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  • I remember watching Gunsmoke in the late 1950's. In black and white or in color it was consistently good, in large part, due to its talented cast. Originally John Wayne was offered the part but felt TV was not his cup of tea. He recommended a tall, good looking James Arness to play Matt Dillon and the rest is history.For the first 9 years, Dennis Weaver played Matt's devoted friend and deputy. Amanda Blake was perfect in the role of Miss Kitty, who ran the local Dodge City saloon. Milburn Stone, a long time screen actor, was given the part of Doc Adams, an outspoken man with a heart of gold. Then there was Ken Curtis who played Festus Hagen, a lovable deputy who was an equal replacement for Dennis Weaver. For 20 years, Gunsmoke graced the television line up at CBS. It was a different western in that its scripts were often filled with emotional stories that developed its characters. It employed many of our finest actors in guest roles. Realistic filming in Thousand Oaks, Ca. and in southwest Utah added to its appeal. It still runs today on Nick at Night and continues to captivate its audience. It is just plain good!!!
  • Having Tivo (a system that records programs automatically) has re-introduced Gunsmoke to me. I was a young boy when it began in the 1950's. I loved the early shows. The 1962 shows are being aired on TV Land right now and I have about a dozen recorded for future viewing. I wanted to make an observation about James Arness's character, Matt Dillon. He was my hero growing up and watching the show. After seeing the shows again, 40 years later, I know why. Matt was justice. He meted out retribution to those who were evil. Here he was, standing 6 feet seven inches with a voice like God.

    Watching Matt save the day in episode after episode made me realize how great it would to have a Matt around today: someone who would stand up to the bully, step in a wield his gun at the villains taking advantage of anyone in sight. I guess we all had heroes, but who could ever match James Arness. He was fair, gentle, understanding, but had the strength and skill to ward off any foe.

    I miss Matt Dillon. We won't see his like again. Even Clint Eastwood, with his Dirty Harry justice, did not have the depth of Matt with his combination of gunplay and compassion.
  • 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 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.
  • Unfortunately, I am a real 'greenhorn' when it comes to this show, being such a latecomer and all (endless thanks & kudos to 'The Western Channel') - but I know a quality series when I see one. I can't take my eyes off this thing once an episode gets going, and the characters, storylines and acting are all in a class of their own. All I can say is God Bless Marshall Dillon, Festus, Miss Kitty, Chester, Quint, Sam, Doc and all the rest of the characters and the actors who played them. There will never be another show that can even spit-shine the dust from Gunsmoke's boots.
  • The original title of "Kitty's Love Affair" was "End of the Run." The story depicted a gunfighter who fell in love with Kitty and hoped that, by buying a ranch and settling down, he could encourage her to marry him. The original ending had the gunfighter (Richard Kiley) hanged. Unfortunately, John Mantley, the producer, decided that, yet again, Matt would save the day. Before Mr. Kiley was cast in the role of Will Stambridge, the writers (S.L. Kotar and J.E. Gessler) were told there could be no kissing scenes between the gunfighter and Miss Kitty because "Gunsmoke fans would never allow it." After Richard accepted the role, the script was altered to allow Will to kiss Kitty four times! This was the highest rated episode in the twenty year history of Gunsmoke.
  • The best of the series is the first five years when John Meston did most of the writing. He had a real feel of, what I perceive to be, the Old West to be really like. He did not go in for all of the frivolousness of later episodes. He did not rely on loud talking and grandiose brashness by the actors.

    People in the earlier episodes gave the impression that they were ordinary, hard working people who barely eked a living out of a hard land. They did what they had to do to get by, out on the lonely Kansas plains. When they met disaster, it was "implied" on screen and the viewer could use his imagination as to what happened. Those shows did not have all of the "Hollywood" glitz that pervaded later episodes.
  • Those of us old enough remember Gunsmoke as a cultural landmark. Not only did the show usher in the era of the adult Western, but it also brought to series TV some strong dramatic values not much in evidence at the time. Few of us ever expected the show would last as long as it did. Nonetheless, there are some good reasons for the longevity. Those reasons, I believe, are most noticeable during about a five-year period from 1956 through the early 60's, and are worth focusing on for fans of the series.

