‘Gunsmoke’: Film Icon Dennis Hopper Appeared in 1965 Episode

by John Jamison

Long before his iconic performances in films such as “True Romance” and “Hoosiers,” Dennis Hopper made the rounds on TV shows of the early 1960s. He effortlessly played a handful of one-off parts in shows like “The Twilight Zone.” But he also spent a fair amount of time in the Westerns of the day, eventually going on to star in the John Wayne classic “True Grit.” One of his stops along the way found him smack dab in the middle of a 1965 episode of “Gunsmoke.”

Dennis Hopper led a career spanning five decades. And since much of his TV work came in the early 1960s, there aren’t many classic television shows he missed out on. Hopper has over 200 acting credits to his name. And despite passing away in 2010, his acting legacy is still very much alive and well today.

But in 1965, he was just another guest actor on “Gunsmoke.”

It’s only fitting that Dennis Hopper made an appearance on the classic Western. He was a Dodge City, Kansas native, after all. And when you consider the impact that “Gunsmoke” had on TV, portraying that very same city, it’s a wonder that Hopper only appeared in a single episode.

The episode follows another bounty hunter who seeks out Matt Dillon in Dodge City. He tells the Marshal that his partner is holding a wanted criminal at an ice house nearby. James Arness’ Matt Dillon discovers that the bounty hunter is twisting the truth and that his partner is, in fact, dead.

The ‘Gunsmoke’ Guest Star Appeared in an Episode of ‘Bonanza’

Dennis Hopper’s footprint is everywhere. From helping to pioneer Hollywood’s celebration of American counter-culture to playing characters in more contemporary action shows like “24,” Hopper is an icon.

And along with “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza” was an iconic Western of its time. Even today, the two shows are held up as the best examples. But “Gunsmoke” lasted much longer. That may be, in part, due to the evergreen nature of the gunslinging in the Wild West depiction of Dodge City. Whatever the reasons, “Bonanza” and Dennis Hopper were an equally perfect fit.

And in 1964, a year before his appearance on “Gunsmoke,” Hopper showed up as a bounty hunter in an episode of the classic Western.

In an episode titled “The Dark Past,” from Season 5 of the show, Hopper plays a character named Dev Farnum. Dev finds himself stranded near the Ponderosa after losing his horse. Ever helpful, the Cartwrights make a deal with the man. They will give him a horse if he does some work for them. Over the course of the episode, the Cartwrights discover that Dev is actually a bounty hunter and is on the job.

You can watch the episode below.