gunsmoke phoenix
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Phoenix Full Episode – Gunsmoke, Season #17, Episode #02

Explore the narrative of Phoenix, a former inmate who reluctantly accepts a contract to eliminate a stranger—an ex-lawyer with whom he’s never crossed paths. As he integrates into the life of the target and his spouse, Phoenix forms unexpected bonds, causing him to reconsider his deadly mission. Gunsmoke Phoenix unfolded on September 20, 1971.

Delve into Phoenix’s intricate storyline and fascinating trivia, or indulge in the episode below.

Table of Contents

Watch the Full Episode of Gunsmoke Phoenix

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Gunsmoke Phoenix Cast

Below are the actors who depicted characters in the Gunsmoke episode titled Phoenix:

  • James Arness as Matt Dillon
  • Milburn Stone as Doc (credit only)
  • Amanda Blake as Kitty
  • Ken Curtis as Festus
  • Buck Taylor as Newly
  • Glenn Corbett as Phoenix
  • Mariette Hartley as Kate Hume
  • Gene Evans as Jess Hume
  • Ramon Bieri as John Sontag
  • Frank Corsentino as Fraker
  • Ted Jordan as Nathan Burke
  • Bert Madrid as Man Walking into Bar (uncredited)

Full Story Line for Phoenix

Having endured a lengthy incarceration, Phoenix confronts an ambiguous horizon as he readies himself for departure. His former cellmate extends an offer: a job beckons, but it entails becoming a hired assassin tasked with eliminating the ex-lawman who once incarcerated the cellmate. Journeying to the lawman’s modest ranch, Phoenix secures employment as a laborer, encountering the lawman and his youthful spouse. Over time, Phoenix grapples with the realization that he cannot summon the resolve to end the lawman’s life. Regrettably, this reluctance aligns precisely with the cellmate’s expectations – and intentions. Escalating the stakes, the cellmate orchestrates a jailbreak, dispatches a guard, and sets his sights on the lawman himself.

Full Script and Dialogue of Phoenix


Don't you ever give up, Sontag?

If I'd had some help...

I'd of made it this time.

- No guts.
- Guts enough.

I just got more brains
than to try and escape

with such little time to do.

They work you over?

I don't wanna die in here.

And I got me something on
the outside that needs doing.

I ain't gonna help you
break out. It ain't worth it.

Not that.

Look... Phoenix...

if I don't get out of here...

I got me a lot of money.

And some of that can be yours.

- Where?
- Outside. Hidden.

How much and what?

The how much... is $2,000.


And the what...

is kill a man.

Who is he? Why do
you want him killed?

Man's name is Jess Hume.

Last I heard he was living
somewhere around Dodge City.

No thanks.

Oh, look, boy,
there's nothing to it.

A bullet in the back.

A knife in the throat.

A nudge off a cliff.
There are lots of ways.

Probably only take
a couple of seconds.

And you're gonna
be $2,000 richer.

I don't think so.

Well, you don't do it, I'll just
get me somebody else who will.

You just think about it, boy.

$2,000 in brand-new
gold double eagles.

I'll tell you how we'll work it.

You kill him.

When that's done,
you send me a letter.

You put one of those gold double
eagles in it so that I know he's dead.

I could just take the money.

No, you won't.

You're not like that, boy.

I ain't said I'd do it.

Well, you suit yourself!

But the way you are
now, you're gonna scratch

and you're gonna scrape
outside until you find yourself

coming right back here to this
stinking hole for the rest of your life!

But with that money...

women, clothes,

a real farm with
decent crops and cattle.

A chance for a whole new life.

You just think about that, boy.

Just you think about that.


You're just too blamed ornery
to answer a serious question.

Well, I've answered a serious
question as serious as I can.

I tell ya, it takes... well, it takes
eight years for the average doctor.

Now, if I was to take
myself a good notion,

I could do some of
the things you do.

The pulling a hind tooth

or putting a little old dab of
turpentine on a raw corn...

Stuff like that, well,
there ain't nothing to that.

What about surgery, Festus?

It's pretty complicated
business being a surgeon.

Well, I don't wanna
be no surgeon.

Of course not. He don't
even know what it means.

That there's why I
don't wanna be one.

What we're talking
about, Miss Kitty,

is a plain old doctor,
like old Doc here.