    The first year (1955) was far from the best, but it did put in place several elements that would mature powerfully over the following period. Of course, there's the cast of those early years. Above all, there's James Arness as the Marshal. Once Arness gets into the role after an uneven start, he's simply superb as the show's long-time anchor. Dennis Weaver's Chester is memorably easy to parody, with his slow wits and distinctive down-home drawl. But Weaver's also a fine actor, who provided his character with a rare measure of pathos unequaled by other supporting players over the 20 year run. There was always the chance that Chester's "comic relief" would descend into buffoonery, but Weaver and the producers handled the risk well. Milburn Stone's Doc adds a lot of color to the core cast, but he also trafficked in a lot of self-conscious mannerisms for my taste. Nonetheless, he mixed well with the others, while his caustic bantering with the over-matched Chester could be both unforced and funny. And, of course, there's Amanda Blake's Kitty, the good-hearted saloon-keeper, who a led a rather implausibly chaste private life. But here we're dealing with the mores of the time. The fact is that Blake brings just the right emotional tone to a character that was more constrained than the others. The cast may not seem so special on paper, but on screen the chemistry was superb.

    The 1955 entries opened with an unusual prologue-- Matt's little contemplative walk through Boot Hill where he pondered the fate of those mouldering in their graves.These reflective moments set an unusual tone for an action genre. Plus, they provided an extra dimension that took us outside the story by suggesting there are larger meanings within which the story would unfold. These were not heavy-handed messages, but rather subtle suggestions that moral lessons can be drawn from the stories that follow. The prologue was dropped after the first year, perhaps because the writers had exhausted the brief time frame. Nonetheless, the undercurrent continued for the next few years, especially in Matt's reactions to how some stories turned out. In "Brother Whelp" (1959), for example, he finds out the unexpected truth behind two brothers' rivalry over the same girl,. His perplexed reactions in the final few seconds indicate an attempt to come to grips with the strange ways of the world, ones that continue to elude his grasp. Thus, the episode ends on a subtly contemplative note, unusual for that day or any day. It's this inner dimension present at times during the early years that is often overlooked.

    Above all, however, it was the superior scripts that distinguished the series during this period. The excellence, I believe, was largely due to one man-- John Meston, who appears to have served as head writer until 1965. Note how many of the best screen-plays were either penned by him or taken from his ideas. He came to the TV production from the radio version where I expect he honed his skills. Those skills are in real evidence from 1956 to the early 60's. (And I expect it's no accident that this is the same time-frame during which Norman Mac Donnell served as series producer-- the man responsible for assembling the production crew.) Meston's specialty was dramatic structure. His best scripts are tight, suspenseful, and about as realistic as constraints of the time would allow. At his best, there was a dark inkling of just how difficult life on the Kansas frontier was. It's those moments I like best when some sorry homesteader or drifter confronts moments of personal anguish in the face of never-ending hard work, hostile Indians, and unforgiving elements-- in short, those rare moments of historical truth. Few series of the time bothered with the actual plight of prairie sod-busters. But Meston sometimes did. He was also good at limning colorful characters, building suspense, and also, surprisingly for the day, giving women strong roles in a genre that traditionally downplayed them. Together with Mac Donnell, I believe these two are largely responsible for Gunsmoke's "golden age". Too bad, their behind-the-scenes contributions have never been duly recognized.

    I haven't seen all the entries from this 5-year period, but I have seen the majority. So let me recommend a few that I think are worth catching up with. "The Guitar"(1955), easily the best of the first season, scripted by the legendary maverick, Sam Peckinpah, and no doubt the only entry of that period to implicate cast principals in a major crime!; "Ma Tennis" (1958), an original concept, superbly directed by Buzz Kulik, with a number of dramatic twists; "Jayhawkers" (1959), an effective glimpse of a Texas trail crew, with a surprising dramatic turn by Jack Elam; "Kangaroo" (1959) a fearsome entry, with hulking, Bible spouting Peter Whitney showing no mercy to even his sons; and,"The Cabin" (1958), an unusual noirish entry that somehow got past the censors.

