Gunsmoke's Jaekel TV Episode: Eric Braeden & Julie Gregg Guest Star

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Gunsmoke's Jaekel debuted on Monday night, February 1, 1971. Eric Braeden plays Carl Jaekel, a deranged ex-con who returns from prison to take up an old romance with the now-married Beth Wilson (Julie Gregg). Regulars James Arness, Amanda Blake, Ken Curti

CBS-TV's Gunsmoke (1955-75) was one of television's first adult westerns. The 1971 episode "Jaekel" guest stars Eric Braeden as Carl Jaekel, a sociopathic ex-con who returns to Dodge City to take up with his old flame Beth Wilson (Julie Gregg). 

Gunsmoke's Jaekel: Cast & Credits

Calvin Clements Jr. wrote the teleplay for "Jaekel" based on a story by True Boardman. Old Gunsmoke hand Bernard McEveety directed the action. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
  • Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake)
  • Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis)
  • Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
  • Carl Jaekel (Eric Braeden)
  • Beth Dormand Wilson (Julie Gregg)
  • Norman Wilson (John Crawford)
  • Penny Wilson (Mia Bendixsen)
  • Dirks (Vic Tayback)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Warden (James Chandler)
  • Doctor (Scott Edmonds)
  • Guard (Bob Golden)
  • Nathan Burke (Ted Jordan)

Eric Braeden, who also acted under his original name of Hans Gudegast - CBS-TV

Jaekel: Episode Synopsis

Carl Jaekel is serving time in prison for murder, having killed Sy Cord who had allegedly insulted his girl. Jaekel receives a pardon after helping the warden put down an escape attempt, making plans to return to Dodge City to resume his romance with Beth Dormand. The guilt-ridden Beth has been writing to Carl for eight years, neglecting to tell him that she's now married and has a young daughter.

Carl returns to Dodge and walks into the Long Branch Saloon, asking for Beth Dormand. Sam, the Long Branch barkeep, informs him that Beth hasn't worked here for years. Miss Kitty takes Carl into her back office, breaking the news that Beth has married farmer Norman Wilson and now has a daughter.

Carl rides out to the Wilson place where he secretly meets with Beth out in the barn. He still wants her, demanding that she leave her husband and run off with him. Horrified, Beth tells him no, but Jaekel is dead set on winning his old girlfriend back at any cost.

Jaekel: Air Date & Network Competition

"Jaekel" hit the airwaves via CBS on Monday night, February 1, 1971, in the 7:30-8:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening when Richard M. Nixon was still in the White House was The Young Lawyers (ABC) and The Red Skelton Show and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC). 

Jaekel: Analysis & Review

Gunsmoke's "Jaekel" bears a strong resemblance to the 1962 movie Cape Fear in which ex-con Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) returns from prison to terrorize his former lawyer (Gregory Peck). The setting may be the Old West this time around, but Mitchum's Cady and Eric Braeden's Carl Jaekel have a lot in common.

German-born Eric Braeden a.k.a. Hans Gudegast (1941-) – still going strong as Victor Newman in the TV soap The Young and the Restless – garners a special guest star appearance as Carl Jaekel. We first meet Jaekel in prison, where he is making plans to depart after receiving a pardon. With no one around, Jaekel places his boot on the stomach wound of a prisoner named Dirks in the infirmary, killing him after the man had lit into Jaekel for his role in busting up an escape attempt.

Braeden's sinister portrayal of the evil Carl Jaekel is one of the best in his long, distinguished career. Jaekel is downright crazy, derisively referring to Beth's husband as "big belly" as he wages his subtle terror campaign against the Wilson family. The ex-con takes pot shots at Norman Wilson one dark night as the latter is making his way to Garden City on business. He also harasses the Wilsons' young daughter Penny, stroking her little dog Skippy while daring her to walk out on a protruding log surrounded by deep water. Jaekel reserves most of his venom for his ex-flame Beth, showing up at night and forcing her to compose a letter informing her husband that she's leaving him.

James Arness as Matt Dillon – one of TV's all-time greatest heroes – suspects Jaekel in the attempted shooting of Norman Wilson. He sends trusted deputy Festus Haggen to keep an eye on the Wilson place. Jaekel, however, waylays Festus and ties him up in the old, abandoned Hill Mine. After refusing to write the aforementioned letter, Beth clubs Jaekel in the head and flees into the old mine with her child. While Jaekel pounds on a supporting beam, threatening to bury them all, Festus breaks loose from his ropes and the two struggle. Matt Dillon and deputy Newly O'Brian show up just in the nick of time, with Matt killing Jaekel with two shots (applause!) right before Jaekel is about to shoot Festus.

Kudos to Julie Gregg (1944-) who winningly plays Jaekel's frightened former girlfriend and to Mia Bendixsen as cute, blond-headed Penny Wilson. The dog who plays Skippy is good also, growling on cue when the evil Carl Jaekel enters the Wilson home. Hey, the dog knows trash when he sees it. 

"Jaekel" comes from Gunsmoke's 16th season and is episode #534 of 635 in the series. It was preceded in the Gunsmoke chronology by the comedic episode "Tycoon" (1/25/71) with guest star Shug Fisher. 

Top Image

  • Gunsmoke's iconic Dodge City TV logo - CBS-TV

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

1 comment

Francina Marie Parks
Posted on Feb 22, 2012