Gunsmoke's Luke Episode: Morgan Woodward & Katherine Justice Guest Star
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Gunsmoke's Luke Episode: Morgan Woodward & Katherine Justice Guest Star

Gunsmoke's "Luke" debuted on November 2, 1970. Morgan Woodward plays Luke Dangerfield, a wounded outlaw who flees to Dodge City where he hopes to meet with his now-grown daughter.

CBS-TV's Gunsmoke rode herd on TV westerns, running from 1955 to 1975. The 1970 episode "Luke" features Morgan Woodward, Katherine Justice and Anthony Costello in a story of a badly wounded outlaw who wants to meet with his long-lost daughter for the final time.

Gunsmoke's Luke: Cast & Credits

Jack Miller wrote "Luke" for the small screen, with old Gunsmoke hand Bernard McEveety directing. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
  • Doc Adams (Milburn Stone)
  • Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis)
  • Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
  • Luke Dangerfield (Morgan Woodward)
  • Doris Prebble a.k.a. Kathy Allen (Katherine Justice)
  • Austin Keep (Anthony Costello)
  • Moses Reedy (Rex Holman)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Howie (Howard Culver)
  • Bull (Victor Izay)

Morgan Woodward as Boss "No Eyes" Godfrey in Cool Hand Luke (1967) - Warner Brothers/Seven Arts

Luke: Episode Synopsis

While passing through Kansas outlaw Luke Dangerfield and his young partner Austin Keep are bushwhacked by bounty hunter Moses Reedy. Manning a rifle from the high ground, Reedy manages to put two bullets into Dangerfield before being run off by Austin Keep. Placing the gravely wounded Luke in the saddle, Keep manages to get the old man to Dodge City, where they take a room at the Dodge House.

Fearing that he is about to die, Luke tells Austin that he has a daughter in Dodge – a schoolteacher named Kathy Allen – whom he wants to see as a final wish. The dutiful Luke asks Howie the desk clerk about Kathy, and is duly directed to the Bull's Head Saloon. Here he meets saloon girl Doris Prebble, who tells Luke that Kathy is dead, murdered by a jealous drummer in Hayes City some time back. Wanting to please the old man, Austin pays Doris $25 to pose as Luke's daughter, whom he hadn't seen in some 13 years.

Doris pulls off the masquerade, with Luke even giving her $300 that he had secretly stashed in his money belt. Doc Adams and Marshal Dillon are finally summoned, with Doc telling Austin that Luke now has a good chance for survival. In time, Doris and Luke develop a real fondness for each other. Austin, however, is hell bent for revenge against Moses Reedy, eventually calling out the bounty hunter in the streets of Dodge.

Luke: Air Date & Network Competition

"Luke" was first telecast over CBS on Monday night, November 2, 1970, in the 7:30-8:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition was The Young Lawyers (ABC) starring Lee J. Cobb, Zalman King and Judy Pace and The Red Skelton Show and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC). 

Luke: Analysis & Review

Morgan Woodward (1925-) was a familiar face to Gunsmoke fans. In all, he appeared in 19 episodes of TV's longest-running western, beginning with "Potato Road" (10/12/57), where he played the role of Calhoun. The bearded, white-haired Woodward has the title role in "Luke," portraying an aging outlaw who has a $3,000 price on his head. 

Woodward does most of his acting from a hotel bed, where his character Luke is laid up in room #12 with two bullet wounds to the upper torso. Woodward garners fine support from beady-eyed Anthony Costello as his young friend Austin Keep and the beautiful Katherine Justice as Doris Prebble, the young saloon girl/hustler of overpriced drinks at the seedy Bull's Head who agrees to play Luke's now-grown daughter.

Like many TV westerns, Gunsmoke's "Luke" somewhat stretches the imagination. When Luke catches two bullets from bounty hunter Moses Reedy out on the trail, he and his partner ride a "mere" six miles to Dodge City, with Luke of course surviving the trip. There's little blood, no vitals, arteries or bones hit and of course no infection, with Luke seemingly healing up just fine. His only medication is Laudlum, a 19th century painkiller comprised of grain alcohol and opium.

"Luke's" best scenes involve the interaction between the wounded Luke Dangerfield and the young "saloon tramp" (Austin's heated words) Doris Prebble. When Doris finally confesses that she is not his daughter, Luke replies that he already knew that. A budding love story is thrown into the mix – girl shy Austin Keep and saloon gal Doris – with the two walking off arm-in-arm in the final scene. 

In reality, Old West saloon girls such as the fictional Doris Prebble often doubled as prostitutes a.k.a. "soiled doves," and were never as pretty as many of the young Hollywood starlets who play them on the small screen. But strike one up for Tinseltown here, with the beautiful ingénue Katherine Justice (1942-) delivering a grand performance as the saloon girl who maybe just corralled a "keeper" in young Austin Keep.

"Luke" comes from Gunsmoke's memorable 16th season on the tube and is episode #523 out of 635 in the series. "Luke" can be seen in its entirety on YouTube and other Internet sources. 

Top Image

  • Ken Curtis, left, and James Arness in Gunsmoke - CBS-TV

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

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