    None of this is to deny that later entries in the series lacked merit. However, I do think the series soon lost the edge and tightness of this peak period. I'm only sorry that copies are so difficult to obtain. Most are worth a look-see, even in our era of super-charged TV.
  • When you're talking TV westerns there are only two really that are at the top, interchangeably as it were. One is CBS's Gunsmoke and the other is NBC's Bonanza. Then you discuss anything else.

    It's interesting to speculate how John Wayne's career might have taken a different turn had he accepted the offer to star in a weekly half hour television show about the Marshal of Dodge City. But of course he didn't do it, but instead pushed hard for an even taller marshal for the Kansas frontier town. James Arness had co-starred with the Duke in Big Jim McLain, Island in the Sky, and Hondo. He certainly brought a Duke like presence to the role of Marshal Matt Dillon.

    A lot of people forget that Gunsmoke was a radio series for several years before it came to television. It ran parallel on radio in the declining years of radio drama and the voice of Matt Dillon on the radio was William Conrad. Certainly a capable enough actor, Conrad's squat appearance just didn't match the description on radio of Dillon. Why do you think John Wayne was the first choice?

    Besides the regulars on every week which included Dennis Weaver as the stiff legged somewhat mentally challenged Deputy Chester Goode, Milburn Stone as testy and cantankerous Doctor Galen Adams, and Amanda Blake as Matt's significant other, Kitty Russell of the Longbranch saloon, the writers were smart enough to make sure the producers kept a recurring cast of regulars as the townspeople. Roy Roberts the banker, Eddy Waller as the livery stable owner, Glenn Strange as the bartender in the Longbranch, and for a while Burt Reynolds as a blacksmith, popped up in several episodes a year, even just with a line or two. It kept a great sense of continuity and the whole community of Dodge City became like familiar friends.

    Poor Dennis Weaver who related the stiff leg was his idea to establish individuality of his character and that he had to study yoga in order to walk with it and mount a horse said that he would have done something different if he knew how difficult it was going to be. He read for the Matt Dillon part and took the role of Chester because he needed the work. But after several seasons, he naturally did not want to spend his career typecast as a half wit. He quit and the rustic Festus Hagen came on as the Deputy. Festus was uneducated, but was by no means stupid. His arguments with the cantankerous Doc Adams were classic. Festus was played with real flair by Ken Curtis.

    If Gunsmoke is remembered for something other than a really great western series, maybe the best we ever had on television, it's the show that was saved by White House intervention. Along about 1965 because of declining ratings CBS was considering giving it the axe. But in an interview Lady Bird Johnson happened to mention that Gunsmoke was her favorite television show. That offhand comment revived interest in the series and CBS kept Gunsmoke on for another decade.

    Gunsmoke was an adult western, the plot situations were adult, but it's characters were both real and morally upright. Matt Dillon was no kid's cowboy hero like Gene Autry or Roy Rogers, but he was honest and decent and a fine role model who was incorruptible. And he and Kitty Russell had an adult romance going in the same manner as Perry Mason and Della Street. It was unspoken that sex as well as liquor was to be had at the Longbranch, but Miss Kitty had eyes only for the Marshal.

    As did America for twenty satisfying years.
  • Gunsmoke

    That Gunsmoke is the greatest TV western of all time is hard to dispute. it may be the great TV show of all time. Think of what your favorite show might have been like after 20 years on the air and then compare it to Gunsmoke, which was probably as good as anything on TV for it's entire twenty year run. Not too many shows were on so long that their runs can be divided into eras, but Gunsmoke has three of them. The first is the half hour black and white era, (1955-61). This is the most praised era of the show and the era of it's greatest popularity, (it was the #1 show on TV the last four of those years). Critics praise the "tight scripting" of those days and James Arness has said he prefers John Meston's "little morality plays" to the later hour episodes, which some critics have called "bloated". I like the half hours because they show the program in it's formative years, when the cast was young, (and the right age for their characters). I also like you can get four of them to a cassette, rather than two. But these shows are basically about incidents, rather than stories. They lack character and story development. The second era is the hour long black and white era. This is my favorite, firstly because it's the earliest one I remember from the times I watched it with my father and secondly because it's the best. With the extra hour to work with and a new group of writers to do the work,. the series matured. The supporting cast became stars, (nearly every famous episode featuring Chester, Festus, Doc or Kitty comes from this period). It also is the era when the second lead was introduced. the first and best was Burt Reynolds as Quint Asper, who's entire run is in this era. The writers also increased the scope of the show by focusing on "guest characters" with the regulars as supporting players. Unfortunately, the general public didn't share my enthusiasm for this era, (or they found something better to do on Saturday nights). Gunsmoke fell from #1 to #36, (in an era where there were only three networks), and actually got briefly canceled until William Paley saved it. But the old Saturday night spot was taken by Mannix so the show was moved to Tuesday, where it was expected to die a natural death among shows intended for younger viewers. In the greatest upset in TV ratings history, the show was discovered by a new generation and rebounded to #2, earning it another 8 years on the air, by which time the western craze it had started was long over and all it's rivals, even Bonanza, were long off the air.

