Milburn Stone Revealed the ‘Gunsmoke’ Cast Made Ken Curtis a Star by Giving Him All of Their ‘Stupid Lines’ They Didn’t Want to Read

Gunsmoke actor Milburn Stone played Galen “Doc” Adams for all 20 seasons of its television run. There was a clear evolution that took place over that time for both the actor and the character. As a result, Gunsmoke became a well-oiled machine that heavily relied on Stone and the cast members’ ability to work with one another. Doc’s actor once explained how the cast would offload their “stupid lines” onto Ken Curtis to read as Festus Haggen.

‘Gunsmoke’ actor Milburn Stone didn’t initially get along with the cast

L-R: Milburn Stone as Doc Adams and Ken Curtis as Festus Haggen | CBS via Getty Images

Stone always took his work very seriously, even in the years leading up to Gunsmoke. Therefore, he didn’t take too kindly to those who he thought fooled around too much. Stone initially thought James Arness, who played U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon, goofed around too much and ultimately called him out on it. However, the actor didn’t put up a fight over it, which later allowed the actors to become close friends.

The Gunsmoke drama didn’t end there, as he also had sour opinions of Amanda Blake, who played Kitty Russell, and Dennis Weaver, who played Chester Goode. He thought that they didn’t belong in the entertainment business because of how they conducted themselves.

Fortunately, any negative feelings turned into all love on the set. They became increasingly close over their time filming together, creating their own family, as well as a home away from home. This allowed them to create the infectious dynamic that the character had on the screen, which audiences couldn’t get enough of.

Milburn Stone said the ‘Gunsmoke’ cast gave Ken Curtis’ Festus all of their ‘stupid lines’

According to Kansas History, Stone talked about how nobody initially knew that Gunsmoke would be the hit that it became. The network likely would say otherwise, but he believed that it was a big surprise success. However, he attributed the show’s longevity to how the cast was able to work together, which ultimately found Festus getting all of the “stupid lines” that others didn’t want.

“CBS never had any idea this was going to be the success it was,” Stone said. “They’d like to tell you they put it together, but this was an accident. No genius can put a show together that’s going to run 20 years.”

Stone continued: “The big thing that kept Gunsmoke together is that there wasn’t one ounce of professional jealousy [among the principal actors]. Quite the opposite. If I didn’t like a line or Jim [Arness] didn’t, we’d say, ‘Give it to somebody else. I don’t like that.’ When Festus came on the show, the stupid lines, we’d give to Festus, and [it] made a star out of him. He couldn’t be too stupid.”

Festus was a replacement for Chester

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Stone recognized that Gunsmoke used Festus as a replacement for the character of Chester after Weaver left the show. As a result, they had a void in the show without Matt having a loyal assistant. Additionally, Doc needed a character to bounce off of, as well.

Weaver left the show on season 9, which is when Curtis took over for the remainder of the series as Festus. He’s a different character, but he filled the void that Chester left behind. Festus was technically introduced in season 8 episode 13, but he was truly picked up beginning with season 9.