e-book Gunsmoke: An American Institution, Celebrating 50 Years of Televisions Best Western

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Other articles celebrating the show and marking its anniversary are here , here and here. The radio show was, in my opinion, superior to the TV version. I believe they were produced at the same time, with William Conrad supplying the voice for Matt Dillon. Conrad made a tougher, more realistic Dillon. It was a beautifully written and produced show. The show was filmed on a ranch my grandfather ran in the fifties to late sixties.

I believe it was called the American-Hawaiian Land Ranch. The 20,acres in Thousand Oaks has now been converted to a golf course and housing development. Macdonnell and Meston continued the radio version of Gunsmoke until , making it one of the most enduring vintage radio dramas. Conrad directed two television episodes, in and , while McNear appeared on six, playing characters other than Doc, including three times as storekeeper Howard Rudd.

Celebrate TV’s Greatest Western Legends From “Gunsmoke”

It was the second Western television series written for adults, [18] premiering on September 10, , four days after The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. During its second season in , the program joined the list of the top television programs broadcast in the United States. It quickly moved to number one and stayed there until It remained among the top programs until The television series remains the longest-running, primetime, live-action series of the 20th century.

As of [update] , it had the highest number of scripted episodes for any U. On April 29, , The Simpsons surpassed Gunsmoke for the most scripted episodes. Some foreign-made programs, i. James Arness and Milburn Stone portrayed their Gunsmoke characters for 20 consecutive years, a feat later matched by Kelsey Grammer as the character Frasier Crane , but over two half-hour sitcoms Cheers and Frasier. When Gunsmoke was adapted for television in , in spite of a campaign to persuade the network, the network was not interested in bringing either Conrad or his radio costars to the television medium.

Conrad's weight was rumored to be a deciding factor. Denver Pyle was also considered for the leading role, as was Raymond Burr , who was ultimately also seen as too heavy for the part. Charles Warren , television Gunsmoke' s first director, said, "His voice was fine, but he was too big. When he stood up, his chair stood with him.

The belief that Wayne was asked to star is disputed by Warren.

Gunsmoke, An American Institution Celebrating 50 Years of Television’s Best Western

Although he agrees Wayne encouraged Arness to take the role, Warren says, "I hired Jim Arness on the strength of a picture he's done for me I never thought for a moment of offering it to Wayne. Wayne came in. Warren asked Wayne if he knew James Arness, and Mr. Wayne said yes. Warren told Mr. Wayne about the transition of the show from radio to TV, and Mr.

Wayne readily agreed that James Arness would be a terrific choice for the part of Matt Dillon. I have no reason to doubt the story, because Jimmy absolutely knew everybody. In the end, the primary roles were all recast, with Arness taking the lead role of Marshal Matt Dillon on the recommendation of Wayne, who also introduced the pilot , Dennis Weaver playing Chester Goode, Milburn Stone being cast as Dr.

Macdonnell became the associate producer of the TV show and later the producer. Meston was named head writer. Good evening. My name's Wayne. Some of you may have seen me before; I hope so. I've been kicking around Hollywood a long time. I've made a lot of pictures out here, all kinds, and some of them have been Westerns. And that's what I'm here to tell you about tonight: a Western—a new television show called Gunsmoke.

Gunsmoke - Wikipedia

No, I'm not in it. I wish I were, though, because I think it's the best thing of its kind that's come along, and I hope you'll agree with me; it's honest, it's adult, it's realistic. When I first heard about the show Gunsmoke , I knew there was only one man to play in it: James Arness. He's a young fellow, and maybe new to some of you, but I've worked with him and I predict he'll be a big star, so you might as well get used to him, like you've had to get used to me!

Gunsmoke 1955 1975 Vol I The Grandaddy of the TV Westerns

And now I'm proud to present my friend Jim Arness in Gunsmoke. In , Burt Reynolds was added to the show's lineup, as the "halfbreed" blacksmith Quint Asper, and performed that role from the year just before the departure of Chester Goode and to just after the appearance of Festus Haggen.

Curtis, a big band and Western singer Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Shep Fields Band, Sons of the Pioneers , had five previous guest roles, including one in as a shady ladies' man named Kyle Kelly "Lover Boy," season 9, show two [episode ]. Curtis first appeared in the episode "Jayhawkers" season four, episode 21 [episode ] , wherein he played Phil Jacks, a Texas cowboy, with Jack Elam as his boss during a cattle drive from Texas. The second was another episode entitled "Change of Heart" season four, episode 32 [episode ] , where he played Brisco.