    By this time, color had taken over. And it didn't do the show much good. Magazine reporters used to say: black and white for drama, color for excitement. Gunsmoke was about drama. Gunsmoke used to use an outdoor set for daytime Dodge City scenes. That disappeared in favor of an indoor set about 1960. In black an white the indoor set sufficed. In color it looked garish and stagy. Color had the same effect on the actors who were now too old for their roles. Real western marshals served for a few months at a time, (and, by the way, US Marshals were never town marshals). it became increasingly ridiculous to see Matt Dillon still gunning down the young whippersnappers after a decade or more. Miss Kitty went from a purdy young thing to a middle aged painted lady. Doc became increasingly enfeebled as Milburn Stone's health declined. Somehow the color film brought out all the wrinkles more than black and white. There where compensations. Each season began with a movie-caliber two parter shot on location in some national park. the overall script quality remained high as the cadre of writers continued to expand. They even got an outdoor set to use again in the later years, although it didn't look much like the Dodge City we had come to know.

    The TV movies? The first one was terrible. The second one was quite good. the third one stunk and I didn't bother with them after that.
  • This episode, "The Deadly Innocent", filmed in 1973-75, guest starring Russell Wiggins as Billy, was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame for the sensitive portrayal of mental retardation. It portrayed Marshall Dillon and Festus as helping a mentally handicapped man find a productive place in society in the Old West.
  • This one lasted 20 years, was in the top 10 '50s, '60s, and '70s(as late as '72...) You name the western character actor-Dub Taylor, Gerald McRaney, Richard Kiley, Forrest Tucker, etc. chances are, they turned up in here. I always preferred Ken Curtis to Dennis Weaver myself, but Chester was okay too.

    This has to be the #1 Western of all time, Arness, Blake, Stone and company made this a classic. By all means, if its carried somewhere, see it. It's one of the best.
  • Many of the topics they discuss on Gunsmoke are based on solid facts. Not when they are goofing around of course, but during those thoughtful moments on topics of food, health or the beginning of a plague outbreak. Most programs speak in generalities, or just plain vague about the subject matter. Most of the main characters of the program tend to be great role models for people eight to twenty years of age. Almost without fail each shows story plot has some sort of moral to it. Gunsmoke is as it was in 1955, a number one T.V. Show that's being enjoyed by the children of the generation that created Gunsmoke. Matt's favorite phrases, "Hold It" "Don't try it". Happy viewing. K. Jones
  • Doing a review of Gunsmoke is a labor of love. 635 episodes over twenty years! Starred James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon, the steadfast beacon of Dodge City, dogged in his pursuit of killers, thieves and villains. Amanda Blake portrayed the beautiful, fiery Miss Kitty Russell, the proprietor of the Long Branch saloon, and Milburn Stone as the curmudgeon Doc Adams, always stroking his face and patching up countless wounds. Marshal Dillon's sidekick was first Dennis Weaver as Chester Goode, the loyal helper with a limp who always seemed to encounter trouble. Burt Reynolds was Quint Asper, the half-breed blacksmith who could fight with his hands or a gun. And in Season 9, the introduction of Ken Curtis as Festus Haggen, Matt's deputy, the tough, whiskered companion, whose running verbal feuds with Doc Adams ( you ole scudder! ) were always of great amusement. In Season 1, the introductory soliloquy by Matt Dillon as he walked ruefully through Boot Hill cemetery, reflecting on the unfortunate inhabitants, and remarking that men were quicker to draw their guns than to draw upon their logic in the face of danger. The acting was hallmark, the stories exciting and a great cast of characters who appeared in each episode, such as John Dehner, Darren McGavin, Steve Forrest, Lee J. Cobb, John Anderson, Richard Kiley, Ricardo Montalban, Betty Davis, Bruce Dern, Nehemiah Persoff and James Gregory to name a select few. The show's themes of courage, redemption, justice, honor, revenge, love and loyalty stand as timeless monuments to the greatness of each week's episode. Gunsmoke defines the western genre as none other ever will!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Western film-makers have frequently been blamed by liberal-minded critics for creating a large body of work with reactionary content, but as "Gunsmoke" amply proves in many fine episodes, the critics couldn't be more wrong.

