‘Gunsmoke’: Festus Actor Ken Curtis Said He Had More To Offer Than Chester Goode

by Joe Rutland
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Fans of Gunsmoke know that Marshal Matt Dillon got help from Festus and Chester Goode. But one of them claims he had more to offer.

With a little help from an article on MeTV, let’s see who is making this claim.

Ken Curtis played Festus Haggen on the legendary CBS Western show opposite James Arness, who played Dillon.

Curtis joined Gunsmoke after Chester Goode actor Dennis Weaver left the show.

In an interview with the Daily Advertiser back in 1971, Curtis said that for a long time, he fretted about Festus really replacing Chester.

“He does things on his own, while Chester was always whining along behind Matt,” Curtis joked.

‘Gunsmoke’ Actor Used Experience From Another Show To Create Festus

A story connected with Curtis is that he actually arrived at his audition with his idea of how to portray the character fully formed. He took his previous work on Have Gun – Will Travel and used that to his advantage.

He played a character named Monk on Have Gun – Will Travel, which starred Richard Boone. Curtis had the role in a couple of episodes. Curtis said, “Festus is the same character.”

When the Daily Advertiser asked Gunsmoke‘s Curtis about Monk, the actor said in one episode, “Monk inherited half-interest in a bawdy house, but smelled so bad they wouldn’t let him in.”

Where did Monk come from, though? Same for Festus? Well, Curtis said it even goes back to growing up in Las Animas, Colo.

Cedar Jack Character Gave Ken Curtis A Little More Creativity For Festus

A guy whom Curtis remembered seeing was named Cedar Jack.

Cedar Jack had a story everyone knew. Curtis of Gunsmoke talks about getting to know Cedar Jack to The Daily Times-News in 1970.

“A few miles out of Las Animas were cedar brakes and he could cut down cedar trees for fence posts,” Curtis said. “He’d stay out a few months and load up his mule-drawn wagon with these cedar posts. Then he’d come into town and that’s when us boys would all see him. He’d sell his posts and take the money and get roaring drunk. And he’d spend all his money in a couple of days and then go back out to the cedar brakes again.”

So, Curtis used a little touch of Cedar Jack with Festus.

He also lent his vocal cords to music. Ken Curtis took over for Frank Sinatra in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. 

He also sang in a country-western band, too. Curtis was part of the Sons of the Pioneers.

It was the group that launched the careers of both Roy Rogers and Bob Nolan. Their best-known song was Tumbling Tumbleweeds. Curtis didn’t join the Sons of the Pioneers until 1949. 

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