There’s only one Gunsmoke episode where Chester, Quint and Festus all appear
Another rare occurrence — Festus gets a shave!
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Very few television shows can say they lasted for 20 years, even fewer that were primetime scripted dramas. The classic Western Gunsmoke can make that claim, airing 635 episodes from 1955-1975.
Over the course of its run, the stories about Matt Dillon and company in Dodge City, Kansas, went through many iterations. The show evolved from a 30-minute program to a full hour and, like so many series on TV in the mid-1960s, switched to color. Cast members also came and went.
Burt Reynolds enjoyed a three-year stint in the early ’60s as Quint Asper before becoming a movie star. Dennis Weaver, who played Marshal Dillon’s trusty sidekick, Chester, from the very beginning, left the show after season nine to free up time for other projects. In 1964, a new character joined the show to help Matt keep the peace. Technically, Festus Haggen was introduced the year before in the one-off episode “Us Haggens.” But it wasn’t until season nine that actor Ken Curtis became a regular part of the cast.
Festus was perfectly suited to fill in as Matt’s funny yet dedicated right-hand man. The writers of Gunsmoke made the unique decision to have the character leaving the show and the new one taking his place appear together. In “Prairie Wolfer” (the first episode by that name, not to be confused with a similarly named episode in season ten), Festus arrives in Dodge riding a mule and using a horse to carry his wolf furs, as only Festus would. Though people in his line of work are generally looked down upon, Matt and Chester welcome him with open arms, no doubt hoping audiences would too.
Festus visits the barbershop for a bath and a shave (another unique thing about this episode) and eventually helps Matt find out why cattle in the area are being killed. Though it ends with Festus riding out of Dodge City, he hints that he’ll soon be coming back.
This isn’t the last episode to feature both Chester and Festus, and Quint Asper wouldn’t leave the show for another year. However, this is the only installment of Gunsmoke that features all three — Chester, Festus and Quint — not to mention the rest of the core cast, Miss Kitty and Doc Adams!
Another fun fact about “Prairie Wolfer”? It stars Holly McIntire, daughter of prolific character actress Jeanette Nolan (who once played Festus' Aunt Thede on Gunsmoke) and Wagon Train’s John McIntire. She acted for a brief period in the 1960s, appearing in Perry Mason, Rawhide, Dr. Kildare and Wagon Train alongside her father.