There ain't nobody
plainer than him.

Of course not. There ain't
anybody plainer than old Doc.

And it just took me
eight years, that's all.

Now, you trying to tell me

if I was to start right
this here minute,

- that it would take me eight years?
- That's right.

I'm trying to tell you
that if you was to start

right this here minute,

it would take you eight years...

to learn how to
read the eye chart!

So blamed sour today,

he'd pickle a peach orchard.

Newly: Double eagle.
Don't see many of those.

You handle that pretty well.

Yeah, well enough.

You been in here before?
You look kinda familiar.

Well, I used to work in a
Wild West show until it folded.


- Couple of boxes of cartridges, too.
- You bet.

Say, maybe you might know about
this friend I've been wanting to look up.

Last I heard he figured to
settle down here in Dodge.

- What's his name?
- Jess Hume.

Yeah, he lives out of
town a couple of miles east.

Got himself a few acres
of bottomland and a house.

There's an arrow at the
crossroad. You can't miss it.

- Thanks. Be seeing you.
- You bet.

Can I help you
carry those, ma'am?

Oh, I didn't see you.

Well, I didn't
mean to scare you.

This the Hume place?


Are you a friend
of my husband's?

Well, I ain't sure.

I thought the only Hume
I knew wasn't married.


In the trough.

Cheyenne say that water
sleeps sometimes, you know that?

No, I didn't.

Yeah, they say a horse will
die if he drinks sleeping water.

That's why a horse will always
blow before he drinks at night,

to wake up the water.

You know quite a
bit about Indians.

Oh, about enough to cure warts
and keep my scalp where it is.


Jess should be home
soon. He's hunting.

- You been married long?
- No, not long.

It appears you could use
an extra hand around here.

I suppose we could, but
affording one is something else.

I work mighty cheap.

Not cheap enough
for us, I'm afraid.

Day's work for
an evening's meal.

That sounds
more than fair, Mr...

The name's Phoenix.

Phoenix. That a
first or a last name?

Well, it's the only name I got.

I was an orphan raised by
the barber in Phoenix, Arizona.

Phoenix is a bird that rose up out
of its own ashes to start a new life.

Is that you?

Well, I guess so.

I am sort of on a
road back, so to speak.

You know, it's funny.

I know about the Phoenix
'cause it's my name.

But how do you?

You mean a woman isn't
supposed to know about mythology?

I ain't met one yet.

But then, on the other hand, I ain't
met that many ladies in my life neither.

I'm Kate Hume.

Well, can I go to work?

Well, Jess started splitting
the winter supply of wood,

but along with everything else,

I don't think he's
quite gonna make it.

A wedge might make
a bit of a dent in it.

There's one in the barn.

And there's an axe right there.

You shouldn't use
an axe for a hammer.

Sledge would
do a lot better job.

Well, there's a
sledge in the barn, too.

All right.

Oh, Newly, what's up?

Marshal, this fella
just come into town

and bought himself a new
horse, clothes, and a gun.

And I thought he looked kinda
familiar so I checked out these posters

and, well, this is him here...
Armed robbery Kansas City.

Where is he now?

Well, he said he's an
old friend of Jess Hume's.

I gave him directions
and sent him over there.

Better go and check up on him.

- Yeah.
- Thanks.

- Brought you some water.
- Thank you.

This wood's seasoned pretty
good. Shouldn't take long.

You must've been a woodsman.

I've been a lot of things.

Jess is a good man, but he doesn't
know much about homesteading.

Well, it's good land.

Should raise a fine
harvest if it's tended proper.

You a farmer, too?

Yes, ma'am.

Well, for a while in New Mexico.

Rock and alkali,

but I managed to
raise a pretty good crop

until the drought came
along to wipe me out.

Jess has tried so hard.

It just takes so much you
don't learn being a lawman.

A lawman?

He was sheriff of Abilene
County for 25 years.

- Your name Phoenix?
- That's right.

Got a poster in my office
says you're a wanted man.

Well, it must be an old one.

I served my time.

Can you prove it?

Got a paper.

Well, they're supposed to call those
posters in when a man's released.

I guess they forgot.

Yeah, I know.

They're quick enough to pass your
picture around when you're wanted,

but nobody burns them
once you paid your debt.

