Gunsmoke's Waste TV Episode: Jeremy Slate, Ellen Burstyn & Ruth Roman Guest Star
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Gunsmoke's Waste TV Episode: Jeremy Slate, Ellen Burstyn & Ruth Roman Guest Star

Gunsmoke's two-part episode Waste hit the CBS-TV airwaves beginning on September 27, 1971. Jeremy Slate plays outlaw Ben Rodman, who's the subject of a dogged manhunt conducted by Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) in the rugged wilds of Utah Territory. Ellen Burstyn, Johnny Whitaker, David Sheiner, Ruth Roman, Rex Holman, Shug Fisher and George Chandler are also in the cast.

Gunmsoke (1955-75) rode the wild prairies of Kansas for twenty incredible seasons. The 1971 two-part episode "Waste" features series star James Arness as Matt Dillon, who's on the trail of outlaw Bed Rodman (Jeremy Slate) in the rugged Utah Territory.

Gunsmoke's Waste: Cast & Credits

Jim Byrnes wrote the teleplay for "Waste," with Vincent McEveety in the director's chair. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
  • Ben Rodman (Jeremy Slate)
  • Amy Waters (Ellen Burstyn)
  • Willie Hubbard (Johnny Whitaker)
  • Preacher (David Sheiner)
  • Oakley (Rex Holman)
  • Speer (Ken Swofford)
  • Lucas (Don Megowan)
  • Jed Rascoe (Shug Fisher)
  • Maggie Blaisedell (Ruth Roman)
  • Silas Hubbard (George Chandler)
  • Drunk (Don Keefer)
  • 1st Prospector (Emory Parnell)
  • 2nd Prospector (Lloyd Nelson)
  • Victoria (Lieux Dressler)
  • Shirley (Merry Anders)
  • Lisa (Claire Brennan)
  • Orphan Girl (Lee Pulford)

Jeremy Slate (1926-2006) as he appeared in The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) - Paramount Pictures

Waste: Episode Synopsis

Matt has been on the trail of outlaw Ben Rodman for over a week. Rodman stops at a watering hole manned by old Silas Hubbard and his grandson Willie. Silas is charging wayfarers $1 a bucket, 50 cents for a canteen full and 25 cents for a dip from a cup. Rodman calls Hubbard greedy, preparing to ride off without paying. Silas pulls out his shotgun, telling Rodman, "Two dollars – or I blow you off that horse!" Rodman pays the old man, but puts a bullet in him nonetheless.

Matt Dillon finds the mortally wounded Hubbard, who elicits a promise from Matt that he take Willie with him. The boy's mother, Sarah Hubbard, had left Willie some six years back when she had lit out for Table Rock and some gold camp 20 miles north. After burying the old man, Matt and the kid ride out. 

Rodman meets up with his gang, who are relieving prospectors of their gold dust at gunpoint. Rodman wants more than whiskey and bean money, however, hoping to make the big score.

Meanwhile, Matt and Willie encounter Maggie Blaisedell and four of her saloon girls on the trail. Matt discovers a false bottom in their wagon, which is holding over $48,000 in gold dust. One of Maggie's working girls, Lisa, proves to be a turncoat, draining the party's water supply and taking some gold dust with her. She informs Ben Rodman and his gang of Maggie's hidden fortune. This is the big score Rodman has been waiting for, with Lisa leading Rodman and his boys back to Maggie's party.

With their party desperately in need of water, Jed Rascoe, Maggie's wagon driver, tells Matt that there's an abandoned fort some ten to 12 miles away. When Matt sees Rodman and his gang approaching, he and the women toss out all the non-essentials and hightail it for the old fort. Here they find no water, but are armed to the teeth with a load of rifles and ammunition courtesy of a gunrunner who had paid Maggie in firearms. Rodman desperately wants that fortune in gold, as he and his gang prepare to assault the old fort. 

Waste: Air Date & Network Competition

"Waste" was aired over CBS on consecutive Monday nights, September 27 and October 4, 1971, in the 8-9 PM (ET) time slot. Network competition was the sitcom Nanny and the Professor starring Richard Long and Juliet Mills and local programming (ABC) and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC).

Waste: Analysis & Review

Atmospheric is the word for the two-parter "Waste," set in the dry, dusty, inhospitable terrain of Utah Territory. The story centers on the tough, bawdy Maggie Blaisedell and her working girls, who are transporting a secret shipment of $48,000 in gold dust in their Old West version of "The Love Wagon." Homicidal outlaw Ben Rodman, who's been trying to shake Marshal Dillon for over a week, desires that gold in the worst way and is willing to kill everybody who stands in his way.

Jeremy Slate (1926-2006), a veteran of nine Gunsmoke episodes spanning the years 1962-71, garners the plum role of Ben Rodman. With long gray-white hair and a pair of pearly whites right out of an Ultra Brite TV commercial, Slate makes for one mean hombre, flashing an evil grin, verbally trashing his own gang members and killing an old man over a $2 water debt.  

Ruth Roman (1922-1999) appears as Maggie Blaisedell, the brash former owner of Maggie's Saloon & Gambling Emporium in the nearly deserted ghost town of Table Rock. Maggie and her prostitutes are headed to Whiskey Butte with valuable cargo in tow. 

Ellen Burstyn, who would later play Chris MacNeil in The Exorcist (1973), has the pivotal role of Amy Waters, who is really Sara Hubbard, the young mother who abandoned little Willie some six years ago. Willie is played by Johnny Whitaker – sporting a big ball of unkempt red hair – who had just wrapped up a five-year stretch as Jody Davis on the CBS sitcom Family Affair (1966-71). 

"Waste" features several outstanding supporting performances, including that of David Sheiner as The Preacher, an outlaw dressed up in clergyman's attire whose hollowed out bible carries a six-shooter resting right between Matthew and Mark. Shug Fisher (1907-1984) plays the scruffy Jed Rascoe in one of his patented desert rat roles.

The climax of "Waste" comes at the old abandoned Army fort where Matt, Jed, Maggie and the girls try to fend off the Rodman gang. Using the gold dust as bait, they eventually prove successful, laying "waste" to Rodman and several of his men.

"Waste" comes from Gunsmoke's 17th season and constitutes episodes #542 and 543 of 635 in the series. "Waste" was preceded in the Gunsmoke chronology by "Phoenix" (9/20/71) starring Glenn Corbett, Mariette Hartley and Gene Evans. "Waste" Parts I and II are available for viewing in their entirety on YouTube. 

Top Image

  • Gunsmoke's James Arness as Matt Dillon - CBS-TV

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

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