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Ken Curtis Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (20) | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 2 July 1916Lamar, Colorado, USA
Date of Death 28 April 1991Fresno, California, USA  (heart attack in his sleep)
Birth NameCurtis Wain Gates
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Considering the kind of scruffy, backwoods, uneducated, Deep-South hillbilly types he played, many people would be surprised to hear that Ken Curtis wasn't actually born in the south but in the small town of Las Animas, Colorado, the son of the town sheriff. They would probably be even more surprised to learn that he began his show business career as a singer in the big-band era, and was a vocalist in the legendary Tommy Dorsey orchestra. He entered films in the late 1940s at the tail-end of the singing-cowboy period in a series of low-budget Westerns for Columbia Pictures. When that genre died out, Curtis turned to straight dramatic and comedy parts and became a regular in the films of director John Ford (who was his father-in-law). Curtis branched out into film production in the 1950s with two extremely low-budget monster films, The Killer Shrews (1959) and The Giant Gila Monster (1959), but he is best known for his long-running role as Festus Hagen, the scruffy, cantankerous deputy in the long-running TV series Gunsmoke (1955).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: frankfob2@yahoo.com

Spouse (2)

Torrie Ahern Connelly (12 March 1966 - 28 April 1991) (his death)
Barbara Ford (31 May 1952 - 23 July 1964) (divorced)

Trade Mark (4)

Hillbilly accent.
The role of Festus Haggen on Gunsmoke (1955).
High-pitched voice.
His beard.

Trivia (20)

Grew up in Las Animas, Colorado, where his father, Dan Gates, was sheriff. As was the custom at the time, they lived above the jail and his mother, Nellie (Sneed) Gates, cooked for the prisoners. He once said he patterned "Festus" after a local character known as Cedar Jack, who lived about 40 miles out in the cedar hills and made a living cutting cedar fence posts for farmers and ranchers. When he came to Las Animas, he usually ended up drunk and in jail. This gave Curtis plenty of opportunity to observe him.
Introduced the western standard "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" to movie audiences.
Before acting career, sang with Tommy Dorsey's band and the Sons of the Pioneers.
Son-in-law of director John Ford.
Inducted (as a cast member of Gunsmoke (1955)) into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1981.
Early in his career, he sang with Shep Fields' Orchestra.
Although his character, Festus Haggen, was introduced to Gunsmoke (1955) in an episode called "Us Haggens," in which he arrived in Dodge City to avenge the death of his twin brother, the fact that Festus had a twin was never again mentioned on the show.
On Gunsmoke (1955) as Festus Haggen, he always drew and fired a pistol with his right hand -- but whenever he had to use a rifle, he would bring it up to his left shoulder and pull the trigger with his left hand (sighting with his left eye and squinting with his right). Often, Festus would squint with the right eye partially closed as well. This was never explained unless the actor or character had lost vision in his right eye.
Refused an offer to appear as Festus Haggen in the movie Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge (1987), which reunited James Arness, Amanda Blake, Buck Taylor and Fran Ryan from the original series. Money was the issue. Producer John Mantley, interviewed for TV Guide when the movie aired, said Curtis had demanded double what Blake got; other sources say Mantley was at fault in offering Curtis an insultingly low salary (not specified in either account).
The Sons of the Pioneers, of which Curtis was once a member, were awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6843 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Appeared with the Sons of the Pioneers at Carnegie Hall.
Came from a musical family -- his father played the fiddle, his mother the pump organ, brother Chester the banjo, and another brother Carl sang.
Went in 1935 to a college in Colorado Springs to study medicine. While there his love for singing grew and he involved himself in various college musical events.
His stage name was changed to the easier-sounding "Ken Curtis" when he temporarily replaced Frank Sinatra in Tommy Dorsey's band in 1941.
He met singer Jo Stafford while appearing with Johnny Mercer on a radio program. Mercer invited him to make a guest appearance and, in acknowledgment of Jo's latest recording, Ken sang "Tumbling Tumbleweeds". As a result of this appearance, Columbia Pictures signed him up for a series of musical westerns.
Curtis Wain Gate's maternal great grandfather Sebron (Seaborn) Graham Sneed (1828-1872) was the senior second lieutenant of Company A, Harrelson's Battalion, Arkansas Cavalry (Confederate) during the War Between the States. Sebron's brothers Samuel and William R. were privates in the same unit.
While appearing in John Ford westerns, Ken Curtis initially utilized his musical talents before turning to straight acting. In Rio Grande (1950), he was a guitar-playing lead-singing tenor with the 'Regimental Singers'. In The Quiet Man (1952), he played an accordion and sang tenor in the bar.
Not only was Ken Curtis in "Dodge City" in the tv series, Gunsmoke, from 1962-1975, he also was in "Dodge City" in the movie Cheyenne Autumn (1964).
Best remembered by the public for his role as Festus Haggen on Gunsmoke (1955).
Best friend of James Arness.

Personal Quotes (1)

I'm really proud of Gunsmoke (1955). We put on a good show every week, one that families could all watch together without offending anyone.

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