Gunsmoke's Tycoon Episode: Shug Fisher & Nora Marlowe Guest Star

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Gunsmoke's Tycoon premiered over CBS on Monday night, January 25, 1971. Ken Curtis as grizzled Festus Haggen has the spotlight, inheriting $500 and going into business with the shifty Titus. Regulars James Arness, Milburn Stone and Amanda Blake are joined

CBS-TV's Gunsmoke (1955-75) represents one of television's classic westerns. The 1971 episode "Tycoon" centers on Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis), who goes into the freight business with scruffy Titus (Shug Fisher) and almost ends up married at the business end of a shotgun.

Gunsmoke's Tycoon: Cast & Credits

Robert Vincent Wright wrote the teleplay for "Tycoon," with Bernard McEveety 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)
  • Titus (Shug Fisher)
  • Ma Fowler (Nora Marlowe)
  • Dora Lou Fowler (Gwynne Gilford)
  • Moody Fowler (John Beck)
  • Amos Fowler (James Minotto)
  • Clarence Carver (Herman Poppe)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Nathan Burke (Ted Jordan)
  • Henry Folsom (Walker Edmiston)
  • Parson Mueller (Charles Wagenheim)

Character actor George Clinton "Shug" Fisher - CBS-TV

Tycoon: Episode Synopsis

At the Long Branch Saloon Festus Haggen totes in the mail for Matt, Doc and Miss Kitty. To his surprise there's a letter for him from an attorney in San Francisco. It seems old Festus had loaned a fellow named Petey $10, with the man later hitting it big in the California gold fields. Petey has passed away but didn't forget Festus' act of kindness, willing him $500 with the estate check enclosed.

Festus decides to put his money to work, becoming partners with the shady Titus. For $402, Festus is now 50% owner of the Titus and Haggen Freight Company, with Titus stating that he has found a shorter route to Denver. One problem: the new route passes through Ma Fowler's place, who demands a toll fee from all who travel through her property.

Believing that Festus is wealthy, Ma tries to set up her daughter Dora Lou with Dodge City's latest "tycoon." Dora Lou, however, only has eyes for farmer Clarence Carver, setting up a confrontation between Clarence and Festus.

Tycoon: Air Date & Network Competition

"Tycoon" aired over CBS on Monday night, January 25, 1971, in the 7:30-8:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition that fine evening was The Young Lawyers (ABC) and The Red Skelton Show and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC). 

Tycoon: Analysis & Review

Humor was an integral part of Gunsmoke, with the TV western devoting a number of episodes to comedy. When the banjos, tubas, baritones and washboards start playing music like it came from The Beverly Hillbillies, then you know for sure that you're watching a Gunsmoke comedy.

Ken Curtis (1916-1991) as the illiterate, bewhiskered Festus Haggen takes front and center in "Tycoon," inheriting the princely sum of $500 from a deceased gold miner. Taking Doc's financial advice, Festus decides to invest his money, bankrolling a new freight business with partner Titus. The latter claims a new, shorter route to Denver, with the two partners smelling greenbacks.

Noted character actor Shug Fisher (1907-1984), who along with friend Ken Curtis was a past member of the vaunted Sons of the Pioneers singing group, plays Titus, a shifty Dodge City mainstay who talks ol' Festus into investing in his new freight company. Fisher's Titus is a shady one, naming the new business the Titus and Haggen Freight Company, with his name going first as per "alphabetical order." The hapless Festus, of course, doesn't know better as he can't read.

Nora Marlowe (1915-1977) appears as Ma Fowler, delivering one of her patented loud, pushy, domineering female type roles. John Beck and James Minotto play the grubby, ignorant backwoods Fowler boys, with pretty Gwynne Gilford bedecked in her long flowing dark locks acing her role as the "available" Dora Lou.

"Tycoon" is a little short on story but long on character. Ken Curtis fans will love this segment, as Curtis' Festus is given a little more room to roam, dressing up in his new fancy duds complete with top hat, battling new business partner Titus and even winding up in bed with young Dora Lou. The latter, an innocent misunderstanding – yeah, aren't they all? – earns ol' Festus the business end of Moody Fowler's shotgun and an invitation to a wedding – his own. Well, the Dodge City deputy U.S. marshal could do far worse.

"Tycoon" hails from Gunsmoke's 16th season and is episode #533 of 635 in the series. "Tycoon" was preceded by another Ken Curtis-dominated Gunsmoke episode "Mirage" (1/11/71). "Tycoon" is comedy while "Mirage" is serious drama. Watch "Tycoon" for laughs – or maybe tune into a rerun of The Beverly Hillbillies instead. Really, there isn't much difference...

Top Image

  • Ken Curtis, left, and James Arness in Gunsmoke - CBS-TV

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

1 comment

Roberta Baxter
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Posted on Feb 21, 2012