Gunsmoke's Mannon: Steve Forrest in Classic TV Western Episode

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Gunsmoke's Mannon features special guest star Steve Forrest as gunslinger Will Mannon, a former member of Quantrill's Raiders who comes to Dodge City to kill Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness).

The rogue gunfighter played an integral role in many Gunsmoke (1955-75) episodes. Steve Forrest appears as the evil "Mannon" in a classic 1969 episode, a former Quantrill Raider who comes to Dodge City gunning for Matt Dillon.

Gunsmoke's Mannon: Cast & Credits

Ron Bishop wrote the teleplay for "Mannon," with Robert Butler directing. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
  • Doc Adams (Milburn Stone)
  • Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake)
  • Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis)
  • Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
  • Will Mannon (Steve Forrest)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Louie Pheeters (James Nusser)
  • Roy (Roy Barcroft)
  • Barney (Charles Seel)
  • Nathan Burke (Ted Steele)
  • Lathrop (Woody Chambliss)
  • Ed O'Connor (Tom Brown)
  • Halligan (Charles Wagenheim)
  • Howie (Howard Culver)
  • Chris (Michelle Breeze)
  • Townsman (Fred Dale)

Mannon: Episode Synopsis

Notorious gunfighter Will Mannon, a member of Quantrill's Raiders during the American Civil War, shoots Good Samaritan Festus Haggen out on the trail. Leaving the bewhiskered deputy U.S. marshal for dead, Mannon confiscates Festus' mule Ruth and rides into Dodge City. He immediately raises eyebrows at the Dodge House, where he checks in under his real name. Mannon is infamous in Kansas and elsewhere, having slaughtered innocent people while riding with William Quantrill and his Confederate guerillas during the war.

Taking note of Festus' mule, deputy U.S. marshal Newly O'Brian pays a visit to Mannon at the hotel. Mannon refers to the mule as "Old Tanglefoot," denying any knowledge of Festus and his whereabouts. A search party later finds Festus still alive, taking him back to Dodge where Doc Adams tends to his gunshot wound.

With Marshal Dillon away, Mannon proceeds to terrorize Dodge City and its citizens, setting up shop at Kitty Russell's Long Branch Saloon where he refuses to pay for drinks and openly cheats at poker. Newly attempts to confront the gunslinger, but Miss Kitty tells him to back off, stating that two bottles of cheap whiskey aren't worth losing his life over. The sadistic Mannon later pays a late night visit to Miss Kitty, beating her up and leaving her unconscious at the Long Branch.

Will Mannon possesses one of the fastest gun hands ever seen. His mission in Dodge is simple: he's come to kill Matt Dillon. Although the townspeople try to buy off Mannon, the gunfighter pockets the money but refuses to leave, setting the stage for an inevitable showdown with Marshal Dillon.

Mannon: Air Date & Competition

"Mannon," filmed at CBS Studio Center in Hollywood, aired on Monday night, January 20, 1969, in the 7:30-8:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition was The Avengers (ABC) and I Dream of Jeannie and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC).

Mannon: Analysis & Review

Big Steve Forrest (1924-), standing 6'3" tall, appeared in four Gunsmoke episodes, with the notorious gunfighter role one of the hallmarks of his TV western career. Forrest delivers a bravura performance as Will Mannon, a psychotic gunfighter with a lightning quick right hand who comes to Dodge to exact revenge against lawman Matt Dillon. Forrest is brilliant in the role, possessing just the right amount of madness in his eye and demeanor as he terrorizes and intimidates the good people of Dodge.

One of the episode's highlights is Will Mannon's demonstration of his prowess with a six-shooter while downing copious amounts of whiskey. With town drunk Louie Pheeters serving as his flunky, shot glasses are repeatedly tossed into the air, with Mannon shooting them to pieces before they hit the ground. At the Long Branch, bartender Sam Noonan points a loaded shotgun at Mannon, with the gunslinger calmly stating that he will drop Sam before the barkeep can pull the trigger. Miss Kitty believes him, and tells Sam to put down the gun.

The interaction between Kitty and Mannon is priceless, as Kitty attempts to psyche out the gunfighter in his upcoming showdown with Matt Dillon. And Matt does come, slowly riding into town where he is greeted by Louie Pheeters. Louie volunteers to get a rifle – "I ain't had too much," he says – and waylay Mannon from an upstairs window, but Matt tells him to run along and tell Mannon that he's waiting for him.

"Marshal wants to see you outside," Louie informs Mannon at the Long Branch. With the two men facing each other in the street, Matt informs his adversary, "Get out of town, Mannon." But the gunman refuses to leave and guns are drawn, with Mannon dropping Matt Dillon with one shot. But Matt isn't dead, calling out to Mannon and getting off a round while laying in the dust. Matt's bullet hits dead center. With Mannon prostrate in the street, Miss Kitty gets the last word, looking down at the defeated Mannon and declaring of Matt, "Yeah, he is a good man."

"Mannon" is segment #480 in the series and comes from Gunsmoke's season 14, episode 17. Interestingly, Steve Forrest later reprised his role as Will Mannon in the show's first TV reunion movie Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, telecast over CBS on September 26, 1987. Newly released from prison, Mannon comes to Dodge once again seeking revenge against both Matt Dillon and Kitty Russell.

"Mannon" is classic Gunsmoke and is currently available on YouTube in its entirety. But about Steve Forrest's "singing"...

Additional Reading & Top Image

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner


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