Gunsmoke's Captain Sligo: Richard Basehart, Salome Jens & Royal Dano Guest Star

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Gunsmoke's Captain Sligo premiered on Monday night, January 4, 1971, over CBS-TV. Richard Basehart plays Captain Aron Sligo, a hard-drinking whaling captain who comes to Dodge City to build his nautical-themed dream house. Regulars James Arness, Milburn S

CBS-TV's Gunsmoke was the small screen's longest-running western. The 1971 episode "Captain Sligo" features Richard Basehart in the title role, a boisterious whaling captain who comes to Dodge City to build his dream house in the country.

Gunsmoke's Captain Sligo: Cast & Credits

William Kelley authored the teleplay for "Captain Sligo," with William Conrad serving as director. The portly Conrad had actually played Matt Dillon on the radio version of Gunsmoke (1952-61). Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
  • Doc Adams (Milburn Stone)
  • Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake)
  • Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis)
  • Captain Aron Sligo (Richard Basehart)
  • Josephine Burney (Salome Jens)
  • Watney (Royal Dano)
  • Leonard (Stacy Harris)
  • Blacksmith (Robert Totten)
  • Tim Burney (Bobby Eilbacher)
  • Anne Burney (Geri Reischl)
  • Bartender (Larry Finley)
  • Trail Boss (Matt Emery)
  • Cowboy (Brian Foley)
  • Tanner (Boyd "Red" Morgan)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Tobin (Fred Stromsoe)
  • Rackley (Troy Melton)
  • Vern (Bob Herron)

Richard Basehart as he appeared in the 1960s -

Captain Sligo: Episode Synopsis

Having sold his whaling ship, Captain Aron Sligo has come west to Kansas, bringing his former bosun's mate Watney with him. Watney has preceded the good Irish captain, currently at work building Sligo's dream house on the 100th meridian outside of Dodge City.

At Hoxey's Station, Captain Sligo – with his bison in tow – jaws with the local blacksmith. Sligo then enters the saloon where he encounters three roughnecks. Believing that the men are about to relieve him of his sizable bankroll, Sligo goes into action, dispensing of the cowboys with his trusty walking stick. With the unconscious trio sufficiently hog-tied and slung over a wagon, Sligo enters Dodge City where he turns the men over to Doc Adams and Marshal Dillon.

Sligo is building his new home, complete with a crow's nest, just a stone throw's from the front porch of Jo Burney, a young widow with a son and daughter. Sligo intends to marry Josephine, making plain that he expects her to give him ten sons. (Does the man actually think that she can determine the babies' sex?) Meanwhile, the former whaling captain turned novice rancher has paid $7 a head for 500 Texas cattle, unaware that they are infected with tick fever.

Captain Sligo: Air Date & Competition

"Captain Sligo" aired over CBS on Monday night, January 4, 1971, in the 7:30-8:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition that winter evening was The Young Lawyers (ABC) and The Red Skelton Show and the politically incorrect Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC). 

Captain Sligo: Analysis & Review

"Captain Sligo" represents one of Gunsmoke's "ethnic" episodes. Richard Basehart (1914-1984) garners the title role of Captain Aron Sligo, an Irish whaling captain out of Boston who sells his ship and retires from the sea, settling just outside of Dodge City on his newly purchased ranch. Basehart's Sligo dominates the episode, still dressed in sea captain mode and wielding a mean walking stick as he upsets the locals with his unorthodox ways. 

Veteran character actor Royal Dano (1922-1994) plays the skanky, one-eyed Watney, Captain Sligo's longtime bosun's mate who seems as much out of water as Sligo himself. Salome Jens (1935-) appears as Jo Burney, the good captain's love interest who has trouble warming to her brash, seafaring suitor.

"Captain Sligo" is big on character but weak on story development. TV western fans who love a good saloon brawl, however, will appreciate this episode, as Sligo – flashing that fearsome walking stick of his – engages in not one but two knock-down drag-out bar fights. Bodies fly, tables are upended and mirrors broken as the two-fisted Irishman makes quick work of his cowpoke opponents. 

The segment ends with the once reluctant widow Burney accepting Captain Sligo's marriage proposal. Seeing as how Sligo wants ten sons – minus the one Burney boy already here of course – no doubt the future Mrs. Sligo is in for one hell of a child-bearing experience. I believe the sexist, antiquated term is "barefoot and pregnant," but for crying out loud, Sligo, let the poor woman come up for air!

Richard Basehart's Irish brogue is quite good, but after listening to it for an hour one has had his or her fill of the Captain Sligo character. Sligo is a loud, crude, obnoxious, sexist, hard-drinking Irish son of a gun who probably should have stayed on his whaling ship, giving chase to Moby Dick or whatever.

"Captain Sligo" hails from Gunsmoke's 16th season and is episode #531 of 635 in the series. "Captain Sligo" was preceded by the episode "Jenny" (12/28/70). "Captain Sligo" can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube. 

Top Image

  • Gunsmoke's memorable Dodge City, Kansas - CBS-TV

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.