To avenge the death of his twin brother Fergus, savvy plainsman Festus Haggen forms an initially uneasy alliance with Matt to track down his murderous uncle "Black Jack" Haggen.

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Doc
...
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Blackjack Haggen
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April
Billy E. Hughes ...
Timmy (as Billy Hughes)
Howard Wright ...
Dietzer
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Storyline

To avenge the death of his twin brother Fergus, savvy plainsman Festus Haggen forms an initially uneasy alliance with Matt to track down his murderous uncle "Black Jack" Haggen.

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Western

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8 December 1962 (USA)  »

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(Westrex Recording System)

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

Ken Curtis plays Festus Haggen for the first time in this episode. The Festus character became a regular during the ninth season. See more »

Quotes

Black Jack Haggen: I remember when you was six years old and I bought you that pair of boots up from Jaliscoe. Genuine leather they was - first pair of boots you ever owned. Why, you was so proud of them you wouldn't even take 'em off to go to bed at night.
Festus Haggen: Ahh, boots is just boots and that was a long time ago.
Black Jack Haggen: Gonna grow up to be just like old Uncle Jack, that's what you used to tell everybody.
Festus Haggen: I never was real smart when I was a kid!
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User Reviews

 
the primal Festus
20 February 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This episode is our introduction to Festus Haggen, who will eventually replace Chester Goode as Matt's sidekick and "comic relief".

As episodes go, it's an uninspired story of Matt having to bring in a man wanted for murder, with its various clichéd reversals of "who's on top".

But these don't matter, because its purpose is to introduce us to Festus. And that it does exceptionally well. Matt runs into Festus at a farm where Festus' murderous uncle Blackjack has killed a man. Festus says he's after Blackjack, too, for having left his twin brother Fergus to die. Matt isn't sure he can trust Festus, and their discomfort with each other is convincingly dramatized.

Festus is not yet the character we know and love (or are annoyed by). Ken Curtis has not yet "squinched up" his face, or folded his right ear under the brim of his hat. Nor has he settled on the "squealier" voice we immediately recognize (his vocal delivery is more like that of Andy Griffith), or pushed Festus's bow-legged walk to its limit. He's also slier and wilier than the later Festus.

Oddly, no one can decide how his name is pronounced. Both Arness and Curtis pronounce it /both ways/, with a long A and a short A. You'd think the director would have caught this and enforced a single pronunciation. (According to the rules of English pronunciation, Haggen is pronounced with a short A. I prefer the /sound/ of the long A, as it's firmer and more "masculine".)

Ken Curtis gives a typically nuanced performance. He was a fine character actor, and throughout the series showed his versatility, convincingly playing a mixed-ethnicity Indian scout; a ladies' man; a plains hunter. Among the cast, only Dennis Weaver was a "better" actor. The final version of Festus was not his most-subtle performance, but it showed how an actor can be "over the top" without looking campy or stupid.

For those who feel Festus should have remained the way he originally was... It would have upset the show's balance. "Gunsmoke" generally tells dark stories, and though Matt has a sense of humor, it's not a major part of his personality. Matt is a laconic, no-nonsense person, and a sometimes-silly sidekick is needed to balance it. A always-"serious" Festus would be too much like Matt, breaking a basic screen writing rule ("Thou must not have two characters with the same point of view.").

And there's another reason. In this episode, Festus has several well-written scenes -- and Curtis walks all over Arness in them. He's the better actor, and at "serious" moments, it's all too-obvious.


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