Ken Curtis


Actor
Ken Curtis

About

Also Known As
Curtis Gates
Birth Place
Lamar, Colorado, USA
Born
July 02, 1916
Died
April 28, 1991
Cause of Death
Natural Causes

Biography

Former big-band vocalist (he joined the Tommy Dorsey Band after Frank Sinatra left) and singing cowboy in low-budget westerns of the 1940s, Curtis is best known as the scuffy bewhiskered deputy sheriff Festus Haggen in the hit western TV series "Gunsmoke" (1964-75). He also appeared in several films by his then father-in-law John Ford including "Mister Roberts" (1955), "The Searchers" an...

Family & Companions

Barbara Ford
Wife
Married in 1952; divorced in 1963; daughter of John Ford.
Torie Curtis
Wife
Married until his death.

Biography

Former big-band vocalist (he joined the Tommy Dorsey Band after Frank Sinatra left) and singing cowboy in low-budget westerns of the 1940s, Curtis is best known as the scuffy bewhiskered deputy sheriff Festus Haggen in the hit western TV series "Gunsmoke" (1964-75). He also appeared in several films by his then father-in-law John Ford including "Mister Roberts" (1955), "The Searchers" and "Wings of Eagles" (both 1956), "The Last Hurrah" (1958) and "The Horse Soldiers" (1959).

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Conagher (1991)
Once Upon a Texas Train (1988)
California Gold Rush (1981)
Pony Express Rider (1976)
Robin Hood (1973)
Voice
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
Joe
Two Rode Together (1961)
Boone Clay
Freckles (1960)
Wessner
My Dog, Buddy (1960)
Dr. Lusk
The Alamo (1960)
Capt. Almeron Dickinson
The Young Land (1959)
Lee Hearn
Escort West (1959)
Burch
The Killer Shrews (1959)
Jerry Farrell
The Horse Soldiers (1959)
Wilkie
The Last Hurrah (1958)
Monsignor Killian
The Missouri Traveler (1958)
Fred Mueller
Spring Reunion (1957)
Al
The Wings of Eagles (1957)
John Price
The Searchers (1956)
Charlie McCorry
The Long Gray Line (1955)
Specialty
Mister Roberts (1955)
Dolan
The Quiet Man (1952)
Dermot Fahy
Don Daredevil Rides Again (1951)
Rio Grande (1950)
Riders of the Pony Express (1950)
Tom Blake [also known as Tom Bledsoe]
Call of the Forest (1949)
Bob Brand
Stallion Canyon (1949)
Curt Benson
Over the Santa Fe Trail (1947)
Curt Mason
Throw a Saddle on a Star (1946)
Curt Walker
Singing on the Trail (1946)
Curt Stanton
Lone Star Moonlight (1946)
Curt Norton
That Texas Jamboree (1946)
Curt Chambers
Cowboy Blues (1946)
Curt Durant
Song of the Prairie (1945)
Dan Tyler
Rhythm Round-up (1945)
Jimmy Benson
Out of the Depths (1945)
Buck Clayton

Producer (Feature Film)

The Cross and the Switchblade (1970)
Associate Producer
My Dog, Buddy (1960)
Producer
The Giant Gila Monster (1959)
Producer
The Killer Shrews (1959)
Producer

Music (Feature Film)

Over the Santa Fe Trail (1947)
Composer
Singing on the Trail (1946)
Composer
Lone Star Moonlight (1946)
Composer
Cowboy Blues (1946)
Composer
That Texas Jamboree (1946)
Composer
Song of the Prairie (1945)
Composer

Art Director (Feature Film)

Interceptor (1992)
Art Direction

Cast (Special)

When the West Was Fun: A Western Reunion (1979)
The Whirlwind (1974)

Life Events

1938

Moved to Los Angeles and landed job as staff singer for NBC radio

1945

After record hit, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," signed by Columbia Pictures to star as singing cowboy in low-budget Columbia westerns (date approximate)

1945

Film debut "Song of the Prairie", "Rhythm Roundup"

1950

Joined western singing group Sons of the Pioneers (which included Roy Rogers) which was hired by John Ford to sing on the score of "Wagon Master"

1959

Produced first feature, "The Killer Shrews"

1961

Co-starred as sky driver on TV series, "Ripcord"

