‘Gunsmoke’ Fan ‘Disappointed’ Ken Curtis’ Festus Haggen Fought to Preserve Civil War Slavery


Smoke introduced a few new characters beyond the original cast during its 20-year run which began in 1955. They had varying levels of involvement, sometimes intended to fill the void left by other actors. Festus Haggen is a Smoke a fan favorite, but one fan mentioned his “disappointment” when he found out the character’s background included fighting for the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

“Gunsmoke” used Festus Haggen as a replacement for Chester Goode

Ken Curtis as Festus Haggen | CBS via Getty Images

Dennis Weaver’s Chester Goode was one of the fan favorite characters on Smoke. He was part of the original main cast, but Weaver left the show after season 9 to pursue other creative opportunities. This left the main character, U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness), without a loyal partner, who was also needed for Milburn Stone’s Doc Adams to have someone to converse with.

Ken Curtis was brought on Smoke to play Festus starting in Season 8. However, makers saw an opportunity for the character to essentially replace what Chester brought to the show. Festus remained on the Western series for the remainder of its run until the end of Season 20 in 1975.

‘Gunsmoke’ fan ‘disappointed’ by Festus Haggen serving in Confederate Army

According to a Smoke fan on Reddit, Festus actually served to fight in the Confederate Army during the Civil War to preserve slavery. This basic information was revealed on a file named Gunsmoke’s Festus Haggen calls out Ken Curtis. It’s one of two records the actor sang as the character to develop his backstory.

The Redditor said he felt “disappointed” and “dispirited” to learn this information about the character he had a “great fondness for.” They explained that Festus was a “backcountry wolf hunter”, so it wasn’t necessarily a shock. However, they wanted the writer to draw him with a little more compassion as they didn’t think he was one to “judge a man by anything other than his character”.

The original poster admitted that Smoke tends to have better politics than most Western TV shows. However, they are “disappointed” that Festus is fighting to enforce slavery, which makes it hard to like the character anymore.

Other fans are divided

RELATED: Milburn Stone Reveals ‘Gunsmoke’ Cast Made Ken Curtis A Star By Giving Him All Their ‘Stupid Lines’ They Didn’t Want To Read

Other people’s answers Smoke fans regarding Festus varied. One Redditor replied that he aligned himself with such a character in the South during this time. Additionally, they pointed out that the writers only made Curtis’ character more compassionate when he replaced Chester’s role on the show. His previous episodes portrayed him as a “conniving and unlovable moron”.

Nevertheless, the original poster explained that they expected more from the Smoke writers when it came to Festus. They thought it was out of place for him to get involved in such a conflict. However, another comment states that Matt also admitted to serving in the Union Cavalry during the series. Plus, many other TV shows around this time, including Rawhidehad characters with similar pasts.


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