Gunsmoke's No Tomorrow aired over CBS on Monday night, January 3, 1972. Sam Groom appears as the wrongly convicted Ben Justin, who breaks out of prison and returns to his farm outside Dodge City. Regulars James Arness, Milburn Stone, Ken Curtis and Amanda Blake are also joined in the cast by Pamela McMyler, H.M. Wynant, Steve Brodie and Henry Jones.
CBS-TV's Gunsmoke (1955-75) blazed new trails in television history. The 1972 episode "No Tomorrow" guest stars Sam Groom as Benjamin Justin, a young man wrongly convicted of horse stealing who is sentenced to life in prison.
Gunsmoke's No Tomorrow: Cast & Credits
Richard Fielder penned the teleplay for "No Tomorrow," with Irving J. Moore 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)
- Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis)
- Ben Justin (Sam Groom)
- Elizabeth Justin (Pamela McMyler)
- Morris Cragin (H.M. Wynant)
- Garth Brantley (Steve Brodie)
- J. Luther Gross (Henry Jones)
- Old Luke (Richard Hale)
- Judge Brooker (Herb Vigran)
- Eli Bruder (Liam Dunn)
- Warden (Robert Nichols)
- Rider (Joe Haworth)
- Hargis (Leo Gordon)
- Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
- Nathan Burke (Ted Jordan)
- Kyle Brantley (Dan Flynn)
- Bailiff (Alan Fudge)
- Courtroom Spectator (Bert Madrid)
Sam Groom as Jerry in The Time Tunnel (1966-67) - ABC-TV
No Tomorrow: Episode Synopsis
Benjamin Justin, a young father-to-be, is convicted of horse theft in Judge Brooker's courtroom. Brooker, along with Matt Dillon, Festus, Kitty Russell and many other citizens of Dodge City, believe Justin was railroaded by slick prosecutor Morris Cragin and two questionable eyewitnesses. Nonetheless, the judge must go with the jury's verdict and the laws of the state of Kansas whereby he sentences Justin to a life sentence to be served at Rockhaven.
A wealthy landowner named Garth Brantley had been pressuring Justin to sell him a piece of real estate for years. Now, with Justin heading to the big house for life, Justin's wife may be forced to sell to Brantley.
While in prison Justin is harassed by a big prison bull named Hargis, who confiscates the inmate's wedding ring after delivering a letter from Justin's wife. An altercation ensues, with Justin knocking Hargis unconscious and breaking out of prison. With Justin gone and Hargis out cold, an old, embittered prisoner shoves a knife into the back of the guard, who later dies the next day.
The authorities believe that it was Justin who had murdered the guard, and a $500 reward poster is issued for his capture. Justin flees back to his farm where he is reunited with his wife and their new baby boy, who was born in his absence. A seedy drummer spies Justin on his farm and alerts Matt Dillon, hoping to collect the $500 bounty.
No Tomorrow: Air Date & Network Competition
"No Tomorrow" was telecast over CBS on Monday night, January 3, 1972, in the 8-9 PM (ET) time slot. Network competition that winter evening was Nanny and the Professor starring Richard Long and Juliet Mills and local programming (ABC) and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC).
No Tomorrow: Analysis & Review
Wrongful conviction is a theme which plays well in TV westerns. Few things could be worse than going to prison for the rest of your life for a crime which you didn't commit. Such is the morality play in "No Tomorrow," in which the powerful Brantley family conspires to convict young Ben Justin of horse stealing, sending him away to Kansas' Rockhaven prison and clearing the way for a grab at his coveted land.
Sam Groom (1939-) garners the starring role of Benjamin Justin, playing the part with sensitivity and a quiet sense of moral outrage. Groom would later appear once again in Gunsmoke, playing Lew Harrod in "The Child Between" (12/24/73). Pamela McMyler, who somewhat resembles Sissy Spacek, ably plays Elizabeth Justin, Ben's pregnant wife.
"No Tomorrow" is a tough, gritty episode with a little humor tossed in for good measure. The latter comes via a sign Miss Kitty posts at the Long Branch Saloon following an especially raucous evening. It reads in big, bold letters: "NO FIGHTING NO LOUD MOUTH DRUNKS AND THAT MEANS YOU!" Matt then jokingly asks Kitty where she's going to get her new customers. There's also a dig at the many worthless patent medicines which populated the era. The shiftless drummer J. Luther Gross is trying to peddle one such cure called Oil of South American Anaconda.
The episode's toughest scenes come at the state penitentiary where a sadistic guard named Hargis – winningly played by noted character actor Leo Gordon – torments the new "fish" Ben Justin. Hargis gets his, however, when another inmate plants a shiv in his back. The prisoner later makes a deathbed confession, telling the warden that it was he, not Justin, who had knifed the hated guard.
Festus later catches up to the escaped Justin, who plans to flee Kansas with his wife and baby son. Following a standoff, Festus makes the decision to just let them go. The segment ends as Festus is joined by Matt Dillon, with the two lawmen watching as the Justin family head south in their buggy. Later, Miss Kitty receives a letter from the Justins, who relinquish their property rights not to Garth Brantley but to the city of Dodge, perhaps paving the way for a new schoolhouse.
"No Tomorrow" hails from Gunsmoke's 17th season and is episode #555 of 635 in the series.
- Ken Curtis, left, and James Arness in Gunsmoke - CBS-TV
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.