20 Years of GUNSMOKE

I’ve been watching the long running series, GUNSMOKE, over the past few months. I’m up to season 7 and still have 13 to go! Yes, this show ran for 20 years from 1955 to 1975.

JAMES ARNESS ,as Marshall Matt Dillon, appeared in 635 episodes ! Milburn Stone  as Doc Adams wasn’t far behind, with 604 episodes.


John Wayne introduced the very first episode in 1955, not a bad way to begin .

What  makes a show run for that length of time. I put it down to James Arness who is so well cast as the incorruptible law officer of Dodge City. Plus a regular cast that included Milburn Stone, Dennis Weaver as Chester and Amanda Blake as Kitty.

That foursome worked so well together, though I know quite soon now that Dennis Weaver leaves the show, though it hasn’t happened yet.


If there are any diehard Gunsmoke fans out there, I’d welcome any comment on the following.

Why is Chester’s bad leg never mentioned. Surely somebody, sometime could reference it.

Also, why does Chester not have a badge or a gun. He is obviously Matt’s deputy and quite often goes out with him to track down villains.

Matt and Chester are friends. Couldn’t Chester call him Matt.

Matt must carry a small spade in his saddle bags – he quite often has to bury people he’s forced to kill while out on the prairie.

Dennis Weaver and Milburn Stone have some good scenes together. Stone is the taciturn doctor who is always popping into Matt’s office for a coffee. Weaver, as Chester, is a bit of a hypochondriac and always quizzing the doc about his symptoms.


Gunsmoke made the cover of a lot of issues of TV Guide.



Amanda Blake

I love how Kitty always has a vacancy in the saloon for any girl who comes into town – and they can always start the next day!

Matt must have walked into the Long Branch saloon ( which Kitty owns – she did have a partner but he just disappeared) a thousand times and said, “Hello,Kitty.”!




Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, Dennis Weaver


The opening of every episode. . The man in black is never identified.

The show so far has been quite violent. Frequently there are more than one shooting per episode. In fact, it was season 6 before there was an episode in which nobody died.

None of the four principals smoke, which is pretty amazing for the time.


The four stars on the set.


Publicity shot of Dennis, Amanda and Milburn

Coffee seems to be their favorite drink. In the first season, when Matt comes into the Long Branch, he and Kitty have a coffee. Later, they remember they are in a saloon and they change to a beer or even a whisky!


Would Miss Kitty ride side saddle. Doesn’t seem right.


Glenn Strange as Sam the bartender. Glenn became a regular in Season 7, though I spotted him playing the same role  in one episode of Season 6 –  though he  was called Fred!


James Arness, Amanda Blake.

Was there a romance between Matt and Kitty. They were only ever portrayed as being close friends, though in one episode of Season 7, guest star, Dianne Foster blames Matt for the death of her husband and targets Kitty whom she refers to as ‘Matt’s girl.’ – there’s no denial.



Up to season 6, the episodes were a compact 25 minutes. After that they changed to an hour.

So far I prefer the shorter episodes which concentrated on Matt, Chester, Kitty and Doc. Now there are plot lines that leave Matt and the others absent from the screen for a quite a few scenes.


Guest stars so far have included so many well kent faces — John Hoyt, John Dehner ( who had been in 4 episodes so far), Paul Fix, Royal Dano and Ben Cooper ( looking not a day older than he did in Johnny Guitar almost a decade earlier.)

In one episode there was the odd pairing of Gene Nelson and Harry Lauter as brothers.

In another, Claude Akins, Robert Wilke and Ted de Corsia were a trio of killer commancheros.

Dabbs Greer

Dabbs Greer had a recurring role as Mr.Jonas, the store keeper.


Buddy Ebsen.      George Kennedy.


The original Matt Dillon ( William Conrad on radio).

William Conrad


All in black and white so far.More to come!

PHOTO OF THE DAY: Jane and Marilyn

Gwen Verdon (1925 – 2000) shows the moves to Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe on the set of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES. The number may be “Two Little Girls from Little Rock.”

Gwen was a talented dancer (  married to Bob Fosse). On screen she starred in DAMN YANKEES. On stage, she created the role of Charity in SWEET CHARITY, and she and Chita Rivera were the original stars of CHICAGO.


Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville Hitchcock


All my trips to London over the years and I never knew there was a small hotel called ‘Sir Alfred Hitchcock’. It’s located at Whipps Cross Road in the Leytonstone area of London where Hitchcock was born.





And I didn’t know that Leytonstone Tube Station in London has 17 mosaics depicting  Hitchcock films.

Designed in 2001 by the Greenwich Mural  Workshop, the 80,000 tiles used are made of vitreous glass.The mosaics were commissioned by the local council to mark 100 years since the birth of the famous  director.