    "The Prisoner" features Jon Voight as a condemned murderer rescued from hanging by Miss Kitty because she is grateful to him for saving her own life. Even though the young cowboy openly admits to killing a rich man's wife, Miss Kitty believes in his innocence so much she rigs a poker game to steal custody of him from an abusive bounty hunter. Then she hides him just long enough for Marshal Matt Dillon to stop a rival sheriff and his violent boss from going through with the hanging. The poor cowpoke protests his innocence, finally gets a fair trial and is set free.

    This episode of "Gunsmoke" may have been seen by more than twenty million devoted fans in one night, which makes it difficult to equal its achievement in propagandizing effectively in favor of liberal doubt. Although western movies and TV serials have often been attacked by left-wing pundits for promoting right-wing values, in fact the show "Gunsmoke" may have done more to persuade its audience to oppose the death penalty than a string of full page ads in The New York Times. The makers of this show said "give a condemned man another chance" so entertainingly and so convincingly that most of its millions of loyal viewers probably agreed.

    In another episode of the show, featuring Carroll O'Connor as a poor farmer who steals back thirty dollars he lost to a rich gambler later robbed and murdered by a trio of feckless drifters, both the Marshal and Festus, believing that the simple souled farmer would never commit murder or lie to them, ride down the real culprits to prove he's not guilty.

    How much more plainly could a point in favor of defendants' rights be made? Yet when "Gunsmoke" was pulled off broadcast TV along with most other western entertainment, pundits of the left were foremost among those who celebrated the occasion, as if westerns, like Wall Street capitalism and the Ku Klux Klan, were a cause of society's ills rather than one of its cures. Well, the pundits had it wrong, this type of show should never have been taken off the air. Westerns are no more to blame for reactionary thinking than Marshal Dillon is to blame for the actions of an angry lynch mob.
  • For many,"Gunsmoke" remains the ultimate Western series, if only by virtue of it's longevity. At it's peak no other prime-time scripted,live action drama ran for longer than it did and alongside "Wyatt Earp",and "Cheyenne",it ushered in a veritable gold rush of television Westerns for adult viewers. Central to the show's success was James Arness' earnest performance as craggy faced Marshal Matt Dillon of Dodge City who was a hero and a paternal figure who held law and order in the West whose relationship with saloon owner Kitty Russell(Amanda Blake) was implicit but chaste. Alongside his trusted deputy Chester Goode(Dennis Weaver),and the dependable town physician,Doc Adams(Milburn Stone) the series from the first episode became one of the bonafide hits of the mid-1950's becoming during the first couple of seasons the Number One show on television between 1955- 1961,and again was back in the Top Ten of the Nielsen during the late- 1960's and throughout the early-1970's. The astounding success of "Gunsmoke" spawned seven Emmy nominations and won four Prime-Time Emmys in 1958(Best Dramatic Series);1959(Best Supporting Actor Dennis Weaver);1968(Outstanding Actor in a Support Role Milburn Stone);1970(Outstanding Achievement in Film Sound Editing). It was nominated for four Golden Globes with actress Amanda Blake nominated for Best Actress in a Dramatic Series three times in 1970,1971,and 1972 and Milburn Stone for Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series in 1972.