1964

Replaced Dennis Weaver as Sheriff Matt Dillon's deputy sidekick on TV series "Gunsmoke" playing new character Festus

Videos

Movie Clip

Mister Roberts (1955) - Disharmony Aboard This Ship Henry Fonda, who won the Tony on Broadway in the same title role, takes a startling, indecent dressing down from James Cagney (the always-nameless “Captain,”), standing up for his crew (Ken Curtis et al) and his right to seek a transfer, in Mister Roberts, 1955, from Joshua Logan’s play, from the book by Thomas Heggen.
Alamo, The (1960) - The Life Of Texas Most of the performance of Richard Boone as a rugged Sam Houston, arriving in San Antonio ahead of the giant Mexican army, finding Bowie (Richard Widmark, not yet introduced) unavailable, puts Travis (Laurence Harvey) in charge, co-star John Wayne directing, in The Alamo, 1960.
Alamo, The (1960) - Not In Front Of The Men San Antonio, 1836, the first conference of the three commanders, Laurence Harvey as Travis, greeting Richard Widmark as Bowie and director-producer John Wayne as Davy Crockett, disagreeing about how to manage information, in The Alamo, 1960.
Cheyenne Autumn (1964) - I Dare You, Homer! Richard Widmark (as "Captain Archer") continues his narration into an awful event in which Ken Curtis (a.k.a. Festus from Gunsmoke, here "Homer") leads a gang in the sport killing of an Indian, in John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn, 1964.
Wings Of Eagles, The (1957) - Let's Buzz 'Em! Joining director John Ford’s raucous opening of his bio-pic about his Navy flier-turned-writer friend Frank “Spig” Wead, John Wayne in the lead, Kenneth Tobey co-piloting an unauthorized flight, Maureen O’Hara his furious wife leading pursuit, Penascola ca. 1920, in The Wings Of Eagles, 1957.
Wings Of Eagles, The (1957) - Stay Broke And Keep Moving Price (Ken Curtis) narrating, graduating navy flight school with pal "Spig" Wead (John Wayne) his wife Min (Maureen O'Hara) attending, then objecting when officers choose her husband for a big assignment, in John Ford's The Wings Of Eagles, 1957.
Wings Of Eagles, The (1957) - Fly This! Frank "Spig" Wead (John Wayne) and Price (Ken Curtis) lead the Navy flight team, celebrating with the Army team (Kenneth Tobey commanding), a classic John Ford brawl in the director's bio-pic about his flier-turned-writer friend, The Wings Of Eagles, 1957.
Searchers, The (1956) - Can't Enter The Spirit World Posse led by reverend Clayton (Ward Bond) comes upon a casualty from the Comanche band they're tracking, Nesby (Bill Steele) worrying, Jorgensen (Harry Carey Jr.) vengeful, Ethan (John Wayne) pushing Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) and everyone else around, in John Ford's The Searchers, 1956.
Quiet Man, The (1952) - This Wild Colonial Boy John Ford directs a vignette in the rural Irish pub, Ken Curtis leading the song, Ford’s brother Francis greeting John Wayne as the American Thornton who’s bought his boyhood home, but local land-owner Dannaher (Victor McLaglen) isn’t having any, Ward Bond the priest, in The Quiet Man, 1952.
Horse Soldiers, The (1959) - Schoolboys Marlowe (John Wayne) and Kendall (William Holden) are settling a personal score when their raiding unit comes under attack by the kids from the local military school in John Ford's The Horse Soldiers, 1959.
Rio Grande (1950) - Regimental Singers Col. Yorke (John Wayne) explains to his long-estranged wife Kathleen (Maureen O'Hara) that he did not choose the song by the regimental singers (the "Sons of the Pioneers") in John Ford's Rio Grande, 1950.
Two Rode Together - Stop Torturing Yourself Greeley (Ken Curtis) and Ortho (Harry Carey Jr.) are wooing spirited Marty (Shirley Jones) when Lt. Gary (Richard Widmark) intervenes, and she turns to her meaningful music-box, in John Ford's Two Rode Together, 1961.

Trailer

Companions

Barbara Ford
Wife
Married in 1952; divorced in 1963; daughter of John Ford.
Torie Curtis
Wife
Married until his death.

Bibliography