I had read that Hitchcock’s estate when he died in 1980 was worth millions. So I was surprised to read the following letter on the excellent blog, http://starsandletters.blogspot.co.uk

Dated three years before his death, the letter is addressed to someone called Ann, and refers to a reduction in the financial gift that he sends to this lady’s mother – $10 a month.

He explains how Alma Hitchcock is requiring a lot of medical care and admits that part of the cost is being met by Medicare.

He also mentions the help he gives to his sister in England.

Referring to his latest film (FRENZY), he calls it a miserable picture.

Lastly, Hitchcock says he is basically a salary earner like Ann. (One wonders what Ann’s occupation is).

Can anyone throw light on who the director was writing to, or why he should be pleading financial problems.?


Only  his third film and Cary Grant gets star billing in HOT SATURDAY, playing a rich playboy who has a holiday home near a small town  who look down on him because he doesnt share their narrow minded ideas of morality .

NANCY CARROLL  may have second billing but it is her film. She plays a bank clerk whom Cary falls for. An actress I don’t know, but she impressed  – though she looked so much like Claudette Colbert.


RANDOLPH SCOTT doesn’t appear till half way through , playing a geologist who hasn’t been in town for several years, but he remembers Nancy and wants to marry her.

There’s nothing very hot about Hot Saturday. As in his previous two films, Cary looks great but has little to do.

The thin plot has the town gossips thinking  Nancy has spent the night with Cary – even her mother (Jane Darwell) thinks the worst.

The ending is completely contrived – Cary has made it clear he doesnt believe in marriage, but in the end tells Nancy he knows a preacher who’ll marry  them. This is pre-code?


Nancy Carroll, Cary Grant


I enjoyed the number, “I’m burning for you”, performed at the Saturday night dance. I’m burning to know who the singer is. Anyone know?



In France to publicise WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE in 1963, Bette Davis spoke  with her usual candour:

“Well, in Hollywood you’re only as good as your last film – and only if your last film made beaucoup d’argent!”


One preview card for Baby Jane said, “After this you will not have to advertise for work again.”

Bette responded:

The ad was tongue in cheek – really a rib – the whole thing was done like a newspaper ad.”

(Reference to the 1962 ad which Bette put  in Variety under Situation Wanted.)


I am doomed to an eternity of compulsive work……..success only breeds a new goal.”



I will not retire while I’ve  still got my legs and my make-up box.”


In this business, until you’re known as a monster, you’re not a star.”


“Everybody has a heart. Except some people.”



I don’t think of myself as a character  actress – that’s become a phrase which means you’ve had it.”



Mostly told in flashback, FATE IS THE HUNTER has Glenn Ford as an airline  executive investigating a plane crash which opens the film.

Piloted by Rod Taylor, flight attendant Suzanne Pleshette is the only survivor out of the 54 on board.


Suzanne Pleshette, Rod Taylor

The crash is only 10 miles from the airport.  Massive engine failure is thought  to be the cause.

The airline chiefs, including head engineer (Nehemiah Persoff) quickly decide it was pilot error since one of the engines is still working when they test it.


Nehemiah Persoff,  Robert F. Simon, Glenn Ford


Nehemiah Persoff, Glenn Ford



Jane Russell

Part of the flashback shows Glenn Ford and Rod Taylor during the War, watching Jane Russell entertaining the troops. Jane  sings ‘No Love, No Nothing.’


On the set: Rod Taylor, Jane Russell, Glenn Ford.


Suzanne  Pleshette, Glenn Ford

Ford decides to recreate the original flight and persuades Suzanne Pleshette to come on board as she can describe the movements of the crew and what happened before the crash.


Mark Stevens, Glenn Ford


During the flashback, Ford talks to Mark Stevens who was out drinking with Rod Taylor (or was he?); and Dorothy Malone who had broken off her engagement to Taylor , and Mary Wickes who was his landlady.


John Hubbard, Nehemiah Persoff, Suzanne Pleshette, Glenn Ford


Suzanne Pleshette, Glenn Ford

Recreating the original flight, Suzanne hands Glenn a cup of coffee – an innocent action which leads to the crash.


John Hubbard, Nehemiah Persoff, Glenn Ford.

It looks as if the plane will crash again, but the reason for  the original crash is discovered in time.

A strong cast also included Nancy Kwan,  Constance Towers ( underused as Ford’s secretary), Wally Cox,  Howard  St.John .

Nice too to see Robert Wilke in a modern day role, as the airline’s head of communications.

Ford and Taylor play a contrasting pair of friends, Taylor easygoing and well liked, and Ford making his way up the corporate ladder – but willing to defend his friend’s reputation .

It’s a good drama and I know it’s one I will watch more than once.