Gunsmoke's The Lost TV Episode: Mercedes McCambridge & Royal Dano Guest Star
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Gunsmoke's The Lost TV Episode: Mercedes McCambridge & Royal Dano Guest Star

Gunsmoke's The Lost was telecast on Monday night, September 13, 1971. Laurie Prange plays an Old West feral child who's befriended by Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake) following a stagecoach crash. Regulars James Arness, Ken Curtis and Buck Taylor are also joined in the cast by Mercedes McCambridge, Royal Dano, Link Wyler, Charles Kuenstle and Peggy Rea.

CBS-TV's Gunsmoke (1955-75) rode the rugged range for twenty seasons on the small screen. The 1971 episode "The Lost" showcases Amanda Blake as Kitty Russell, who encounters a wild girl in the Badlands following a stagecoach accident.

Gunsmoke's The Lost: Cast & Credits

Jack Miller wrote the teleplay for "The Lost" based on a story by Warren Vanders. Old Gunsmoke hand Robert Totten directed the action. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
  • Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake)
  • Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis)
  • Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
  • Mrs. Mather (Mercedes McCambridge)
  • Henry Mather (Royal Dano)
  • Wild Child (Laurie Prange)
  • Lamond Mather (Link Wyler)
  • Valjean Mather (Charles Kuenstle)
  • Mrs. Grayson (Dee Carroll)
  • Abel Grayson (Jerry Brown)
  • Mrs. Bess Roniger (Peggy Rea)
  • Maria (Marie Mantley)
  • Jon (Jon Jason Mantley)
  • Elsie (Terri Lynn Wood)

Mercedes McCambridge from the late 1940s - Columbia Pictures

The Lost: Episode Synopsis

Miss Kitty Russell is the lone passenger on a stagecoach. When the driver has to steer clear of a fallen tree in the road, the stagecoach cracks under the pressure, throwing him into the dirt and sending the coach tumbling down a ravine. With the driver apparently dead, a revived Kitty awakens at night and makes her way out of the wreckage.

Kitty soon discovers that she's not alone, as a young girl is following her movements. The girl can only make guttural noises, apparently unable to talk as she's spent her entire youth out in the wilderness. The girl hand catches some fish in a nearby river, but when Kitty cooks them over an open fire the girl prefers to eat them raw.

Kitty and the girl later meet up with the oddball rodent Mather family, who take the girl prisoner, hoping to collect the bounty on her head or possibly sell her to a freak show. While transporting the girl in a hooded cage the Mathurs are stopped by Matt, Festus and Newly, who are looking for the missing Kitty. Festus hears noises from the rear of the Mathurs' wagon, with the lawmen freeing the caged girl and eventually finding Miss Kitty as well.

The Lost: Air Date & Network Competition

"The Lost" was aired over CBS on Monday night, September 13, 1971, in the 8-9 PM (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening was Nanny and the Professor and local programming (ABC) and the wild "sock-it-to-me" Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC). 

The Lost: Analysis & Review

Whenever you see gentle traveler Miss Kitty Russell on a stagecoach you just know bad things are going to happen. And such is the case with "The Lost," which kicked off Gunsmoke's 17th season on the tube in 1971. 

"The Lost" represented something new for Gunsmoke, a look into the fascinating phenomenon of feral children. Laurie Prange plays the Wild Child – from the Badlands, not Haight Ashbury – who apparently has been raised by herself in the rugged, lonely prairies of Kansas. Prange doesn't utter a word in the entire episode, making guttural animal noises instead and looking as frightened and bedraggled as any child who ever graced the small screen.

Mercedes McCambridge (1916-2004) – who later voiced the foul-mouthed demon in The Exorcist (1973) – plays a kind of an Old West Ma Barker, spitting out orders to her lackey family members (Royal Dano, Charles Kuenstle, Link Wyler) and threatening violence to anyone who crosses her. In one scene she holds a gun on Kitty and the feral girl, telling them, "If you twitch a leg, I'll blow you both – clean apart." Believe her.

"The Lost" is not one of Gunsmoke's better episodes. The story is a bit contrived, ending with Miss Kitty bringing the feral girl to the Moniger place, where Bess and her husband have 17 children already. Through the use of a front yard carousel, Kitty reaches the girl through jealousy, with the episode concluding as the 17 kids plus the wild child happily spin around on the wooden contraption.

Peggy Rea (1921-2011) first appeared as Mrs. Moniger in the memorable episode "Baker's Dozen" (12/25/67). Gunsmoke's executive producer John Mantley apparently wielded a little executive power with the casting director, as both his kids, Jon Jason and Marie Mantley, have small parts playing two of the Moniger children in "The Lost." Nepotism and Hollywood have always gone together.   

"The Lost" hails from Gunsmoke's 17th season and is episode #540 of 635 in the series. "The Lost" was preceded in the Gunsmoke saga by "Pike" Part II (3/8/71) starring Jeanette Nolan and Dack Rambo. 

Top Image

  • Gunsmoke's Dodge City TV logo - CBS-TV

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

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