    John Wayne,who legend has it,was considered for the role of Marshal Dillon,and recommended his good friend James Arness for the job,and subsequently introduced viewers to the pilot episode("Matt Gets It" on September 10, 1955). Created by John Meston and Norman MacDonnell(for Seasons 1-9) along with producers John Mantley and Phillip Leacock(for Seasons 10-20),the series "Gunsmoke" began on radio in 1952 with William Conrad as Dillon,then made the transition to television. The series premiered on CBS' Saturday night schedule on September 10,1955 producing 233 half- hour episodes in black and white until June 17,1961(Seasons 1-6). On September 30,1961 the show expanded to a hour long format producing 176 episodes in black and white until May 7,1966(Seasons 7-11)Then the show evolved into color for 266 episodes from September 17,1966 until March 31,1975(Seasons 12-20). Only actors James Arness and Milburn Stone were the only cast members that stayed with the series throughout it's entire 20-year run.

    Actress Amanda Blake(Kitty Russell) was in Seasons 1-19 only,while other actors such as Dennis Weaver(Chester Goode)was in Seasons 1 thru 9 only. Weaver was gone at the end of the show's ninth season and was replaced by actor Ken Curtis(Festus Hagen) in 1964 and remained with the series throughout it's run until 1975(Seasons 10 thru 20). Ken Curtis actually appeared in several episodes as a guest star. Actor Burt Reynolds(Quint Asper)appeared in Seasons 8 thru 10 for 50 episodes until the end of the show's 10th season when he was replaced by Actor Roger Ewing(Thad Greene) for Seasons 11 thru 13 only. Buck Taylor(Newly)replaced Roger Ewing when he left at the end of Season 12. Taylor also appeared as a guest star in Season 12 episodes,but became a regular in Seasons 13 thru 20 until 1975,when the show ended it's triumph run.

