After CBS canceled Gunsmoke, Curtis wanted to own a piece of the show’s history forever


Gunsmoke actor Ken Curtis wasn’t a part of the original principal cast, but he certainly settled in nicely as a part of the family. His role, Festus Haggen, became a fan-favorite character for a long time to come. Curtis embraced Gunsmoke so much that he purchased an iconic Milburn Stone prop when CBS decided to abruptly cancel the long-running adult Western television show.

Curtis first joined the Gunsmoke family in 1962 with season 8 episode 13, which was called “Us Haggens.” The plot followed Festus tracking down his uncle “Black Jack” Haggen after he murdered Festus’ twin brother. He ultimately formed a temporary alliance with U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness), which would later become a deep friendship.

Gunsmoke ran for a total of 20 seasons before CBS made the call to cancel the show, which devastated the cast and crew who put so much of their lives into the project. Curtis was one of the actors who stuck with it through the entire run since his arrival. Arness and Stone were the only actors from the original cast to last all 20 seasons. Meanwhile, Amanda Blake lasted a stunning 19 seasons as Miss Kitty Russell.

According to David R. Greenland’s book, The Gunsmoke Chronicles: A New History of Television’s Greatest Western, Curtis had a close relationship with Stone. They developed a friendship that ran deeper than the infectious banter that they shared on the Western television show.

After CBS canceled Gunsmoke, Curtis wanted to own a piece of the show’s history forever. Of course, it meant even more to him that it was directly connected to Stone’s Doc Adams.

The Festus actor quickly purchased the roll-top desk that Stone sat at as Doc for many years. It’s a legendary piece of Gunsmoke that any fan will instantly recognize.

Curtis was more than happy to star in Gunsmoke and took great pride in the part. He even went to various fan events to interact with audiences supporting his career. Arness initially started this in the early Gunsmoke seasons, but he passed the torch on to his co-stars in favor of spending more quality time with his family.

CBS canceled Gunsmoke without as much as a warning, but the network did finally make a grand return to Dodge City. However, it was in the form of made-for-TV movies. They were called Return to Dodge, The Last Apache, To the Last Man, One Man’s Justice, and The Long Ride. The network continued to put them out until the ratings started to decline.

Gunsmoke viewers likely noticed that Curtis never appeared in any of the made-for-TV movies, despite the fact that Arness made a return. Blake also starred in Return to Dodge. However, Curtis turned down the offer because they tried to hook him in with a price that he considered unreasonably low.


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