‘Gunsmoke’: How Ken Curtis Felt About Working Alongside James Arness

by Joe Rutland
gunsmoke-how-ken-curtis-felt-working-alongside-james-arness

Ken Curtis might not be a name some Gunsmoke fans remember. If you say Festus, then most smile. What did Curtis think of James Arness?

Actually, more like what did he feel like when working alongside the show’s lead actor?

Let’s take a look at what Curtis said according to an article from MeTV.

“I’ve been on the show 10 years and Jim hasn’t changed one iota,” Curtis said.

To Curtis, this sealed-off part of the Gunsmoke star’s personality was likely the reason why that show was on for so long. It apparently was a good thing that the man who played Marshal Matt Dillon kept to himself and never started any drama with anyone.

“I’ve seen many shows go down the drain because the star becomes impossible and disliked by everyone,” Curtis said. “He’s terrific to work with. When the time comes to buckle down to work, he’s ready.”

He played Festus Haggen, the character’s full name, for 11 seasons. Curtis would follow Dennis Weaver, who played Chester Goode, Matt’s sidekick and foil, between 1955-64. Curtis followed and was on the show from 1964-75.

‘Gunsmoke’ Had Connection Between Radio Stars, Classic TV Shows

Besides Arness, Weaver, and Curtis, Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty and Milburn Stone as Galen “Doc” Adams were recognized as the longest regular cast members.

Gunsmoke first made its presence felt on the radio with actor William Conrad providing Matt’s voice. On the radio version, Howard McNear provided the voice for Dr. Charles Adams.

For classic TV fans, both actors’ names probably perk up their ears.

Let’s start with Conrad, who also provided the narrator’s voice in the famed Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons. But he also played a private investigator for a few seasons in CBS’ Cannon. Two other TV series of note are Nero Wolfe and Jake and the Fatman. Conrad’s voiceover work also included being the narrator for The Fugitive, which starred David Janssen.

Any guesses on McNear? Heck, you’ve seen him in a barbershop for years. So, the actor played Floyd Lawson on The Andy Griffith Show.

Just some additional Gunsmoke-related trivia for you, Outsiders.

Curtis Said He Had More To Offer In His Role Than Chester Goode

So, Curtis says that he had more to offer as Festus than Chester Goode.

Really? Let’s get some help from another article on MeTV.

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. It appears that he may have been joking about offering more than Chester.

Outsider.com