    "Gunsmoke" during it's first eight seasons was in the Top Ten of the Nielsens,but when the ratings were slipping during the mid-1960's, a sudden move of the schedule sent the show from Saturday nights where it had been for the past 12 seasons to Monday nights at the beginning of Season 13,sent the show surging back into the Top Ten of the Nielsens becoming one of the top five shows on television from 1967-1975. When it was abruptly canceled on March 31,1975 after 635 episodes and 20 seasons the cast has no warning and learned their fate from press reports. On September 8, 1975, the two shows that replaced "Gunsmoke" were two spinoffs of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" which were "Rhoda" and "Phyllis",to fill that Monday night schedule. The phenomenal success of "Gunsmoke" helped established a standard for adult Western storytelling that has rarely been matched on the small or big screen. "Gunsmoke" spawned a spin-off called "Dirty Sally" starring Jeannette Nolan(who was a guest star in several episodes of "Gunsmoke" appearing in numerous roles)that lasted one season in 1974. James Arness did reprised the role of Marshal Dillon again when CBS aired five made for television sequels based on "Gunsmoke" that aired from 1987 until 1994. "Gunsmoke" held the title as the longest running prime time drama on television which has now been eclipsed by "Law and Order",and the animated "The Simpsons" for its longevity.
  • rbseaking18 February 2012
    I watch this on the Encore westerns channel and I must say I love it as much today as I did when I first saw it. Thankfully there are like 20 seasons of episodes for them to run. This is absolutely the best of the 50's and 60's westerns and that's quite a feat considering there were quite a few good ones including Rawhide, The Virginian, Bonanza, Have Gun Will travel, Wagon Train etc. Dillon wasn't an angel, he was conflicted at times, but he was wise and had integrity knowing what's right and wrong. He didn't hesitate to deal out some frontier justice to people who deserved it so he was no Gene Autry. The cast of characters was always good but I must admit I've always found Chester kind of annoying.
  • ellisel22 June 2006
    I enjoyed watching "Gunsmoke" reruns on television. The show maintained a wide variety of important issues that portrayed life in general. Concerns over rape, abuse, terminal illness, false imprisonment, morality, and race were knowingly important to the show's credibility and identity during the 20-year run. The finest episodes during the run were from the 1969-1970 Season until the 1974-1975 Season on CBS Television. Two key examples of abuse occurred in episodes titled "The Tarnished Badge" and "Hard Labor" were prevalent during its stint. The former had (the late) Victor French played a brutal sheriff in Ludlow, Kansas -- who had ran a sensible town -- in exploiting and intimidating people in the 1974-1975 Season. The latter: a ruthless (and dotty) sheriff had Marshal Matt Dillon imprisoned for life on (a trumped up) charge of first-degree murder. Dillon had no idea he was railroaded into a kangaroo court. He eventually arrested (with some reluctant help) the crooked officer in some aspect. These episodes dealt with the brutal (but actual) realities of abuse and exploitation in the show's content. These examples are why we have the United States Constitution against illegal detention in this country.
  • From the radio days,and then to television, "Gunsmoke" has become THE!! classic television western of all time!! Why was it so popular? A lot of reasons!! The imagery of how dreadfully scary it would be to live in the Kansas territory (aka Dodge City) during the late 1800's was superbly executed in this series!! Even the title "Gunsmoke" suggests that there was always a shootout, hence, you always saw gun smoke in the air!! The cast became legendary in this show!! All of them have been the recipients of residuals to this series that have made them wealthy ten times over again in their own rights!! "Gunsmoke" has been the longest running prime time television series in the history of television thus far!! "Law and Order" is now breathing down it's neck!! America's fascination with the rugged old west gave way to many Westerns and Western T.V. Shows... "Gunsmoke" was the typification of American's desire to indulge in the prefabricated small screen version of Cowboys in action!! Accolades for this show are endless, and "Gunsmoke" would, without question, be categorized as something that is as "American as Apple Pie"..... I loved this show, and as a kid, it entertained me in that wholesome sort of way!! You did get a feel for how difficult things were for settlers of Dodge City, and you, as a comfortable twentieth century American, evaluating the deplorable circumstances of yesteryear, can appreciate the sacrifices our pioneers of "Gunsmoke" endured!! The overall assessment of this television show: American classics should be treasured!!!
  • Richard Kiley originally turned down the role of Bohannan because he did not feel he could convincingly portray the charismatic seller of branch water and faith healing. After he was talked into taking the role, he rapidly made Bohannan his own, altering the character into a believable, almost tragic figure. Richard Kiley's character comes alive, allowing the actors who play opposite him and the audience to feel they are really participating in a miraculous depiction of events.
  • Lynn73115 November 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    My favorite episode of all 20 years is Mannon. He is a nasty very vain gunman, faster than Matt Dillon, who takes the town over when Dillon is gone. He is fond of Kitty, and tries to win her over. It is their interaction that makes this episode the best. Kitty psychs him out, telling him things like he isn't near the man Dillon is, cutting his face with a whiskey bottle when he is beating her, etc. The thought of a scar across his face really infuriates him. Her methods make Mannon question himself, and that is just the edge Dillon needs. Although Mannon is faster and shoots Dillon down, his shot isn't true and Dillon manages to get up some, call him out, and when he turns, shoots him. We all assumed he killed him. In a later show Mannon gets out of prison, kills the sentencing judge, and the warden of the KS penitentiary. He also appears in a 3rd episode as I recall. Kitty's attempts to save Dillon's life through "working" on Mannon's image of himself, and questioning his manhood, make this what I think is the best episode of all. Apparently I am not the only one, as this episode is included in the Director's Cut DVD.
  • As a youngster I fell in love with the show during it's last five years on the air....thank God for reruns.....fantastic story writing and actors. I love the early episodes as well as the later episodes. They had a great way of bringing in new characters on a transitional basis, who would eventually become regulars and keep making the show even better; Festus being the best. It kept a real continuity to the show. The show was realistic in that it didn't always have a completely happy ending all the time.....but always provided a moral to the story....something Hollywood has mostly forgotten about today....It could be rough and showed how violent the Old West could be but yet the tight friendship between the main characters had a way of warming your heart.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This programme was way ahead of its time in being the first TV western made for adults. I recently saw one episode on Youtube which was thought-provoking. A father ashamed of the way his cowardly, murderer son is begging him to stave off his execution, actually tricks the son into behaving like a man as he stands on the gallows. The degree of thought that went into the scripts encouraged good actors to accept guest roles. Together with the performances from a strong regular cast, James Arness, Dennis Weaver, Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, Ken Curtis and Burt Reynolds, this made Gunsmoke a rare quality programme of the time.
  • Festus's Haggen, a tough, street smart quick witted character, up until season 11 that is. Anyone who is a true fan of Gunsmoke especially the black and white episodes will notice that Festus's character changed drastically in season 11. Season 11 is when Festus had to start wearing his right ear bent over by his hat and it's also when the powers that be turned Festus Haggen into a bumbling idiot. Festus's character before season 11 was so prominent that he could have had his own show. Incidentally, Festus was Dillon's first true deputy U.S. Marshall, not Chester as most people think. Chester's character was like night and day. Some episodes he would seemingly have the ability to think and reason (somewhat) and other episodes he had the mental capacity of a child and some episodes he was almost feminine. I didn't mean to run on about Chester however, I just wanted to write this to pay my respects to possibly the greatest cast member Gunsmoke ever had, up until season 11 that is. Festus Haggen. If you've never noticed this, pay attention to Festus's character when he first appears in season 8, episode 13 "Us Haggens". Pay attention to how he talks, how he wears his hat, even how he walks. Festus character up until season 11 is tough, street smart and always paid his own way. After season 11 we never see this "Festus" again. His speech is drawled and protracted, his street smart persona his gone, and to make him look even more silly, he now bends his right ear over under his hat. Notice the episode "Ten little Indians" (season 11) the scene where Festus is sitting at the table with Al Tresh played by Warren Oates. This scene is hard for me to watch. Festus is acting like he's about one estrogen hormone away from being a woman. But that's coming from a die hard black and white fan of the original Festus Haggen. If anyone is a fan of the original Festus write a review and let me know.
  • senajoan23 August 2018
    Here we are in 2018 and I just have to say that Gunsmoke is just Timeless! This program is simply amazing, once you start to watch it for 5 minutes, that's it, you have to watch the rest. It's full of adventurous storylines, plots and anazing acting. In a time where there is so much indifference in the world, the character of Marshall Matt Dillon and his friends, shows us an individual in law enforcement and friends who is fair, and unbiased regardless of one's ethnicity. He is fair to those who have made mistakes and try to do better. My parents loved this show and because it was on as a night 'adult western', it had a huge fan base. I'm so happy to see and hear so many are either finding this show again or for the first time! There will NEVER be another show like this again. I wonder if the cast and writers, producers, film crew ever dreamed this show would be TIMELESS!
  • MANY OF THE best TV series from all of the time periods of Video History are oft consigned to the pigeon hole of mediocrity. This type of classification is neither fair, nor very accurate; owing its exaggerated importance to what could be only described as fallacious argumentative premises to begin with.