Well, I'll burn the one I got and
I'll tell everybody you're clean.

Thanks, Marshal.

I aim to let the past stay
where it is, start a new life.

Sounds good.

Anything I can do
for you, let me know.

- Well, there's one thing.
- What's that?

The people here, the Humes,

do you have to let
them know about me?

Well, they got a right to know.

Well, I know that even
though I ain't wanted no more,

the fact that I'm an ex-convict

might make them feel not
quite so friendly toward me.

It's what you do from
here on that counts.

Kate: Hello, Matt.

Hello, Kate.

- How are things?
- We're fine.

Is there anything wrong?

He found out I was in prison.

Came to check me out.

- In prison?
- He served his time, Kate.

All I want's a chance
to make a new life.

Well, that's your right,
Phoenix. Your slate's clean.

- Where's Jess?
- He's hunting.

He should be back anytime.

Well, I can't wait,

but you tell him I still want
him to give up this place

and come to work for me.

I'll tell him, but you know how
he is. He's as stubborn as a mule.

I don't suppose it's
any of my business...

Man gets lonely...

he ain't too careful about
the company he keeps.

I reckon by the time I
figured that out it was too late.

What happened?

They talked me
into standing look out

while they went into a
little bank in Kansas City.

They never came
out of that bank alive.

I was still standing there holding
the horses when it was all over.

Well, I... I couldn't
have moved anyway,

even if they hadn't come out
and put the handcuffs on me.

Just stood there...

listened to the
gunfire from inside.

Looking at the bodies
lying dead in the doorway.

It's quite a story, mister.

You have to pardon me if I say
it's not the first time I've heard it.

It's the Gospel truth.


I reckon I run into too many fellas
that was just holding the horses.

But it don't much matter.

You've paid your debt.

I'm afraid there's a part of Jess that's
just never stopped being a lawman.

Whatever you did
is past and gone.

I like to think of it that way.

That's what prisons are for...

Make a man cherish his freedom.

Sometimes freedom
can be a prison.

It's a hard life.

You can cut something out
of it if you put your mind to it.

It's just a matter of
finishing what you start.

Well, I reckon that's
been my trouble all along.

Thanks for dinner. I
think I'll turn in now.

- Good night.
- Good night.

Good night.

Thank you, Jess.

For what?

For helping him to start
out on the right road.

He helped us.

He could go on helping us.

Kate, we can't
afford a hired hand.

Matt Dillon's right, Jess.

We can't make it by ourselves.

We've got to.

There isn't any other way.

You refuse to see any other way.

Matt's tried to make
you understand.

Kate, I don't want to
talk about it anymore.

- It's through. Finished.
- Jess.

Kate, I was one
kind of a lawman.

I can't be any other.

Thought you might need these.

Thank you.

Where will you go?

New Orleans maybe.

Soak up some of that good life.

I'm sorry you can't stay.

So am I.

- Good night.
- Good night.


Good morning. Did I wake you up?

I've been meaning to get this
roof done for some time now.

How 'bout some help?

I thought you were
leaving this morning.

Well, I ain't got no
place to go in no hurry.

Another day don't matter much.

Can't pay you.

I didn't ask.

Kinda hard pounding
nails with one hand, ain't it?


Maybe you could hand them
shingles to me. That would help.


Kate tells me you was
raised by a barber in Phoenix.

Name of Horace by any chance?

Yeah. Horace Cabe.

Picked me up for a pint of
whiskey in a mining camp.

He's a good man.

I used to get a shave in his
place every time I came into town.

That a fact?

Well, I probably
cleaned up after you.

Used to sweep up hair

and listen to them cattlemen
come in and tell their tall tales...

Make my own hair stand on end.

Kate: Good morning.

I got some coffee
if you want it.

Eh, maybe Phoenix
could use some.

I gotta rive some more
shingles for this roof.

It's gonna be kinda
messy, ain't it?

I mean, mixing store-bought shingles
with hand cuts, they won't fit right.

Well, I got no choice.

I'm fresh out of cash and I
don't like promise-buying.

- Promise-buying?
- Yeah.

Promise to pay
when and if I can.

- Here.
- Thank you.

I'm just helping him fix
the roof before I leave.

He may not say
it, but he's grateful.

So am I.

You know, sitting up here

reminds me of a game I
used to play when I was a kid.


