30 April 2002 | raysond
Not only a good Western,but action drama at its best
For the 20 years that it ran on CBS,"Gunsmoke" was the essential Western to watch. Not only it was about a Marshal who retain law and order in Dodge City in the 1800's,but set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Kansas frontier. The stories kept its viewers on edge no matter what its characters were going through as Matt Dillon(played by James Arness) kept the peace alongside his deputies Chester Goode(Dennis Weaver from 1955-1964 for 290 episodes),Quint Aspen(Burt Reynolds from 1962-1965 for 50 episodes),Festus Hagen(Ken Curtis from 1964-1975 for 304 episodes),Thad Greene(Roger Ewing from 1965-1967 for 51 episodes)and Newly O'Brian(played by Buck Taylor from 1967-1975 for 174 episodes). It also had Matt Dillon's love interest Miss Kitty(Amanda Blake from 1955-1974 for 568 episodes)and the resourceful medical physician Doc Adams(Milburn Stone),and Sam (Glenn Strange from 1961-1975 for 238 episodes),and Miss Hannah(Fran Ryan from 1974-1975 for 26 episodes. Amanda Blake left the series at the end of the show's 19th season and was replaced by Fran Ryan in the final season). Only actors James Arness and Milburn Stone remained with the series as the only cast members that stayed throughout it's 20-year run.
Out of the 635 episodes that "Gunsmoke" produced,the series premiered on September 10,1955 with the episode "Matt Gets It". From September 10, 1955 until June 17, 1961 there were 233 half-hour black and white episodes. On September 30,1961 the show expanded to a hour long format that produced 176 episodes in black and white until May 7,1966. Then on September 17,1966 the show evolved from 11 seasons in black and white to color for 266 episodes until the final episode of the series on March 31,1975. During the first few seasons of "Gunsmoke" the show was in the top ten of the Nielsens becoming a huge Saturday night prime time favorite between 1955-1961 where the show became a phenomenon. By 1967, in it's 13th season, CBS made the decision to move the series from Saturday nights to Monday nights where it was back at the top of the ratings,due to a new audience and a earlier time slot. Between Seasons 13 thru 20 saw "Gunsmoke" surging back into the Top Ten of the Nielsens becoming one of the top five shows on television between 1967-1975.
The astounding success of "Gunsmoke" spawned seven Prime-Time Emmy nominations during it's run winning four Prime-Time Emmys in 1958(Best Dramatic Series);1959(Best Supporting Actor-Dennis Weaver);1968(Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role-Milburn Stone);1970(Outstanding Achievement in Film Editing). "Gunsmoke" was nominated for four Golden Globes with actress Amanda Blake for Best Actress in a Dramatic Series three times in 1970,1971 and 1972. Golden Globe nominated also when to Milburn Stone for Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series in 1972. Golden Globe nominations also went to Ken Curtis and James Arness as well. When "Gunsmoke" ended it's run in 1975 it marked the end of the television Western...an astounding feat that when it was on the air during the early-1970's it surpass it's rival "Bonanza" which was already off the air two years earlier. When it was abruptly canceled on March 31,1975(with the final episode of the series "The Sharecroppers") the cast had no warning and learned their fate from media outlets. On September 8, 1975 the two shows that replaced the long-running "Gunsmoke" were two spinoffs of CBS' "Mary Tyler Moore Show" which were "Rhoda",and "Phyllis" that were placed on it's prime- time Monday night schedule. James Arness reprised the role of Marshal Dillon for six made for television movies based on "Gunsmoke" that aired on CBS between 1987 and 1994 featuring the original cast that includes Ken Curtis, Amanda Blake and Buck Taylor.