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!

9 responses »

  1. I’m not sure why but I don’t believe I’ve seen any of this series. This is most odd with my fondness for westerns and for vintage TV shows too. I must say your pics and comments here have whetted my appetite mind.

      • Half hour shows in general move along at a fair old lick and are very easy to fit into your schedule – it’s a format I find works well in a lot of cases. I’m going to have to make an effort to watch some of the early episodes of this show, which seem to be cheap and easy to obtain.

  2. You have re-ignited my interest! Somehow I have always associated the foursome in Rio Bravo with the foursome here, even though there is a woman here. It could be Stumpy and Chester or the camaderie in both. Best regards

  3. I too have been making my way slowwwwly thru these and I’m in season 8. I enjoyed the half hour format a lot better in the end and I think that is another reason why I really liked Have Gun Will Travel that I went thru a few years back. I believe the man in black at the opening of the show is Leo Gordon. If I’m not mistaken it’s from an actual episode in season 1 that he appeared in. I like to joke with my sons that another episode, another notch on the gun and if he’s gonna do this for over 600 episodes, that’s one heck of Boot Hill he’s got going in Dodge and Miss Kitty is always sipping on beer, I think she may have had a drinking problem I tell the boys. lol.

  4. That’s a coincidence, I’m about to start season 8!
    So it’s Leo Gordon , thanks for the info.
    You’re so right – Matt is filling up Boot Hill fast!
    Kitty does like her beer!
    Your mention of Have Gun Will Travel makes me think that ‘ll be the next show I get hold of.

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