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CBS (ended 1975)

Festus vs. Chester

  • Avatar of fhfan

    fhfan

    [1]Jul 22, 2005
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    As a Festus fan, I very much enjoyed seeing this Us Haggens.

    The episode following Us Haggens was Uncle Sunday.

    I thought it was interesting to see these back to back and compare the two, especially since Festus was being introduced as a potential replacement for Chester.

    1) In both, Festus and Chester had an encounter with an uncle they didn't like. Both uncles were criminals. Festus and Chester had a very different opinion on crime.

    Chester:
    Uncle Sunday Meechum was a swindler. Sunday had sold fake jewels to a woman in Texas causing her and her children to go hungry. This was in the vicinity of Chester's home. Chester was very ashamed to even acknowledge he was related to his uncle because of this. Sunday had recently gotten out of prison and was being sent to live with Chester because he worked for the Marshall. Sunday was planning to rob the bank in Dodge.

    Festus:
    Uncle Jack (Black Jack) Haggen was wanted for murder. In the opening sequence, Jack kills a man so he can steal a wagon. Festus cared very deeply for his uncle and probably wouldn't be as bothered by Jack murdering people, except that Jack made choices which caused Festus' twin brother to die (got him mixed up in a crime where Fergus got shot in the leg, then swapped Fergus' good horse for Jack's lame one, so Fergus could be caught, and insulted him to boot. Jack figured Fergus would die before he could get back to the family to tell what had happened. Festus considered Jack's actions akin to be akin murder and to be against the family code of kin protecting kin.
    Festus related how his brother Jeff was killed by a shotgun after attempting to hold up a stage. He didn't seem to be bothered by the crime against others so much as the loss of his kin by the action.

    Festus also considered himself not to be Haggen after conspiring to help get Jack hung, and ultimately causing him to be shot to death by Matt.

    2) Both had an attraction and made a play for their uncle's woman.
    Chester:
    Chester clearly told Doc that the woman wasn't his uncle's niece and made a date to meet her and kiss her. She played along only to get rid of him. She wasn't romantically interested in him.
    When Chester discusses the woman with his uncle, Sunday confesses that the only way he can keep a woman as young and pretty as her is by plying her with money. Without it Sunday figures she won't stay.
    She is just staying with Sunday to use him to get the money from the Bank.
    Chester lost interest when he realized that she was attracted to another man, determined to commit a crime and was setting his uncle up to do the robbery but steal the money from him. (I'm not sure, but I don’t think Chester never did have a long term romantic relationship with a woman.)

    Festus:
    Festus refused to give into his attraction to her as long as his uncle was alive.
    When Festus discusses the woman with his uncle, Jack informs him that the woman is expendable, there are plenty of women around who can replace her. He eventually used her as a human shield.
    She was using Jack to escape a isolated abusive home. She was willing to be faithful to him for his kindness to her.
    Festus' interest grew over the episode so that in the end, after she saved his life, he chose to watch over her. (This was the beginning of the romantic relationship between he and April that would last quite a long time.)

    3) Both Chester and Festus were poor and from a Hillbilly (or a partial hillbilly) background. Which was portrayed as being a bit slow.
    Chester had to take on extra jobs to make enough money for the plans he had for his Uncle Sunday. He was unable to make enough money and kept being fired for things because he wasn't able to understand certain basic things (e.g., remembering metal gets hot in fire, not insulting customers and telling them it would be better if they wouldn't buy what they wanted, etc.)
    Chester had a recognizable hillbilly accent.

    Festus clearly stated that he was slow when he was found in the barn and hadn't shot Matt. Even Jack insults him as being incompetent as a criminal.
    Festus used the dry-land dialect, which actually stems more from the influence of the Volga Germans (Germans from Russia) than the Appalachian Scots-Irish dialect. He does use the Irish spelling of Haggen (not the German one of Hagen).

    5) Both had comic aspects to their character as illustrated by:
    The fire Chester caused in Quint's blacksmith shop.

    Festus' tall tale of when he was a baby with big ears and teeth.

    6) Both expressed passionate emotions about things to their uncles.
    Chester explaining his feelings of shame because of his uncle's criminal activities.

    Festus explaining how angry and hurt he was over Fergus' death and how he blamed Jack.

    7) Both reconciled (to a certain extent) with their uncles in the end.
    Chester helped Sunday capture crooks, then bought happily his uncle a drink when Sunday agreed to leave town and never come back.

