Gunsmoke: Season 15, Episode 15

The War Priest (5 Jan. 1970)

TV Episode  |  TV-PG  |   |  Western
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 21 users  
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An Indian warrior, Gregorio is wounded escaping from the U.S. Army Fourth Cavalry, and the bigoted, ruthless Sgt. Emmet Holly sets out in hot pursuit. Gregorio encounters Kitty Russell, ... See full summary »

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Title: The War Priest (05 Jan 1970)

The War Priest (05 Jan 1970) on IMDb 7.4/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
...
...
Doc
...
...
...
Newly O'Brien (credit only)
...
Sergeant Emmett Holly
...
Gregorio
John Crawford ...
Amos Strange
...
Lt. Snell
...
El Cuerno
Glenn Strange ...
Link Wyler ...
1st Sentry
Tom Sutton ...
2nd Sentry
Pete Kellett ...
Shotgun
Vince Deadrick Sr. ...
1st Trooper (as Vincent Deadrick)
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Storyline

An Indian warrior, Gregorio is wounded escaping from the U.S. Army Fourth Cavalry, and the bigoted, ruthless Sgt. Emmet Holly sets out in hot pursuit. Gregorio encounters Kitty Russell, steals her horse and takes her hostage. Meanwhile, Marshal Matt Dillon is tracking all of them. Written by richardann

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Western

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5 January 1970 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Quotes

Sergeant Emmet Holly: What's a matter, is it too late in the day to kill or is it too early in the evening to die?
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User Reviews

 
an utter train wreck of a script
8 August 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I'm surprised when consecutive episodes of any TV series (especially dramas) are similar thematically, or in tone. (You'd think the producer would try to separate them.) Yet this is true of "The War Priest" and the preceding "The Sisters", both of which feature loud, blustering males confronting religious leaders. You might wish to compare and contrast my reviews of them.

Writer William Kelley must have thought Forrest Tucker's popular "F Troop" character Sergeant O'Rourke would make an easy transition to "Gunsmoke". Think again. Introducing Tucker's blustery comic persona into a series built around restraint and subtlety of characterization (Chester and Festus being the only exceptions), is (as a reviewer said in condemning this episode's sequel ("Sergeant Holly")) like putting whipped cream on a steak.

This problem might have been avoided (as it was in "The Sisters") by making Holly a generally serious and unsympathetic character. But then... why write a script for Forrest Tucker? Kelley goes all-out to support Tucker, giving him at least a third of the lines. And what lines! It's rare to hear such smart and sassy writing in a theatrical film, let alone a TV series.

Of course, Sergeant Holly isn't the whole story. There's also Gregorio, an escaped Apache (played by Richard Anderson -- Richard Anderson!!!). Holly feels obliged to capture Gregorio (as he escaped on Holly's watch). Holly has only one day of service left before he can honorably retire, and Holly's commander warns him that he'd better be on the troop train the following day at noon -- with or without Gregorio -- if he expects an honorable discharge.

The rest of the story is a mess, with Gregorio capturing Miss Kitty (complaining that she'd be a better woman if she kept her mouth shut); Holly capturing both of them (then letting the Apache go -- whom we never see again). It ends up in the Long Branch, with Holly giving Kitty a bunch of flowers he gathered from Boot Hill. It appears he did not get back in time to avoid a charge of desertion, but this is never resolved. (It is apparently ignored in the sequel.)

"The War Priest" is a fine example of why writers should pay attention to Aristotle's dictum that a play should be about /one thing/. Here you have a least two stories, one serious, one comic, that have little logical connection, and neither of which is well-developed. If you want to see how /not/ to write a screenplay, this is a fine example.

PS: In case you're wondering... I like Forrest Tucker very much. I saw him in the road production of "The Music Man", and much preferred him to Robert Preston. But had he noticed the script's problems (few actors do) and restrained himself a bit, "The War Priest" might have been a bit better.


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