King of the Mountain.
Do you know it?

Sounds like a boys' game.

Well, it was.

The idea was you sat on the
mountain as long as you could

and the other kids came
along and tried to push you off.

I'm afraid the closest I ever got
to that kind of game was Snap.

- Did you every play Snap?
- I sure did.

One time at the only party
I ever went to, back home.

You snap your fingers at a girl and
she chased you all around the room.

Those were good times.

Happy times.

Plenty of good food and a warm
bed and nothing to worry about

but playing games and
doing your homework.

What came along to change it?

I got older.

We all do.

Well, that ain't what I mean.

I mean, you're pretty
and you're smart.

You oughta have a big
house full of kids by now,

and driving around
a fancy carriage.

Makes you think I'd
fit in to that kind of life?

I don't know. Just
something about you I guess.

Say, you never did tell me
how you know about the phoenix.

Well, it's just
something I picked up.

Well, I've seen all
them books in the house.

- They all yours?
- My father's.

He liked me to read to him

and I used to read
about all sorts of things.

Couldn't he read to himself?

He got a bone
disease, put him to bed.

Couldn't turn the pages.

How long?

How long what?

How long did you read to him?

- I don't know what you mean.
- Sure you do.

I mean, how many
years did you read to him?

One year, five years, ten, what?

I was 17 when
he took to his bed,

and I was 26 when he died.

It was Jess Hume
that kept us both alive.

Well, it appears it was
a real good investment.

Wait a minute.

I'm sorry.

I had no call to say
what I did. No call at all.

Jess is one of the
finest men I've ever met.

He's decent, he's
brave, and he's kind.

Is that why you married him?

I married him
because I love him.

And just so you'll
know, Mr. Phoenix,

I asked him.

How come you go on living out
here letting this place go down

when you could move into town?

I keep it up good enough for us.

Being and ex-lawman,

seems like you'd
get a job somewhere.

Pride what's doing it?
Keeping you away from people?

Give a fella a free meal,

takes all kinds of
liberties, don't he?

So I'm nosey.

You getting tired yet?

Not a bit.

I can go on as long as you can.

Lawman that can't shoot

is worth about as much as
barn with a hole in the roof.

How'd it happen?

Gun fight?


Got drunk one night and a
horse stepped on my hand.

All right. No more questions.

You look...

like you're wearing
out some, boy.

That so?

I was just thinking we
make a pretty good team.

We can... we can
quit any time you say.

You know...

for a man with only
one good hand...

you sure got a lot of strength.

Well, you lose one...

the other one gets stronger.

Didn't you never hear that, boy?

I wished I had.

Oh, boy... Oh!

Oh, boy.

Oh, that last one...

Good one. Oh!

You're all right.
You're all right.

Let's get something to eat.

I'm so hungry I could eat
a bear with the hair on it.

Mrs. Hume said she was
gonna bring the lunch up here.


Let's wash up first.

All right.


Help him!

You saved him.

You saved his life.

Yeah, that's what
I did, all right.

Ain't that something?

Want something to eat, Sontag?

Did it come?

You better take this,
or I'm gonna pour it out.

If it come and you're
not giving it to me...

What you gonna do, Sontag?

Beat me up?

Besides, who'd you
know could write anyway?

I got me a letter coming,

Fraker, and you
better give it to me.

I got it.

Right here in my shirt.

Only you ain't getting it.

Eh... now, you want it?

Sontag, come wrestle me for it.

I want my letter! Where is it?!

I ain't got it, Sontag.
I was just fooling you.

Honest, I ain't got it.

You're leaving, aren't you?

That's right.

Came in for some biscuits.

Help yourself.

Thought you might stay a while.

Jess and I sure like
having you around.

You're a big help and all.

Phoenix: Well, you're just gonna have
to get somebody else to help you out.

Where will you go?

Somewhere. Anywhere.

What's the difference?

Makes a difference to us.

Look, I saved his life! What
more do you want of me?!

I don't understand
why you're yelling

or why you're going or anything.

You don't wanna know.

Yes, I do.

Because I came here
to kill Jess, that's why.

To kill him stone-cold dead.

I don't understand.

Understanding words should
be easy for a book-reader.

All that talk about my being
on the way to New Orleans

and working for my lodging,

it was just leading you on so
I'd get a chance to murder him.

