Actor Ken Curtis, who as a youngster worked in his father's Colorado jail and went on to portray a scruffy deputy named Festus on "Gunsmoke," has died. He was 74. Cause of death was unknown.
Curtis replaced Dennis Weaver as Matt Dillon's deputy in 1964 in a role he held until "Gunsmoke" - the most enduring Western series in TV history - went off the air in 1975.Most viewers who knew him as the seedy, unwashed deputy with a droopy hat would probably have been surprised to learn about the actor's previous career - as a big band singer, crooning ballads such as "Love Sends a Little Gift of Roses" after Tommy Dorsey hired him in 1941 to replace Frank Sinatra.
In playing Festus Haggen on "Gunsmoke," Curtis was able to borrow from his own life experiences - his father was sheriff of Las Animas, Colo., when Curtis was a child.