Gunsmoke's Trafton debuted on Monday night, October 25, 1971. Familiar Gunsmoke guest star Victor French plays the title character, a savage killer whose deadly encounter with a Catholic priest leaves him shaken and confused. Series star James Arness is also joined in the cast by Sharon Acker, Paul Stevens, Philip Carey, Marie Windsor, Mike Mazurki, Patti Cohoon and Manuel Padilla Jr.
CBS-TV's Gunsmoke (1955-75) blazed new horizons on the small screen. The 1971 episode "Trafton" guest stars Victor French as a vicious gunfighter on the lam who comes to Dodge City to see a woman he knew ten years ago.
Gunsmoke's Trafton: Cast & Credits
Ron Bishop penned the teleplay for "Trafton," with Bernard McEveety 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)
- Trafton (Victor French)
- Tereese Farrell (Sharon Acker)
- Reverend English (Paul Stevens)
- Bannion (Philip Carey)
- Mary K. (Marie Windsor)
- Whale (Mike Mazurki)
- Maria Farrell (Patti Cohoon)
- Manuel (Manuel Padilla Jr.)
- Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
- Nathan Burke (Ted Jordan)
- Capps (Clay Tanner)
- Prew (Fred Stromsoe)
- Brant (Bill Catching)
- Priest (John Dullaghan)
- Storekeeper (Jon Lormer)
- Banker (Bert Madrid)
Victor French (1934-1989) as Isaiah Edwards on Little House on the Prairie (1974-83) - NBC-TV
Trafton: Episode Synopsis
An outlaw named Trafton and his three buddies shoot up a town in Cascabel, New Mexico Territory, in an attempted robbery. When the safe they eyed proves empty, Trafton enters a Catholic church where he gathers up an array of solid gold religious artifacts. A priest catches him in the act, with Trafton shooting him. Just before the priest dies, he makes a bloody cross on Trafton's forehead, telling him, "I forgive you."
In Dodge City Matt receives a telegram to proceed to New Mexico and apprehend Trafton and his gang, who had also murdered the sheriff. One of Trafton's gang has been killed (by Trafton himself), with the other two captured. That leaves Trafton alone, with Matt picking up his trail at a dive called the Mary K. Saloon.
Trafton heads to Dodge City. Here he meets up with dressmaker Tereese Farrell, whom he had raped some ten years earlier. She now has a daughter Maria who is almost 11-years-old, with Trafton putting two and two together. Meanwhile, Matt believes Trafton is now in Dodge or somewhere close. When the Reverend English finds Matt at the Long Branch, he tells him about a strange man who had entered the church and tried to give him looted religious artifacts.
Trafton: Air Date & Network Competition
"Trafton" aired over CBS on Monday night, October 25, 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).
Trafton: Analysis & Review
Victor French (1934-1989) is one of the big names in Gunsmoke guest star history, having appeared in 23 episodes from 1966 to 1975. In "Trafton" French garners one of his most memorable roles, playing a cold-blooded gunfighter whose tiny spark of humanity is kindled after he guns down a Catholic priest, who blesses the outlaw before dying and mutters, "I forgive you."
The Trafton character is one of the most interesting villains ever to grace the Gunsmoke saga. We learn that he's an embittered Civil War veteran, having rode with Bloody Bill Anderson and his Confederate guerillas. Trafton also did ten years in Folsom Prison, with the initials "F.P." crudely branded into his right forearm. To be sure Trafton is one mean bastard, first killing the priest and then one of his own gang members. Trafton is also a rapist, having sexually assaulted young Tereese Farrell over ten years ago.
Victor French is pure dynamite as the evil Trafton, whose life is briefly transformed after the outlaw's encounter with the dying priest. When Trafton catches his fellow gang members trying to make off with the gold items he had looted from the Catholic Church, he confronts them with a rifle and orders them into the river. One guy pleads he can't swim, with Trafton replying that it's "easier than dying." The man foolishly goes for his gun, and Trafton deftly plugs him with a fatal gut shot.
Victor French is joined by a fine supporting cast. Marie Windsor (1919-2000) plays a bawdy saloon owner named Mary K., who envisions a showdown between Trafton and Matt Dillon, telling her barkeep, "I wouldn't mind havin' a seat in a tree when them two come together." Sharon Acker (1935-) is outstanding as the terrified dressmaker Tereese Farrell and towering 6'5" Mike Mazurki (1907-1990) is memorable as Whale, a bartender at the Mary K. who comes within an eyelash of having his remains scraped up by a rake after Trafton threatens him with his own shotgun.
"Trafton" is one of Gunsmoke's more adult episodes. The rape of Tereese Farrell in an alley by a drunken Trafton a decade ago – and the child that was subsequently borne by the "disgraced" Tereese – constitute serious adult themes. Tereese had become something of a pariah, eventually coming to Dodge with her daughter under the guise that her husband had been killed in a stampede.
"I killed a whole lot of men, but no more," Trafton tells Tereese. He knows his days are numbered, however, as he completes his own death wish in the dusty streets of Dodge when Matt Dillon guns him down. As Matt and Festus look on, the dying Trafton declares, "I forgive."
"Trafton" hails from Gunsmoke's 17th season and is episode #546 of 635 in the series. "Trafton" was preceded in the Gunsmoke legacy by "The Legend" (10/18/71) starring Kim Hunter and Jan-Michael Vincent. Look for "Trafton" on YouTube.
- Gunsmoke's Dodge City logo - CBS-TV
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.