
July 28
1:00pm
Gentry's Law
A heavy-handed land baron refuses to turn his two sons over to Marshal Dillon for a crime they have committed.
TV-G
2:00pm
Snow Train Part 1
Matt, Doc, Festus and several other passengers are trapped on a train by a band of Indians in the snowy Colorado mountains.
TV-G
3:00pm
Snow Train Part 2
Marshal Dillon is cornered by three Sioux Indians as he goes to find help for the freezing passengers of a trapped train.
TV-G
4:00pm
Luke
A seriously wounded old-time outlaw is brought to Dodge City where he tries to find his long-neglected daughter before he dies.
TV-G
Friday
July 29
1:00pm
The Gun
A young man kills a notorious gunfighter in self-defense and becomes the victim of an unscrupulous reporter's publicity buildup.
TV-G
2:00pm
Noon Day Devil
Pursued by Marshal Matt Dillon, a Mexican bandit seeks sanctuary with a priest, his twin brother.
TV-G
3:00pm
The Witness
A family is held hostage by the relatives of a killer to prevent them from testifying at his trial.
TV-G
4:00pm
The Scavengers
A black man, to save his own life, must falsely accuse a band of Indians of wiping out a wagon train.
TV-G
Monday
August 1
1:00pm
McCabe
An outlaw grabs a hostage while Marshal Dillon is trying to arrest him and forces the marshal to work out a deal.
TV-G
2:00pm
Sergeant Holly
An Army sergeant is accused of desertion and the theft of an Army payroll.
TV-G
3:00pm
Jenny
Newly runs afoul of the law when he releases a dangerous outlaw to visit his nine-year-old daughter.
TV-G
4:00pm
Captain Sligo
A middle-aged sea captain gives up the sea and decides to settle near Dodge City.
TV-G