Gunsmoke's Tara TV Episode: Michele Carey & L.Q. Jones Guest Star
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Gunsmoke's Tara TV Episode: Michele Carey & L.Q. Jones Guest Star

Gunsmoke's Tara debuted on Monday night, January 17, 1972. L.Q. Jones plays Gecko Ridley, a gunslinger and ex-con who comes to Dodge City to claim $5,000 in stolen railroad money from the widow of his murdered partner. Regulars James Arness, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Ken Curtis and Buck Taylor are also joined in the cast by Michele Carey, Larry Delaney and Ken Swofford.

Gunsmoke (1955-75) enjoyed a long, wild 20-year run on CBS. The 1972 episode "Tara" guest stars Michele Carey as Tara Hutson, a Dodge City dressmaker whose jailbird husband reportedly squireled away $5,000 from a railroad heist.

Gunsmoke's Tara: Cast & Credits

William Kelley penned the teleplay for "Tara," with Bernard McEveety 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)
  • Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
  • Tara Hutson (Michele Cary)
  • Gecko Ridley (L.Q. Jones)
  • Roy Hutson (Larry Delaney)
  • Dirk (Ken Swofford)
  • Mr. Fletcher (James McCallion)
  • Pudge (Ken Mayer)
  • Bank Officer (Harry Hickox)
  • Bank Teller (John Dullaghan)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Nathan Burke (Ted Jordan)
  • Ma Smalley (Sarah Selby)
  • Woman (Natalie Masters)
  • Barney (Charles Seel)
  • Howie (Howard Culver)
  • Shotgun (Gene Tyburn)
  • Young Man (Don Pulford)
  • Messenger (Denny Arnold)
  • Townsman (Bert Madrid)

Michele Carey - CBS-TV

Tara: Episode Synopsis

Gecko Ridley and his partner Roy Hutson have just been released from prison. Knowing that Roy's wife may be hoarding $5,000 from a railroad theft, Gecko shoots Roy and heads to Dodge City, telling Tara Hutson that her husband was killed by renegade Indians. He presents the widow with Roy's belongings: $9 and some change, Tara's letters to Roy when he was imprisoned in Lansing and a prized photo of Tara. Quickly dropping the charade, Gecko tells Tara that he's come to see if the missing $5,000 is still around.

Matt Dillon and Festus are summoned to Mankato to escort some prisoners. That leaves deputy U.S. Marshal Newly O'Brian in charge until they return. Newly has been dating Tara Hutson, but the latter is playing it cool, keeping the deputy/gunsmith at arm's length.

Gecko discovers from the railroad that the $5,000 was never recovered – making out Tara to be a liar. When Gecko threatens Tara in her dress shop, Newly arrives and jails Gecko at gunpoint. Unable to hold him, however, Newly is forced to released Gecko, who learns of a $10,000 gold shipment due in Dodge that night.

Believing that Tara had spent the $5,000, Gecko sets his sights on the gold shipment. He coerces Tara to keep Newly occupied at the hotel, later waltzing over to the Dodge City jail where he gets the drop on the two company guards. 

Tara: Air Date & Network Competition

"Tara" aired over CBS on Monday night, January 17, 1972, in the 8-9 PM (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening was Nanny and the Professor starring Richard Long and Juliet Mills and local programming (ABC) and the irreverent Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC).

Tara: Analysis & Review

One of the unsung heavies in TV western lore is the always entertaining L.Q. Jones (1927-), who graced seven Gunsmoke episodes from 1963 to 1972. "Tara" marks Jones' final guest appearance on Gunsmoke, where he plays an especially menacing brute named Gecko Ridley. Jones' Ridley has just served seven years hard time in a Kansas penitentiary, but rather than being "reformed" the ex-con resumes his old ways, killing his partner in cold blood and then heading to Dodge where he threatens to carve up his partner's widow "like a dressed dove" if she doesn't tell him where the $5,000 loot is hidden. "Hey, you got you a sending machine?" Gecko inquires of a telegrapher in one scene, making for a memorable line from a memorable villain.

Beautiful Michele Carey (1943-) plays Tara Hutson, the charming femme fatale whom Newly O'Brian is currently "sparking." Carey's Tara is a both a liar and a deceiver, apparently leading Newly on until she can get to her husband's stash.

Gecko goes for the gold shipment stored at the Dodge City jail, easily outwitting two company good ol' boys whose previous perfect record in guarding valuable cargo soon comes to an end. Realizing that he's been duped by Tara, Newly arrives just in time to gun down Gecko, who foolishly went for his six-shooter while staring down Newly's gun barrel. 

Tara decides to leave Dodge City in order to do some thinking. Still smitten with Tara, Newly is urged by Miss Kitty to follow her. Newly does just that, finding Tara at the Hays City Bank where she just withdrew $5,000 plus $660.53 in interest. Tara pleads that she was planning to return the money, and sweetly inquires of Newly, "You're not going to arrest me, are you?" Newly, however, is having none of Tara's deception, and does indeed arrest his former gal pal, telling her that after a jury hears her explanation they will probably take up a collection for her. 

"Tara" provides a typical look into TV western romances, many of which hover somewhere between junior high and high school on the maturity scale. The hapless Newly appears to be a little green in the "sparking" department, failing to see Tara for what she really is – trouble. The big town barn dance provides the principal setting for Newly and Tara's dating venue, with Glenn Strange's Sam the bartender calling out the numbers. 

"Tara" hails from Gunsmoke's 17th season and is episode #557 of 635 in the series. "Tara" was preceded in the Gunsmoke chronology by "Hidalgo" (1/10/72) starring Thomas Gomez.

L.Q. Jones - CBS-TV

Top Image

  • Gunsmoke's Dodge City logo - CBS-TV

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

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