    When Jack died, Festus smoothed the hair on his uncle's brow with tender affection. Even though he wanted to kill Jack, it was obvious that he still loved his uncle. He made sure Jack had a proper funeral in the end.

    8 ) What open doors were the characters left with?
    Chester now had hope that he could one day not be ashamed of his uncle and have a relationship with him after years of shunning him.

    Festus had come to a cross roads in his life where he might chose a different way than the crimes his family seemed perpetually involved in. Matt indicated that April would be a factor in the decision that Festus would make.
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  • Avatar of dodgehouse

    dodgehouse

    [2]Aug 18, 2005
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    .
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  • Avatar of vttbotsea

    vttbotsea

    [3]Aug 21, 2005
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    I`ve come to appreciate Chester more now. Festus can get to be too much at times. It was sad to watch him walking down the boardwalk for the last time earlier this week. I really liked the Quint character, too. Though the Indian hate episodes are tiresome.
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  • Avatar of fhfan

    fhfan

    [4]Aug 31, 2005
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    I still like Festus more, but I do have a appreciation for Chester.

    Unlike Matt, who complained that he didn't know anything except for being a lawman (one of the reasons he repeatedly used for him not retiring, and untrue, because he did droving and such in his past according to some of the episodes), both Chester and Festus were multitalented. If they ceased to be a lawman, they had other skills they could rely on to make a living.

    I also felt that both Chester and Festus showed their emotions better than Matt, which appeals to me.

    I would like to see more of the early Chester (1/2-hours). He was seemed to be getting rather impatient and grumpy toward the end. I wonder if this was the same as the beginning or not.
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  • Avatar of linguy1

    linguy1

    [5]Sep 5, 2005
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    For those of us who were introduced to Gunsmoke during the half-hour shows during the first six seasons, Matt, Chester, Doc, and Kitty will always be our favorite Dodge City citizens.

    I told Dennis Weaver awhile back that after he left Gunsmoke the show wasn't as good, in my opinion. He seemed to appreciate my appreciation for his contribution to the show, but I felt his view of those years was that it was for him a training ground for better roles that would come later on. Although I have regretted the departure of important characters from quite a number of television series, I can appreciate the actor's reasons for wanting to move on to "bigger and better things".

    Ken Curtis was an excellent actor and made an unmistakable mark on the legend of the series Gunsmoke, but for me the original actors and actress will always hold fond memories of my growing up as a child of the 1950s.
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  • Avatar of Tascosa

    Tascosa

    [6]Sep 5, 2005
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    linguy, with all due respect, I am also a child of the 1950's who grew up with the half hour episodes, and Chester is not one of my favorite Dodge city citizens. I prefer Festus to the often whining Chester. I thought the show improved greatly with Festus replacing Chester as Marshal Dillon's sidekick.
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  • Avatar of tinytim13

    tinytim13

    [7]Sep 6, 2005
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    tas...who cares what you think
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  • Avatar of Tascosa

    Tascosa

    [8]Sep 6, 2005
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    tinytim...if you're gonna hang with the grownups, try acting like one and not like kansastar, dodgehouse or ronzoni.
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  • Avatar of fhfan

    fhfan

    [9]Sep 7, 2005
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    And yet another difference. . .

    In at least one episode, Chester due to time, said to leave the dead body unburied.

    Festus never left bodies unburied. Not only did he say so, (beginning of episode 426. Mad Dog), but an example was in episode 623. Island in the Desert (2), when he buried his hated prisoner, Gard Dixon. Dixon had tried to kill Festus repeatedly. He also tried to kill Ben Snow. Dixon died leaving them with no water in the desert and a potentially long ways from more water. Even despite Ben's complaints of how the burial would be a waste of sweat (precious water needed in Festus' body when they had none to replenish), Festus had to bury his enemy.
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  • Avatar of linguy1

    linguy1

    [10]Sep 11, 2005
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    Come to think of it, Tascosa, Chester got a flesh wound in one of the 3rd season shows (#86 - Born To Hang?) and did quite a bit of whining while Doc was trying to patch him up.

    I like Chester best when the script writers don't make him whiney, Doc when he's not so grouchy (see the first season for Mr. Grouch), and Kitty when she can handle her own (in most cases she does). As for Festus, I like his early character in the B&W hour episodes when he was more of a gunman.

    Matt? Well, Matt is always Matt, bless his heart!

