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The beginning of the episode begins as an old squatter has killed a
calf belonging to one of the large land baron, Amos Gentry, in Kansas.
The Gentry boys, Colt and Ben, ride up on the squatter named Floyd
Babcock and think they will teach Babcock a lesson. They put a rope
around his neck put him on a horse with the threat of hanging him.
Their intention was just to frighten Babcock and then release him with
the assurance of him leaving the area. However during the threat the
horse gets spooked and speeds off. Babcock is hanging and dies before
the boys can cut him down. They lightly bury the body and hope this
remains a terrible secret. But it is not to be.
The squatter has a friend that goes looking for him. He finds the burial area with his friend still tied to the rope. He sends word to Marshal Dillon in hopes of finding the killer(s).
Matt is old friends with Amos Gentry and goes visit the large ranch. Since the killing happened on Gentry land Matt believes that they may know something about the matter. Soon Matt even knows that he is running into road blocks set up by the Gentry family. And it appears that Amos Gentry will do anything to protect his boys. Possibly killing an old friend.
What really makes this episode stand out above others is the way the actors played their characters. Peter Jason and Robert Pine were both ideally cast and brought the characters to life. Even Louise Latham, that at times I find hard to take, did a nice job as the wife and mother of the Gentry clan. Plus this episode even had one of the movie star from the 40's and 50's that at one time was one of the most popular male actors in film. The incredible John Payne took on a guest appearance, which he rarely did, and produced a fine episode for all to see. A great watch for viewers
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Gentry's Law" shows just how far "Gunsmoke" had come from its John
Meston glory days. Had Meston written the script, Matt would have
killed one of the sons -- and the father likely the other -- with
Chester making some fatuous remark about how unaccountably terrible it
all was. But the violence has diminished to the point that there is
only one death, that of a semi-sweet old geezer who never did any
/real/ harm to anyone. Everyone else -- including Matt -- ends up
learning An Important Lesson.
This episode nevertheless works fairly well, partly because the story's unraveling is not altogether predictable. And then there's the background story, of the relationship of Floyd and Orly, which most people won't pay much attention to. They're squatters who've been guilty of what might be considered "poaching". It's the Gentry sons' attempt to teach Floyd a lesson that gets Floyd accidentally killed.
Orly is heartbroken -- "He was a good friend, a good friend" -- and comes with their adorable dog, Fritter, to tend Floyd's grave and plant flowers on it. Such strong affection between men was hardly uncommon in the American West. But the closeness of their relationship is heavily underlined when Amos Gentry defends Floyd's death -- "What good was he?" -- and Matt replies "Ask his partner".
There's the obvious suggestion that Floyd and Orly share a relationship that's more than "good buddies". This, of course, could not have been directly addressed at that time. You'd have trouble even today.
If you're a fan of Robert Totten's beard (as I am), you get to see it again, in a supporting role.
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