Thursday, May 17, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Festus Haggen

Name: Festus Haggen

Portrayed by: Ken Curtis

TV series: Gunsmoke (the Festus years were 1964-75).

Occupation: Trapper; deputy marshal.

Early Life: The Haggens were "hill folk." Festus came to Dodge City after his twin brother, Fergus, was left for dead by his outlaw uncle. Festus didn't trust the city folk at first--and vice versa. Eventually, he warmed up to the local residents and sometimes served as Marshal Dillon's deputy.

Family and Friends: Brother Fergus and Uncle Black Jack (the aforementioned outlaw). Doc Stone became Festus' best friend and they often enjoyed friendly arguments over beers at the Long Branch Saloon. Other friends included Quint Asper, the blacksmith, and Festus's mule Ruth.

Useful Skills:  Playing cards; trapping; tossing horseshoes.

Trademarks: His eye squint.

Classic quote: "Golly bill!" and "That's just proof right there that us Haggens knows a heap more about some things than folks gives us credit for."

Classic episodes: "Us Haggens" (chronicles his arrival in Dodge City); "Wishbone" (Festus helps Doc, who is bitten by a snake); "Island in the Desert" (Festus is shot in the desert and found by a hermit played by Strother Martin)


  1. On today's posts I noticed a Ken theme, from Osmond to Curtis! I didn't watch the Western shows when I grew up but Festus is a character everyone knows and it was interesting to read his back story.

    1. Toto, I remember when GUNSMOKE fans bemoaned the loss of Dennis Weaver as Chester. But then Festus came along and became almost as popular, with GUNSMOKE running for many more years.

  2. I've been waiting for this one!

    Other Festus traits: Mentioning a "ticklety" in his throat to coerce Doc into buying him a beer.

    Fave quote when asked why he never learned to read: "How do you know if the feller that wrote the reading, wrote the reading right?"

    Other classic episodes:

    "Mad Dog", a serio-comic story of the adventures Festus encounters when he believes he has contracted "hydrophobie".

    "My Brother's Keeper", when Festus' good intentions toward an elderly Native may do more harm than good.

    Favourite quote within my family: In "Quiet Day in Dodge" when Festus' noisiness kept Matt from sleeping my daughter asked, "Is this the episode where Matt kills Festus?"

    1. CW, the anecdote about your daughter was hilarious! BTW, I thought you'd like this profile.

    2. I was hoping to get a chuckle or two out of Janet's comment.

  3. Cult film fans may know Festus/Ken Curtis as the producer of The Giant Gila Monster and The Killer Shrews - schlock horror at its best.

  4. I am absolutely not sure why this is, but when I was about 8 or 9, I had a huge crush on Festus. I even wrote Ken Curtis a fan letter! He responded to me by sending me an autographed picture...which I threw away a couple years later when my friends laughed at me for having had a crush on him.

    Now, I think it's hysterical that I was so wild about him...because I prefer my men clean-shaven. Festus SO does not appeal to me now. However, I wish I had kept that photo, even if just to put it on the internet so his current fans could see it.

  5. I was blown away years ago when I discovered he was Charlie in The Searchers with that golden voice. Oh my God! Never had I heard "Skip to my Lou" like that and never will again by anyone else. He also replaced Sinatra when he left the Dorsey Orchestra... that said a lot. Good ol' Festus!

  6. I absolutely loved Festus, particularly with the love-hate relationship he had with Doc. He was a much better character that Chester.