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Gunsmoke's Drago TV Episode: Buddy Ebsen & Ben Johnson Guest Star

Gunsmoke's Drago premiered over CBS on Monday night, November 22, 1971. When a woman is murdered Buddy Ebsen as Drago takes up the trail with his dog Hound, tracking the Hannon gang and preparing to mete out justice frontier style. Regulars James Arness and Buck Taylor are also joined in the cast by Ben Johnson, Edward Faulkner, Del Monroe, Rick Gates and Mitchell Silberman.

CBS-TV's Gunsmoke (1955-75) ranged far and wide on the small screen. The 1971 episode "Drago" guest stars Buddy Ebsen in the title role, a legendary mountain man who tracks down the Hannon gang after they killed a woman and injured a young boy.

Gunsmoke's Drago: Cast & Credits

Jim Byrnes wrote the teleplay for "Drago," with Paul Stanley directing the action. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
  • Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
  • Dr. Chapman (Pat Hingle)
  • Drago (Buddy Ebsen)
  • Hannon (Ben Johnson)
  • Trask (Edward Faulkner)
  • Flagg (Del Monroe)
  • Gillis (Rick Gates)
  • Clara (Tani Phelps Guthrie)
  • Sheepherder (Jim Skaggs)
  • Larry (Larry Randles)
  • Ruben (Mitchell Silberman)

Buddy Ebsen (1908-2003) - biography.com

Drago: Episode Synopsis

The notorious Hannon gang is on the loose, having burned a town to the ground and now hightailing it to The Nations. They come to a farm looking for fresh horses where they are met by a rifle-toting Clara. They initially disarm her, but when Clara once again brandishes the Winchester Hannon shoots her dead. Also injured in the scuffle is Clara's young boy Ruben, who is knocked unconscious after hitting his head.

Drago, a legendary mountain man and friend of the family, comes running where he confronts the gang, shooting at them as they flee the murder scene. Marshal Matt Dillon and a posse later show up, with Matt summoning Dr. Chapman from Dodge City to tend to the injured boy. Matt has to leave for Hayes, where his testimony in a court case is a matter of life and death. He deputizes a reluctant Drago, who wishes to track the gang all by his lonesome.

Drago and his dog Hound take up the trail of the Hannon gang. They are later joined by Newly O'Brian and two other men. Drago is bound and determined to kill the outlaw who murdered the woman, and apparently plans to take no prisoners in his quest.

Drago: Air Date & Network Competition 

"Drago" debuted on Monday night, November 22, 1971, in the 8-9 PM (ET) time slot. Network competition was Nanny and the Professor starring Richard Long and Juliet Mills and local programming (ABC) and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC).

Drago: Analysis & Review

Revenge has always been a familiar theme in TV westerns. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth – well, you get the biblical picture. In "Drago," Buddy Ebsen (1908-2003) plays the designated avenger, a famous mountain man who follows the trail of a fleeing gang of outlaws, hell-bent on making them pay for the murder of a woman. Ebsen is brilliant in the role, playing the old, cagey backwoodsman whose sense of justice and retribution was honed on the American frontier. 

When Matt Dillon wants to deputize Drago and incorporate him into the posse, the mountain man replies, "I was kind of figurin' on runnin' down those wild hogs myself, Marshal." And Drago means it, as he initially sets out on his own with the posse eventually catching him up to him. Drago springs a trap on an outlaw named Flagg, who was left behind because his horse went lame. Drago shoots him dead, later telling Newly that the man went for a gun even though Drago had him stone cold. 

The three remaining gang members are later rounded up, including the leader Hannon who had shot the woman. With Newly asleep, Drago releases Hannon, giving the man a head start before he and Hound began tracking him. Hannon takes refuge in a ghost town, barricading himself inside a saloon. Drago shows up and later Newly as well, with the latter trying to spirit Hannon back to Dodge because he knows Drago plans to kill the outlaw. Drago has Hannon in his sights, but when Newly brings up the subject of the injured boy being cared for by Dr. Chapman, he backs off when he realizes the kid needs him.

Ben Johnson (1918-1996) turns in an excellent performance as the outlaw leader Hannon, with Edward Faulkner, Del Monroe and Rick Gates equally good as members of his gang. Special kudos go to Mitchell Silberman as the little boy and the uncredited dog who plays the relentless Hound. The dog is really quite good, snarling on cue, baring his teeth at the bad guys, expertly sniffing out the trail and even offering his paw in friendship to the little boy at the end. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

"Drago" comes from Gunsmoke's 17th season and is episode #550 of 635 in the series. "Drago" was preceded in the Gunsmoke legacy by "My Brother's Keeper" (11/15/71) starring John Dierkes and Pippa Scott. 

Top Image

  • Gunsmoke's Dodge City logo - CBS-TV

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

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Comments (1)

I think I remember this one!

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