Gunsmoke's The Gun Episode: Kevin Coughlin & L.Q. Jones Guest Star
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Gunsmoke's The Gun Episode: Kevin Coughlin & L.Q. Jones Guest Star

Gunsmoke's "The Gun" premiered on November 9, 1970. Kevin Coughlin plays freight boy Randy Gogan, whose killing of outlaw Vance Jessop (Robert Phillips) brings Wild West promoter Sumner Pendleton (L.Q. Jones) and gunslinger Wade Pasco (Sam Melville) to Dodge City. Patricia Morrow, Ken Mayer, Stanley Clements and Jack Garner join regulars James Arness, Ken Curtis and Buck Taylor in this landmark episode from Gunsmoke's 16th season.

Gunsmoke (1955-75) is the king of the TV western. The 1970 episode "The Gun" guest stars Kevin Coughlin as Randy Gogan, a freight office boy whose killing of notorious outlaw Vance Jessop brings him unwanted fame.

Gunsmoke's The Gun: Cast & Credits

Donald S. Sanford wrote the teleplay for "The Gun," with Bernard McEveety directing the action. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
  • Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis)
  • Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
  • Randy Gogan (Kevin Coughlin)
  • Sumner Pendleton (L.Q. Jones)
  • Stella Felton (Patricia Morrow)
  • Wade Pasco (Sam Melville)
  • Greenwood (Ken Mayer)
  • Ed Jacobi (Stanley Clements)
  • Vance Jessop (Robert Phillips)
  • Nathan Burke (Ted Jordan)
  • Kemble (Jack Garner)
  • Joseph (Eric Chase)
  • Tom (Jon Jason Mantley)
  • Anne (Marie Mantley)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Sporting Gentleman #1 (Foster Brooks)
  • Sporting Gentleman #2 (Frank Biro)
  • Townsman #1 (Hank Wise)
  • Townsman #2 (Bert Madrid)

Kevin Coughlin as he appeared in the late 1960s. Coughlin died at age 30 on January 19, 1976, after being struck by a car nine days earlier. - CBS-TV

The Gun: Episode Synopsis

Young Randy Gogan, who works as a freight boy for Nathan Burke at Adams Express, is an avid reader of Wild West magazines and dime novels. At the Long Branch Saloon, Randy is seated at a table, reading the sensationalistic The Outlaw of Hangman's Gulch before being shooed away by Sam the bartender at closing time.

Out in the alley Randy makes eye contact with outlaw Vance Jessop. The latter follows Randy back to his room behind the express office, where he realizes that Randy has identified him through a photo in one of his Wild West publications. Jessop places his six shooter in a pillow and fires at Randy, hoping to silence him for good. But the shot goes astray, with Randy later killing Jessop in self defense with Burke's secreted gun in a drawer.

Randy becomes an instant celebrity, with St. Louis newspaperman and promoter Sumner Pendleton coming to Dodge. Pendleton pays Randy $100 for his exclusive story and plans to promote the youngster as the fastest gun alive, cashing in on carnival and theater appearances back East.

Texas gunslinger Wade Pasco comes to town, with both he and Randy entering the Dodge Days fast-draw turkey shoot. Randy beats Pasco, shattering six bottles to Pasco's five in their head-to-head lightning-draw contest. Pasco later tries to provoke a gunfight with Randy at the Long Branch, but Matt Dillon intervenes, telling Pasco to clear out of Dodge.

Sumner Pendleton later arranges a gun duel between Randy and Wade Pasco at the abandoned way station between Dodge and Garden City. Pendleton is secretly playing it both ways, however, promising who ever comes out on top the same money deal.

The Gun: Air Date & Competition

"The Gun" aired over CBS on Monday night, November 9, 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 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC). 

The Gun: Analysis & Review

While NBC viewers yucked it up back in November 1970, watching The Red Skelton Show and the irreverent Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, viewers on CBS found more serious undertakings in the form of Gunsmoke. Kevin Coughlin (1945-1976) – who winningly played Billy Cage in the futuristic film Wild in the Streets (1968) – guest stars as Randall "Randy" Gogan, a wide-eyed, dedicated fan of gunfighter lore who suddenly finds himself thrust in the spotlight when he kills infamous gunslinger Vance Jessop. No longer just a freight boy, Randy is now idolized by certain elements in Dodge, purchasing Jessop's Army Colt revolver from gunsmith Newly O'Brian as he believes it holds some kind of mystical power.

L.Q. Jones, a veteran of seven Gunsmoke episodes, appears as Sumner Pendleton, a sleazy, fast-talking promoter from St. Louis who sees dollar signs in young Randy. He buys his new protégé a fancy dude outfit, relentlessly drills him in the fast draw and promises the young lad money and fame in London and Paris. 

Look for Sam Melville (1936-1989) as bad-ass gunslinger Wade Pasco, who had once forced the departed Vance Jessop to a neutral showdown in the streets of El Paso, Texas. Melville is one of TV's most underrated western heavies, often playing a mean, scowling, trail-dusty SOB with near perfection in an array of television westerns. Melville is at his meanest best when he confronts young Randy Gogan at the Long Branch, hoping to provoke the novice kid whom he derisively calls "freight boy" into a gunfight. Standing some fifteen to twenty feet away from each other, it's a sure bet the fastest draw won't miss.

The climax of "The Gun" comes at the dusty, windswept abandoned way station where Pendleton has arranged a grudge gunfight between Randy and Pasco. It's a smaller Old West version of the Roman Coliseum, as the two combatants get set to face each other while assorted invited ladies and gentlemen dressed in their finest watch the bloodsport for entertainment. Realizing that Pendleton has sold him out, Randy backs out of the fight, but the spectators witness a killing anyway, with Matt Dillon showing up and dropping the defiant Pasco with one quick shot. Well, Matt had warned Pasco not to be a fool before the latter went ahead and drew his gun anyway, catching a flying chunk of lead in his chest.  

"The Gun," which also features Jack Garner (brother of James Garner) in a small role, comes from Gunsmoke's fabulous 16th season and is episode #524 of 635. 

Top Image

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

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

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Comments (2)
Ranked #94 in TV & Movie Reviews

I loved Gunsmoke when I was young. I used to watch it with my dad.

These Gunsmoke episode reviews are really great, William, keep them coming.