I'm a hired killer, Mrs. Hume.

I was hired to kill your
husband for money.

I am so damn
spineless, I couldn't do it.

Who hired you to kill Jess?

What's the difference?
Man with money.

Why did he want
Jess dead so badly?

I don't know.

I didn't ask and I didn't care.

I thought it'd be easier if I
didn't know anything about him.

Maybe you'd have been
better off if I had let him drown.

You could get out of here.

You could've come to
New Orleans with me.

You must've wanted
that money very much.

I figured it was a
chance for a new life.

Things I thought I'd
never have without it.

But I just couldn't do it.

Maybe now you know something
about yourself you didn't know before.

If that means being a
born sucker, you're right.

I think you're something
far more than that.

I don't know what I am.


maybe you'll find
out in New Orleans.

It's as good a place as
any to start a new life.

What about you?

We'll find a way.

Good-bye, Kate.


Your name Phoenix, is it?

That's right.

Festus Haggen. I'm
the deputy marshal.

I reckon he didn't
burn my picture.

Oh, if you're meaning Marshal
Dillon, he sure did burn it.

Now, I ain't gonna
bother you none.

I'm just fixin' to ask
you a couple questions.

Like what?

Well, you... you was in
Leavenworth, wasn't you?

That's right.

Now I just got word that a
feller escaped from up yonder.

I thought maybe you
might've run across him.

- What's his name?
- Sontag.

John Sontag.

You know him, did you?


You're sure?

I'm sure.

Jess, don't.

- You need to rest.
- I'm all right.

You're not. You took a bad fall.

Now don't mother me, Kate.

All right.

I'm sorry.

About a lot of things.

So am I.

I love you.

I know.

You're... you're alive.

You're still alive.

Oh, I prayed you would be.

I didn't think there'd be any
hope after this much time.

What do you want, Sontag?

Sontag... That's me, ma'am.

Late of Fort
Leavenworth, Kansas.

You're the one hired
that boy to kill me.

Where is he?

He's gone.

But he's coming back.

Well, it'll be too late for him
to earn his money, ma'am.

You see, I prayed that he
didn't have the guts to do it.

So I could finish
the job myself.

You got a shovel, Hume,
or can't you afford one?

Not as poor off as I figured.


- Why?
- Do you dig or does she?

Let her go, Sontag.

She doesn't have
anything to do with this.

Dig! Or I'll kill her.

What's the matter, Sheriff?

- My head.
- Does it hurt?

A little.

You don't know what pain is.


You're sick.

You stop digging
one more time...

and I'll cover you up alive.

That's enough.

- Sontag...
- You shut up.

You're dying.

- No.
- You've known it all along.

That's why you broke out.

You wanted to get to
me before it happened.

That's it, isn't it?

'Cause of my slugs in ya?
Is that what's killing you?

Slow death.

Your lead eating away at my...

vital organs until I drop.



Phoenix saved my life.

For the second time.

You knew him before at
Leavenworth, didn't you?


He paid me to come
here and kill Hume.

Guess that means I
can't keep the money.


it doesn't matter now
why he came here.

Well, like you said, Matt, all
that matters is what he did here.

You gonna be moving on?

Reckon so.

Well, I still say you
don't belong out here.

I'm afraid I'm just not cut out for
big houses and fancy carriages.


Well, I've said good-bye once.

Good-bye again.


You, uh, you are gonna
keep riding, aren't you?

Yeah, I guess I learned

there's no future in trying to take
something that doesn't belong to you.

No matter how much you want it.

- Good luck to you.
- Thanks, Marshal.

Behind the Scenes of Phoenix

Glenn Corbett makes his second appearance in the series.

In the episode, Phoenix requests a sledgehammer and a wedge from Kate to split wood, expressing his intention to retrieve them. Yet later scenes reveal him splitting wood using an ax.

Looking for More Gunsmoke Episodes?

Do you appreciate timeless, sophisticated television shows? Look no further than Gunsmoke. Whether enjoying it solo or with dear ones, this esteemed series, which spanned 20 seasons and aired from 1955 to 1975 on the CBS network, promises to dispel any hint of boredom. Phoenix marks the second episode of Season 17.

You can find more about any of the Gunsmoke episodes here.

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