Gunsmoke's Bohannan TV Episode: Richard Kiley & Vincent Van Patten Guest Star
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Gunsmoke's Bohannan TV Episode: Richard Kiley & Vincent Van Patten Guest Star

Gunsmoke's Bohannan debuted on Monday night, September 25, 1972. Richard Kiley guest stars as Brother Bohannan, who brings his faith healing show to Dodge City where he is met with skepticism by Doc Adams. Regulars James Arness, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake and Ken Curtis are also joined in the cast by Linda Marsh, Vince Van Patten and Helen Kleeb.

CBS-TV's Gunsmoke (1955-75) rates as television's longest-running western. The 1972 episode "Bohannan" features Richard Kiley as Brother Bohannan, a faith healer who comes to Dodge City where he's asked to cure a dying boy.

Gunsmoke's Bohannan: Cast & Credits

William Kelley penned the teleplay for "Bohannan," with Alf Kjellin 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)
  • Brother Bohannan (Richard Kiley)
  • Lydia Walden (Linda Marsh)
  • Hector "Heck" Walden (Vincent Van Patten)
  • Stackpole (Ed Bakey)
  • Dorcas Wentzel (Helen Kleeb)
  • Reverend (Regis Cordic)
  • Nathan Burke (Ted Jordan)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Lathrop (Woody Chambliss)
  • Townsman (Bert Madrid)
  • Townsman (Danny Sands)
  • Townsman (Arthur Tovey)
  • Townsman (Glen Walters)

Richard Kiley (1922-1999) -

Bohannan: Episode Synopsis

Brother Bohannan brings his traveling faith healing act to Dodge City. The skeptical Doc Adams, who's seen his ilk before, immediately brands Bohannan a fraud.

Nathan Burke, who manages Adams Express, complains in the Long Branch Saloon about his still hurting arm. Doc Adams counters that Burke is merely a slow healer and has to give it time. That night, Brother Bohannan demonstrates his healing prowess, summoning up the powers of the Lord. He commands Burke to lose his sling, with Burke reporting that his arm is now healed.

Widow Lydia Walden later visits Bohannan at his traveling wagon. She wants Bohannan to cure her dying, gimp-legged son Heck, who has been serving as Bohannen's assistant, beating a drum and the like during his shows for a nickel an hour. Bohannan tells the desperate Lydia that he doesn't have that kind of power. Undeterred, Lydia is prepared to offer $1,200 for Bohannan's services.

Meanwhile, Doc Adams brings to town two of Bohannan's so-called "cures." They have reverted back to their previous ailments, proving Doc's point that Bohannan is nothing but a charlatan. But much to Doc's surprise, Dorcas Wentzel walks again and Stackpole can talk after Bohannan does his healing act. Doc later summons Bohannan to his office, telling the faith healer that he has an extraordinary gift in that he makes people forget that they are in pain. 

Bohannan does make an attempt to heal the dying Heck, but the cure doesn't take, though Heck does state that his leg feels better. Heck volunteers to become Bohannan's full-time assistant on the road, with Heck's mother finally giving her consent. 

Bohannan: Air Date & Network Competition

"Bohannan" was aired over CBS on Monday night, September 25, 1972, in the 8-9 (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening was the police drama The Rookies (ABC) and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC). 

Bohannan: Analysis & Review

The late Richard Kiley (1922-1999) appeared in four episodes of Gunsmoke, leaving his indelible mark on each segment. "Bohannan" marks Kiley's third role on TV's longest-running western, where he garners the title role of Brother Bohannan, a traveling faith healer in the "employ" of the Lord. 

Faith healers are not uncommon in TV westerns, with such popular fare as The Big Valley and Little House on the Prairie using them to great effect. In "Bohannan," Richard Kiley delivers a standout performance as faith healer Brother Bohannan, whose righteous fervor and dedication to the Lord keeps the viewer in doubt as to his true powers.

Linda Marsh (1939-) is effective in the role of Lydia Walden, the desperate young widow who begs Bohannan to cure her dying son Heck. Lydia relates that her husband had died of the same disease which now afflicts Heck. In his last days, Lydia's husband had to be carried around in a kind of wicker basket as they desperately sought medical cures in Chicago, Washington and Baltimore, all to no effect. "I want my son, more than God does," Lydia tells Bohannan. 

Vincent Van Patten (1957-) – who now does poker commentary on cable TV – gives a good performance as the cheerful, optimistic Heck Walden, who's unaware that he's dying. The scene in which Heck is about to embark with Bohannan on his traveling road show for the summer is a powerful one. "If you don't bring him back with you..." Lydia tells Bohannan, but the faith healer assures her that he will return with Heck – or perhaps with Heck's body. 

"Bohannan" is one of Gunsmoke's best episodes, with William Kelley winning a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America for his compelling script. Bohannan comes from Gunsmoke's 18th season and is episode #566 of 635 in the series. 

"Lord, your servant Bohannan, still in Dodge City..."

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

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