The third appearance is the episode "The Ex-Urbanites" season five, episode 30 [episode ] , where he plays Jesse. He also had a small role as an Indian named Scout in the episode "Speak Me Fair" season five, episode 34 [episode ] in In , Weaver left the series to pursue a broader acting career in TV series and films. In , Curtis was signed as a regular to play the stubbornly illiterate hillbilly Festus Haggen.

The character, heretofore a comic feature, came to town in a episode titled "Us Haggens" to avenge the death of his twin brother Fergus, and decided to stay in Dodge when the deed was done. In the episode "Alias Festus Haggen", he is mistaken for a robber and killer, whom he has to expose, to free himself both parts played by Curtis. In a comic relief episode, "Mad Dog", another case of mistaken identity forces Festus to fight three sons of a man killed by his cousin. As a side note, only one episode has all three actors in it playing their respective roles, in the episode entitled "Prairie Wolfer" season 9, episode 16 [episode ] , with Dennis Weaver as Chester, Burt Reynolds as Quint, and Ken Curtis as Festus.

When Milburn Stone left the series for heart bypass surgery in , Pat Hingle played his temporary replacement, Dr. John Chapman, for several episodes. His presence was at first roundly resisted by Festus, a bickersome but close friend of Doc Adams. Well-known actors played "visiting characters". Jeanette Nolan played Dirty Sally in several episodes. The back stories of some of the main characters were largely left to the imagination of the viewer.

Matt Dillon spent his early years in foster care, knew the Bible, was a wayward, brawling cowboy, and was later mentored by a caring lawman. In a few episodes, he mentions having spent some time in the army. Kitty Russell was born in New Orleans and reared by a flashy foster mother who once visited Dodge , although her father visited Dodge on one occasion and wished to have her return to New Orleans. Barkeep Sam is said to be married, but no wife is ever seen. In the episode "Tafton", he is seen side-by-side with a woman in a church singing.

Quint Asper's white father was killed by white scavengers. Thad Greenwood's father, a storekeeper, was harassed to death by a trio of loathsome ne'er-do-well thieves. Chester Goode is known to be one of many brothers raised by an aunt and uncle, and on one occasion, he mentions his mother; he refers to past service in the cavalry and years as a cattle driver in Texas. The cause of Chester's stiff right leg is never given, but it is shown as his own leg and not a prosthesis.

No direct reference to his disability is ever made in the script, although some oblique moments paint the free-spirited, comic deputy with a darker tone.

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Newly O'Brien was named after a physician uncle who ignited his interest in medicine. While Dillon and Miss Kitty clearly have a close personal relationship, the two never marry. In a July 2, , Associated Press interview with Bob Thomas, Arness explained, "If they were man and wife, it would make a lot of difference. The people upstairs decided it was better to leave the show as it was, which I totally agreed with. Apparently, bordellos could exist "at the law's discretion," meaning the marshal's.

As a historical matter, prior to the First World War , few laws criminalized prostitution in the United States. Unfortunately, Marshal Dillon has been going over 30 hours without sleep, and when Kitty is distracted, he falls soundly asleep. Holly to save her from a robber gang "Sergeant Holly", By the time of the "Gold Train" episode, Kitty remembers when she first met Matt — 17 years before.

Miss Kitty was written out in The actress, fired by producer John Mantley over a contract dispute, claimed she was tired and quit to protect the cast and crew she loved so much. When Blake decided not to return for the show's 20th and final season, the character was said to have returned to New Orleans.


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For over a decade on television, a sign hung over Doc's office that read "Dr. Milburn Stone was given free rein to choose the character's first name. The actor chose the name of the ancient Greek physician and medical researcher Galen. He is first referred to in this manner by Theodore Bikel as "Martin Kellums" in the season episode, "Song for Dying", aired February 13, Differences were noted between the characters on the radio and TV versions of Gunsmoke.

In the radio series, Doc was acerbic, somewhat mercenary, and borderline alcoholic, at least in the program's early years. On radio's Gunsmoke , Doc Adams's real name was Dr. Calvin Moore. The television Doc, though still crusty, was in many ways softer and warmer. Nothing in the radio series suggested that Chester Proudfoot was disabled; this merely visual feature was added to the Chester Goode character on television because of actor Dennis Weaver's athletic build, to emphasize Chester's role as a follower and not an independent agent.

Miss Kitty, who after the radio series ended, was said by some to have engaged in prostitution, began in that role in the television series, working in the Long Branch Saloon. In an earlier episode "How to Cure a Friend", season two, episode seven , the owner of the Long Branch was named Bill Pence a role played by at least three different actors over the years. In that same episode, John Dehner portrayed a dubious New Orleans businessman claiming to be Kitty's father, who tried to talk her into selling her half interest in the Long Branch and returning to New Orleans with him as a partner in his alleged freight business.

