Gunsmoke's Blood Money TV Episode: Anthony Zerbe & Nehemiah Persoff Guest Star
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Gunsmoke's Blood Money TV Episode: Anthony Zerbe & Nehemiah Persoff Guest Star

Gunsmoke's Blood Money was telecast on January 22, 1968. Noted character actor Anthony Zerbe plays Nick Skouras, a hired gunslinger whose own father has disowned him because of his son's deadly profession. Nehemiah Persoff, Donna Baccala, James Arness, Milburn Stone, Ken Curtis, Buck Taylor, James Anderson, Mills Watson, James Nusser and Hank Brandt also appear.

TV's Gunsmoke rode the wild range from 1955 to 1975. The 1968 episode "Blood Money" stars Anthony Zerbe as Nick Skouras, a skilled gunfighter whose occupation shames his Greek immigrant father (Nehemiah Persoff).

Gunsmoke's Blood Money: Cast & Credits

Hal Sitowitz wrote "Blood Money" for the small screen, with Robert Totten 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)
  • Alex Skouras (Nehemiah Persoff)
  • Nick Skouras (Anthony Zerbe)
  • Elenya Skouras (Donna Baccala)
  • Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
  • Jesse Hill (James Anderson)
  • Hank (Hank Brandt)
  • Brent (Mills Watson)
  • Percy Crump (Jonathan Harper a.k.a. Kelton Garwood)
  • Howie (Howard Culver)
  • Saloon Girl (Michelle Breeze)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Louie Pheeters (James Nusser)
  • Jake Walker (Troy Melton)
  • Stu Bradford (Lee de Broux)

Anthony Zerbe as he appeared in the 1960s - CBS-TV

Blood Money: Episode Synopsis

Gunfighter Nick Skouras has come to Dodge City. Two cowboys try their luck with Skouras in a barn, with Nick dispatching of both of them in a lightning-quick draw. Town drunk Louie Pheeters witnesses the killing, telling the law that the two dead men provoked the gunfight.

Nick Skouras' father Alex and sister Elenya are also in Dodge City. The elder Skouras disapproves of his son's profession, marching up the stairs at the Dodge House where he finds Nick sleeping off a bout with the "bottle flu." In a rage Alex Skouras brandishes a knife and plunges it into his son's gun hand, hoping to end Nick's days as a hired gun. Nick refuses to press charges, telling Matt Dillon that the perpetrator was his own father.

With his gun hand permanently crippled, Nick visits gunsmith Newly O'Brian where he's outfitted with a cross-draw holster. But learning to draw with his other hand will take time, something Nick doesn't have as another man and his associates have come to Dodge seeking revenge for the two men Nick had recently killed.

Blood Money: Air Date & Network Competition 

"Blood Money" was telecast over CBS on Monday night, January 22, 1968, in the 7:30-8:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition was Cowboy in Africa starring Chuck Connors (ABC) and The Monkees and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (NBC). The popular sitcom Here's Lucy starring Lucille Ball followed Gunsmoke on CBS that evening.

Blood Money: Analysis & Review

"Blood Money" is a different kind of episode in that it features a Greek-American in the role of a gunfighter. Generally, your average TV western produces a home-grown gunslinger, one who speaks English as if his family has been in America since Plymouth Rock. Not so in this 1968 segment, as Nick Skouras is definitely of Greek heritage, speaking with a pronounced accent and partaking of the cuisine from his homeland. 

The talented Anthony Zerbe (1936-), one of Hollywood's busiest character actors of the era, plays the plum role of Nick Skouras, whose reputation with a gun has followed him to Dodge City. Perhaps the best scene of the episode takes place at the beginning, where Nick is forced into a gunfight with two cowpokes. With a whiskey bottle tucked into the back of his trousers, Nick outdraws the men, sending two fresh bodies to Dodge's resident undertaker Percy Crump. 

Nehemiah Persoff (1919-) appears as Alex Skouras, Nick's papa who hates his son because the latter earns his living as a hired gun. It's painful to watch as the old man takes a knife and sinks it into Nick's gun hand, all the while blabbing about family honor and "blood money."

Donna Baccala (1945-) plays the young Elenya Skouras, Nick's beautiful, raven-haired sister who can't get near an eligible bachelor – such as the available Newly O'Brian – because of Papa's domineering, old country ways. The old man of course needs to lighten up, as a good son-in-law and grandchildren just might be the ticket to erase the permanent scowl that adorns his face.

The ill-fated Nick Scouras meets his end like many TV gunslingers, stretched out in the dust with a bullet wound draining the life from him. And, like most lead characters in this genre, he's accorded his little death speech at the end just before he departs for that great saloon in the sky.

Anthony Zerbe appeared in two more Gunsmoke episodes: "The Noonday Devil" (12/17/70) and "Talbot" (2/26/73). But it's his first Gunsmoke guest role as professional gunslinger Nick Skouras that carries the day.

"Blood Money" hails from Gunsmoke's 13th season and is episode #457 of 635. The 1968 segment is often referred to as "Blood Money/II," not to be confused with Gunsmoke's first "Blood Money" segment of September 28, 1957, which features a different plot.

Top Image

  • Gunsmoke TV logo - CBS-TV

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


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Comments (1)

I grew up watching Gun Smoke. I do recall this episode. Thanks for bring up a good childhood memory. I gave this a vote up.