Gunsmoke's Jenny TV Episode: Steve Ihnat & Lisa Gerritsen Guest Star
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Gunsmoke's Jenny TV Episode: Steve Ihnat & Lisa Gerritsen Guest Star

Gunsmoke's Jenny hit the airwaves on Monday night, December 28, 1970, over CBS-TV. Lisa Gerritsen plays a young girl who comes to Dodge City, looking for her father who is wanted outlaw Lucas Pritchard (Steve Ihnat). James Arness, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Ken Curtis, Buck Taylor and Rance Howard also appear in the cast.

Gunmsoke (1955-75) blazed new trails in the TV western genre. The 1970 episode "Jenny" features Lisa Gerritsen in the title role, a young waif who comes to Dodge City looking for her outlaw father Lucas Pritchard (Steve Ihnat).

Gunsmoke's Jenny: Cast & Credits

Jack Miller wrote the teleplay for "Jenny," with Robert Totten in the director's chair. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
  • Doc Adams (Milburn Stone)
  • Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake)
  • Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
  • Lucas Pritchard (Steve Ihnat)
  • Jenny Pierson a.k.a. Jenny Pritchard (Lisa Gerritsen)
  • Judge Franklin (Rance Howard)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Nathan Burke (Ted Jordan)
  • Ed Reilly (Steve Raines)
  • Stagecoach Driver (Bob Burrows)

Steve Ihnat in the 1960s - Universal Pictures

Jenny: Episode Synopsis

A nine-year-old girl calling herself Jenny Pierson arrives by Adams Express stagecoach in Dodge City. Grabbing her bags and luggage, the girl enters Miss Kitty Russell's Long Branch Saloon. She introduces herself to Miss Kitty and deputy marshal Newly O'Brian, telling them she's looking for her father Lucas Pritchard. The name raises eyebrows with Kitty and Newly, as Pritchard is a wanted man with a $2,000 reward on his head.

Newly heads out to the old Pritchard place where he finds an armed Lucas bearing down on him with a rifle. Lucas agrees to surrender if Newly will give him 48 hours to square things with his daughter Jenny. Newly gives his word, with the two riding back into Dodge. On the stage with Jenny was Judge Franklin, who is temporarily filling in for Judge Brooker, the latter of whom is in Washington. Franklin orders that Pritchard be immediately jailed.

Jenny wanders into the marshal's office, waiting for Newly. Here she spies a wanted poster for Lucas Pritchard, realizing for the first time that her father is an outlaw. She confronts Pritchard in his cell, running back in tears to the Long Branch where Miss Kitty has temporarily put her up.

Newly, determined to keep his word to Pritchard, lets the man out of jail. Pritchard, however, has other ideas, making a run for it, with Newly in hot pursuit. They eventually meet in a barn, trading bullets with each other.

Jenny: Air Date & Network Competition

"Jenny" was telecast over CBS on Monday night, December 28, 1970, in the 7:30-8:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening was The Young Lawyers (ABC) and The Red Skelton Show and the raucous Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC). 

Jenny: Analysis & Review

Although Gunsmoke was billed as an adult western, kids often played a major role in selected episodes. "Jenny" is one of those segments, with young, wide-eyed Lisa Gerritsen (1957-) playing the title character of Jenny Pierson a.k.a. Jenny Pritchard, a nine-year-old girl who arrives in Dodge City from St. Louis following the death of her mother. Gerritsen was a seasoned Hollywood hand by this time, having made her television debut in 1968 in an episode of The Good Guys. "Jenny" would mark Gerritsen's final role on Gunsmoke, having appeared in three previous episodes of TV's longest-running western.

Gerritsen is adequately cute as Jenny, whose constant companion is her doll Melissa. She can apparently cry on cue and whine with the best of child actors, a trait which will either endear or aggravate TV viewers, depending on one's mood at the time. Steve Ihnat (1934-1972) ably plays Jenny's dad Lucas Pritchard, the not so wily outlaw who's up on charges for robbery and assault. Ihnat died several years after this episode was filmed, succumbing to a heart attack at age 37 in Cannes, France, on May 12, 1972.

"Jenny" really never develops as a story, which is a familiar one in TV westerns: good kid with bad outlaw daddy. Jenny does a lot of pouting, Miss Kitty expresses concern, Doc offers up a few morsels of wisdom, Newly tries to redeem himself and Lucas Pritchard expresses regret. In between there are the usual Old West firefights, with Pritchard catching a ricocheted bullet in the shoulder, which is deftly removed by crusty Doc Adams. No infections, gangrene or other complications of course, as Lucas Pritchard – like many TV western characters – apparently has his own supply of natural antibiotics. 

"Jenny" ends with the little girl heading off to boarding school while her father prepares to serve his sentence at Kansas' Old West version of the big house. No problem, though, as Lucas Pritchard, who has memorized his daughter's new address and promises to write, may get out early for good behavior. 

"Jenny" comes from Gunsmoke's 16th season on the tube and is episode #530 of 635 in the series. "Jenny" was preceded by the raucous Gunsmoke episode "Sgt. Holly" (12/14/70) starring Forrest Tucker. 

Top Image

  • Gunsmoke's familiar TV logo - CBS-TV

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

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Comments (2)

I saw that episode. It was a good one.

I liked the series and thought James Arness was a handsome man. Well done article by you.Thank you. DIGG