In another episode involving a new saloon girl named "Rena Decker", who causes four deaths by provoking men into fighting over her , Miss Kitty identifies herself as half-owner of the Long Branch with Mr. Pence played by Judson Pratt.


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  • Subsequently, Miss Kitty transitioned to sole owner. Although early film episodes showed her descending from her second-floor rooms in the saloon with Matt, or showed her or one of her girls leading a cowboy up to those same rooms, these scenes disappeared later on, and viewers were guided to see Miss Kitty just as a kindhearted businesswoman. From to , Gunsmoke was a half-hour show retitled Marshal Dillon in syndication.


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    • It then went to an hour-long format. The series was retitled Gun Law in the UK. The Marshal Dillon syndicated rerun lasted from until on CBS, originally on Tuesday nights within its time in reruns. Gunsmoke was TV's number one-ranked show from to before slipping into a decline after expanding to an hour. In , the show's 12th season, CBS planned to cancel the series, but widespread viewer reaction including a mention in Congress and the behind-the-scenes pressure from Babe Paley , the wife of CBS's longtime president William S.

      Paley prevented its demise. This scheduling move led to a spike in ratings that had it once again rally to the top 10 in the Nielsen ratings , which again saved the series when CBS purged most of its rural content in The series remained in the top 10 until the —74 television season. Arness and Stone remained with the show for its entire run, though Stone missed seven episodes in due to illness. The entire cast was stunned by the cancellation, as they were unaware that CBS was considering it. According to Arness, "We didn't do a final, wrap-up show. We finished the 20th year, we all expected to go on for another season, or two or three.

      The network never told anybody they were thinking of canceling. Doc Adams and Festus Haggen were not featured in the film. Milburn Stone had died 7 years earlier in and the role of Doc was not recast. Ken Curtis, meanwhile, balked at the salary offer he received and said that he should be paid based on Festus' importance in the character hierarchy.

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      The screenwriters responded to Curtis' absence by making Newly the new Dodge City marshal. The film, shot in Alberta , featured a now-retired Marshal Dillon being attacked and a vengeful former rival returning to Dodge City to entrap him. In , the second telefilm, Gunsmoke: The Last Apache , premiered. Since Amanda Blake had died the year before, the writers decided to revisit a episode for the movie. The episode was based on "Matt's Love Story", which was noted for the marshal's first overnight visit to a female's lodgings.

      Dodge City was never again seen. Arness appeared in all five films. All episodes of the television series, and almost all episodes of the radio show, still exist. In , as part of Gunsmoke ' s 50th anniversary on TV, certain selected episodes were released on DVD in three different box sets. Twelve episodes, from to , were selected for the Gunsmoke: Volume I box set, and another twelve episodes, from to , were selected for the Gunsmoke: Volume II box set. Both sets are also available as a combined single "Gift Box Set".

      A third unique DVD box set, known as Gunsmoke: The Directors Collection , was also released with 10 selected episodes from certain seasons throughout the series' year history. Seasons 16 and 17 will be released on December 10, Preceding the series by nearly 2 years was a movie also titled Gunsmoke. It has been confused in the past as the basis for the series but has been proven since to have no connection with the show, or radio series, with the exception that all are westerns. Gunsmoke had one spin-off series, Dirty Sally , a semicomedy starring Jeanette Nolan as an old woman and Dack Rambo as a young gunfighter, leaving Dodge City for California to pan for gold.

      The program lasted 13 weeks and aired in the first half of , a year before Gunsmoke ended. The Gunsmoke theme was composed by Rex Koury. The lyrics of the theme, never aired on the radio or television show, were recorded and released by Tex Ritter in Ritter was backed on that Capitol record by Rex Koury and the radio Gunsmoke orchestra. The Gunsmoke brand was used to endorse numerous products, from cottage cheese [61] to cigarettes. In , Capcom released a video game for the arcade and its corresponding game for the NES in with a Western theme, called Gun.

      Other than the Western theme, the show and game have no relationship whatsoever. The program currently airs on three major venues: TV Land , which has carried the show since its inception in , Encore Westerns , and Weigel Broadcasting 's MeTV digital subchannel network. The series also appears intermittently on MeTV's themed sister network Decades , which CBS holds a partial interest in; it appears on the schedule depending on the theme and year a particular day has. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

      This article possibly contains original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations. Statements consisting only of original research should be removed. June Learn how and when to remove this template message. This article is about the radio and television series. For other uses, see Gun Smoke. Publicity photo from Gunsmoke ' s radio version photo from