Gunsmoke (1955-75) reigned supreme among TV westerns. The 1971 episode "My Brother's Keeper" guest stars John Dierkes as a dying Sioux Indian who is rescued by Festus Haggen and brought to Dodge City.
Gunsmoke's My Brother's Keeper: Cast & Credits
Howard Dimsdale wrote the teleplay for "My Brother's Keeper," with Paul Stanley directing. 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)
- Dr. John Chapman (Pat Hingle)
- Old Indian (John Dierkes)
- Sarah Mather (Pippa Scott)
- Cob (Malcolm Atterbury)
- Squawman (Charles McGraw)
- Mandy Mather (Dana Laurita)
- Preacher (Ray Reinhardt)
- Ma Smalley (Sarah Selby)
- Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
- Halligan (Charles Wagenheim)
- Kroll (Boyd "Red" Morgan)
- Woman (Donna DeLacey)
- Wagon Driver (Jack Lilley)
- Long Branch Saloon Dealer (Bert Madrid)
- Townsman (Max Wagner)
John Dierkes (1905-1975) - CBS-TV
My Brother's Keeper: Episode Synopsis
During a raging thunderstorm Festus Haggen takes refuge in a cave. Here he finds an old Sioux Indian with his death blanket, who was left to die by his own people. Festus defies the ancient custom and takes the Indian back to Dodge City. Dr. Chapman examines the man, proclaiming him to be around 90-years-old and fading rapidly.
Festus tries to care of the Indian while working part time for store owner Sarah Mather, whose young daughter Mandy is ill. The Indian sits outside of Sarah's sewing store along with Sarah's aging father Mr. Cob, who is confined to a wheelchair. Matt believes that Festus should have left the Indian in the cave while Kitty disagrees.
The Indian refuses to eat and take the pills Dr. Chapman has prescribed. Eventually, Festus takes the man back to the cave where he can presumably die according to Sioux religious practices.
My Brother's Keeper: Air Date & Network Competition
"My Brother's Keeper" was aired over CBS on Monday night, November 15, 1971, in the 8-9 PM (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening was the sitcom Nanny and the Professor starring Richard Long and Juliet Mills and local programming (ABC) and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC).
My Brother's Keeper: Analysis & Review
"My Brother's Keeper" is a different kind of Gunsmoke episode, one centering on ancient Sioux religious customs. Tall, gaunt John Dierkes (1905-1975) – who doesn't utter a word in the entire segment – plays an old Indian left to die in a cave as per Sioux custom. Along comes Festus Haggen, whom Matt describes as "not having a cruel bone in his body," who rescues the man from his fate.
All does not go well, with Festus trying to return the Indian to his own people. They refuse to accept the old man, with a white Squawman – ably played by Charles McGraw (1914-1980) – telling Festus that he and the Indian better leave at once before the Sioux kill both of them for violating their customs.
The old Indian doesn't fare very well in Dodge either. A reformed drummer-turned-preacher comes to town, making an example of the old Sioux as a "savage" who should be on his knees in fear of the Lord. And when the Indian gathers up the ill Mandy Mather and dunks the little girl in a horse trough, thus breaking her fever and saving her life, he's promptly attacked by several hot-headed citizens.
Kudos to Pippa Scott (1935-) who plays the harried working single mom Sarah Mather and to Malcolm Atterbury (1907-1992) as Grandpa Cob, whose character forms a silent bond with the old Indian, as both of them have seen their better days. A special tip of the cowboy hat goes to Dana Laurito (1964-) as little Mandy Mather, who makes for one of the cutest Old West kids in the entire Gunsmoke series.
"My Brother's Keeper" ends with the old Indian finally getting his wish and passing away peacefully in the cave with his death blanket nearby. But truthfully, the old guy was hardly in "dying" condition, still able to walk on his own, strong enough to carry a little girl and apparently in full control of his faculties – making him better off than about 99% of patients in nursing homes today.
"My Brother's Keeper" comes from Gunsmoke's 17th season and is episode #549 of 635 in the series. "My Brother's Keeper" can be seen in its entirety on YouTube and other Internet venues.
- Ken Curtis, left, and James Arness in Gunsmoke - CBS-TV
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All right reserved.