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

Monday
August 29
1:00pm
The Schoolmarm
A widower tries to protect the reputation of his son's teacher, and faces a charge of murder because of it.
TV-G
2:00pm
A Trail of Bloodshed
Craig Stevens, Kurt Russell, and Tom Simcox are guest stars in the story of a farm youth's grim trackdown of the man who killed his father.
TV-G
3:00pm
To Ride a Yellow Horse
An ambitious mother doesn't consider Newly O'Brien or a neighboring farmer suitable suitors for her daughter, provoking them into a fight which almost leads to tragedy.
TV-G
4:00pm
The Disciple
The residents of Dodge City are stunned when Matt Dillon feels he can no longer keep law and order and turns in his Marshal's badge.
TV-G
Tuesday
August 30
1:00pm
Matt Dillon Must Die
Dillon finds himself in the revengeful hands of a half-crazed widower who plans, with the aid of his four surviving sons, to hunt Dillon down and kill him to revenge the death of his son, a wanted murderer.
TV-G
2:00pm
A Town in Chains
Dillon is captured and held for ransom by five bank robbers he has been pursuing when he rides into a small town to warn it about the outlaws--only to find out that they have taken over the place.
TV-G
3:00pm
The Guns of Cibola Blanca Part 1
Doc and pretty saloon owner Lyla Ross find themselves virtual slaves when they are kidnapped by a band of former Confederate officers-turned-outlaws.
TV-G
4:00pm
The Guns of Cibola Blanca Part 2
With Doc overdue and a stage coach with three passengers missing, Matt, Festus, and Newly set out to find their friend in the conclusion of the two-part episode.
TV-G
Wednesday
August 31
1:00pm
Thirty a Month and Found
A sequence of tragedies leads to the death of three cowboys, one of them an old friend of Matt's.
TV-G
2:00pm
The Wiving
Jed Hockett, a farmer, orders his three sons to go to town and not return without prospective brides.
TV-G
3:00pm
The Iron Men
Cameron Mitchell guest stars as Chauncey Demon, once a highly respected sheriff who has let himself degenerate into a saloon bum, and whose old friend Matt Dillon won't accept his condition as final.
TV-G
4:00pm
The Fourth Victim
A series of seemingly random killings have the citizens of Dodge in near panic, but Dillon believes they are part of a pattern in which Doc is slated to be the next target.
TV-G