Louie Pheeters – Gunsmoke’s Town Drunk
One of my readers wanted to know more about the character Louie Pheeters on Gunsmoke. Because the Stranded Alien appreciates his readers and strives to give them what they want, here you go…
James Nusser (born in Cleveland Ohio in 1905) played various roles on radio’s Gunsmoke, but because he was an alcoholic in real life, most directors were reluctant to cast him. Six years after Gunsmoke moved to TV, however, producer Norman MacDonnel went out on a limb and cast Nusser in the role of Dodge City’s town drunk “Louie Pheeters”. Nusser truly blossomed in the role and Gunsmoke fans loved him. Most drunks on TV then were played by comedians, but Nusser’s lifelong struggle with alcoholism allowed him to bring total believability to the character of Louie.
I was watching an episode of Perry Mason one night recently and there was Nusser playing the part of the judge. He looked and sounded just like Louie except that he’d shaved, combed his hair and donned a robe. He appeared in a few films too including: It Should Happen to You (1954,debut), Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957), Hail,Hero! (1969) and Cahill: U.S. Marshal (1973) which was his last.
Sadly, he never received an Emmy or a nomination for his work on Gunsmoke, but he should have. James Nusser died (pre-embalmed) in Hollywood in 1979 at the age of 74. Here’s mud in your eye, Louie.