    By the way, where is Tascosa? I can't find it on any maps.
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  • Avatar of ronzoni

    ronzoni

    [11]Sep 11, 2005
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    It's a dirt spot in Texas
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  • Avatar of fhfan

    fhfan

    [12]Sep 12, 2005
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    Anywhere near the Hill Country? Or mayby near Altus?
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  • Avatar of kansastar

    kansastar

    [13]Sep 13, 2005
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    Your wrong ronzoni, it's more like a grease spot
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  • Avatar of ronzoni

    ronzoni

    [14]Sep 13, 2005
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    LOL, right, sorry
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  • Avatar of dandeer

    dandeer

    [15]Sep 13, 2005
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    Festus hands down, as the man had so many talents.
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  • Avatar of Trampas24

    Trampas24

    [16]Sep 13, 2005
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    Chester was the better character simply because he was more realistic. He was one of the original characters on both the radio and TV versions of Gunsmoke and was created precisely because he fit in with the other 3 and lent just the right balance.

    Festus would not have existed if Dennis Weaver had not left the show and they felt compelled to find some character to replace him (frankly, I've always thought they'd have been wiser to just NOT replace him). Festus was more of a clown than anything else and his repetitious shtick got very tiresome and irritating pretty quickly. On a few occasions, when he was the central character in the story, Curtis would tone the character down and flesh him out more; Festus was a much better character on those occassions, but they were few and far between (the best Festus episode is the two-parter "Island in the Dessert" with Strother Martin.

    Finally, Weaver was 10 times the actor Curtis ever was; he was a professionally trained actor who went on to play many roles that were just as compelling and convincing as Chester. Curtis never did that. He was really a singer with the Sons of the Pioneers and got started in John Ford westerns before he played Festus. He did his Festus shtick as early as "The Searchers" and later on a couple of episodes of "Have Gun - Will Travel."

    I read a lot of posts here and elsewhere by people who just love Festus; I have to believe they haven't watched many episodes earlier than the color years or many half-hour classics (the best years of Gunsmoke, IMO), or just don't really get Gunsmoke at all.

    Finally,
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  • Avatar of fhfan

    fhfan

    [17]Sep 13, 2005
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    Nice points.

    However, it is a matter of taste and interest. I frankly like the Festus character more than the Chester character. I have a lot of reasons why and I have seen enough of the B&W's to make a reasoned decision.

    I think it would have been interesting if the switch to Colors did not happen, along with the writer, production, etc. changes which altered how GS was presented. I think more of the serious Festus might have come through.

    Either way, it reminds me of my opinion on licorice.

    I loathe the taste of licorice. However, the less I eat, the more for those who love it.
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  • Avatar of linguy1

    linguy1

    [18]Sep 13, 2005
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    It's often hard to accept the replacement cast in a show as well as you did the original ones. I find the same problem with popular recordings - the original recording seems to beat out the remakes 90% of the time. I liked the original Darren on Bewitched...the original guys on Dragnet...Bonanza with all three brothers...Wagon Train with Ward Bond...Maverick with both brothers...and most shows when they were B&W, before they switched to color...etc.

    If you don't agree, that's just fine. The world would be a boring place if we all agreed.
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  • Avatar of Trampas24

    Trampas24

    [19]Sep 13, 2005
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    fhfan wrote:
    Nice points.

    However, it is a matter of taste and interest. I frankly like the Festus character more than the Chester character. I have a lot of reasons why and I have seen enough of the B&W's to make a reasoned decision.

    I think it would have been interesting if the switch to Colors did not happen, along with the writer, production, etc. changes which altered how GS was presented. I think more of the serious Festus might have come through.

    Either way, it reminds me of my opinion on licorice.

    I loathe the taste of licorice. However, the less I eat, the more for those who love it.


    Very nicely said; can't argue with that. Thanks.
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  • Avatar of gunsmokefan

    gunsmokefan

    [20]Sep 13, 2005
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    In the earlier appearances of Festus he was, (for him) more down to earth. Later with the color ep he seemed to change. As once was put by someone on this forum "a buffoon". As I remember, my family and friends grew tired of him fast, he became very irritating. As I look again at some of the ep today, and see how Matt, Kitty and Doc react to some of his actions, and "yarns", I wonder how much of those disgusted facial expressions from the other three were real, rather than acting, especially Matt and Doc. There was a period where it almost became the "Festus Show", where he was in ep 80-90% of the time. I understand there are many out there who liked his character, if not, I'm sure he would have faded from sight.
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