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Festus Haggen

Festus Haggen

Festus Haggen is Marshal Matt Dillon's second official deputy on the CBS television series Gunsmoke . (The first official deputy was Clayton Thaddeus Greenwood.) He comes to Dodge City in an episode titled "Us Haggens" to avenge the death of his (TWIN) brother, Fergus. Played by Ken Curtis, he first appeared in 1962 and was showcased full time from 1964 until 1975. Festus's best-known attributes are his simple vocabulary and demeanour (which hide a sharp eye and considerable native intelligence), which ends up being interpreted by viewers as "lovable" and kept Curtis on the series as a full-time cast member.

Fergus joins their outlaw uncle—Black Jack Haggen—and is wounded trying to escape a posse. This is presumably where he develops his limp when walking. When Jack's horse comes up lame, he makes Fergus take the lame horse and leaves Fergus for dead. Fergus, however, makes it back to the Haggen place and tells Festus what happened. Festus rides out after Jack, who has come to the attention of Marshal Matt Dillon when he kills a local farmer and steals his wagon. Festus joins Matt Dillon and they apprehend Jack, who's shot by the marshal in an escape attempt.

Festus decides to stick around Dodge.

He can frequently be seen arguing with Doc Adams, or trying to get someone to buy him a beer at the Long Branch Saloon. Though originally not entirely scrupulous and initially mistrusted by Matt and the townspeople, Festus is eventually accepted by them and becomes the only full-time official deputy marshal of Dodge City. In episodes like "Deadman's Law," he effectively becomes Marshal in Dillon's absence.

Little is known of his past life except that he has been a trapper and a labourer on the Transcontinental Railroad and that he's illiterate. He repeatedly states that he refuses to learn to read, because he has no way of knowing whether what he reads is true.

On the phonograph record "Gunsmoke's Festus Haggen Calls Out Ken Curtis," it's revealed that he served in the Confederate States Army, and explains that all his mules (including the johns) are named Ruth in commemoration of the mule shot by the Yankees while carrying Confederate dead. In the episode Brides and Grooms, he claims to have an uncle "Lazarus Dinglefoot" (though he doesn't indicate whether he's related by blood or marriage).

Some famous sayings of Festus are "Golly Bill!" and "You ornery ole scudder."

He calls Marshal Dillon "MATH-hew."

There is a few confusion on how Festus's last name is spelled.

While "Haggen' appears to be the most-widely used spelling outside of the show, episode 562 was titled "Alias Festus Haggin."

It additionally appears on at least one occasion spelled "Haggin" (on the side of a wagon).

A Western Union telegram sent to "Festus Haggin" is seen at the end of episode 490 (Season 15, Episode 1, "The Devil's Outpost").

Festus was portrayed by Ken Curtis, a prolific supporting player who had previously played at least five different roles in Gunsmoke. He had been a singer and member of the Sons of the Pioneers and son-in-law of John Ford, who had cast him, amongst additional roles, as Jeffrey Hunter's rival for Vera Miles in The Searchers with John Wayne and Natalie Wood.


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Jul 4, 2016, 8:21 PM