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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

Wednesday
July 30
11:19am
Ring Of Darkness
A pretty blind girl influences deputy Newly O'Brien's efforts to arrest a horse thief.
TV-G
12:30pm
Jake MacGraw
People suspect ex-gunfighter Jake MacGraw has ulterior motives when he gets a job as piano player in the Longbranch Saloon. J.D. Cannon guest-stars.
TV-G
Thursday
July 31
11:19am
Roots Of Fear
A run on the Dodge City bank forces three desperate farmers to resort to robbery. Jodie Foster guest-stars.
TV-G
12:30pm
The Sisters
A contemptible father pretends to have a change of heart when three nuns confront him with the care and custody of his two children.
TV-G
Friday
August 1
11:19am
The Cage
When a young outlaw becomes the victim of his own gang, he decides to help Marshal Matt Dillon bring them in.
TV-G
12:30pm
The War Priest
Kitty, en route from Owl Flats to Dodge City by buckboard, is kidnapped by Apache war priest Gregorio, an escaped cavalry prisoner.
TV-G