‘Gunsmoke’ Actor Ken Curtis Trimmed John Ford’S Toenails For Legendary Movie Roles


Gunsmoke actor Ken Curtis had a connection to legendary filmmaker John Ford that some fans didn’t realize. As a result, they worked together on several movies that went down as some of the greatest films of all time. Curtis helped Ford out with various sets of tasks, including trimming his toenails, which greatly benefited him in the long run of his career.

Ken Curtis was John Ford’s son-in-law

Curtis and Ford became family by marriage. The Gunsmoke actor married Ford’s daughter, Barbara, before the iconic Western show in 1952. According to Joseph McBride’s Searching for John Ford, this marriage was “one of the few positive developments in Ford’s personal life during the early 1950s.” It was the second marriage for both Curtis and Barbara, and they met on a Republic dubbing stage during his recording session for Wagon Master.

Barbara’s first marriage was to actor Robert Walker, but she didn’t tell her parents about it until the ceremony was over. But, Ford liked Curtis’ personality much more than that of his daughter’s first husband. In fact, he was willing to bend over backward for his father-in-law, especially during the early years of his marriage to Barbara.

Ken Curtis trimmed John Ford’s toenails for movie roles in ‘Rio Grande’ and ‘The Quiet Man’

McBride wrote that Curtis always made himself available to Ford for “impromptu serenading” and whatever chores he needed to have done. The actor became somewhat of a “valet” to the legendary filmmaker, which put him in incredibly good favor with him. Curtis occasionally trimmed Ford’s toenails, which earned him a reward well worth the trouble.


The actor starred in some of Ford’s biggest movies, including Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, The Wings of Eagles, The Last Hurrah, and Cheyenne. He also landed the lead role in a 1956 short film for the navy called The Growler Story.

Outside of Gunsmoke, Curtis is most well-known for playing Charlie McCorry in The Searchers. He got into a fistfight with Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) in the final act when he discovered that Charlie would marry his sweetheart, Laurie (Vera Miles). As a result, he had a natural launching point to continue starring in other Westerns alongside movie star John Wayne, such as The Alamo.

He divorced Barbara Ford in 1964

Ford was filled with delight when Barbara was pregnant with Curtis in 1958, McBride wrote. At the time, they were considering adopting, rather than continuing to try and get pregnant. Unfortunately, she had a miscarriage and wasn’t able to have children after that, which weighed heavily on her parents.

Barbara and Curtis had a happy marriage for a number of years, but they ultimately divorced in 1964. He went along and married one more time to Torrie Ahern Connelly in 1966. They remained married until his death at the age of 74 on April 28, 1991. He died in his sleep as a result of a heart attack.