    THE MAIN CULPRITS in this case would seem to be our reliance on often less than spectacular memories and a natural inclination to write off any TV Series, which has had both longevity and popularity. Remembering that old adage that, "Familiarity breeds contempt."*

    WHAT IS CALLED for,and not exactly being coincidental, is a reviewing of as many episodes as is possible; with the object being to attempt to approach such a project without any prejudices, neither Pro or con. Thanks to the existence of such cable entities as NICK AT NIGHT, its video sibling TV LAND and local stations such as Chicago's WMETV (Channel 23) and sister ship, METOO (Channel 48), viewing the episodes is available several times each day.

    RECENTLY, WE HAVE taken time to revisit the folks in Dodge City, and make an honest attempt to look at each episode thorough 'new' eyes; putting any or all previously formulated attitudes about the stories on the back burners of mind and memory.

    AVAILABLE FOR OUR inspection, were episodes from all seasons. In addition to what has become much more familiar full hour long, color episodes, we were able to take in so many of the old half hour b & w installments from the earlier seasons. Possessing a brand new opening* with a combination of undistinguished theme music and unspectacular fade-in type of graphics, these 1/2 hours were rechristen ed MARSHALL DILLON before their initial season in syndicated reruns.

    WHEN WATCHED EN MASSE considered in total, the differences between the products of the various seasons become evident; the earlier stories being far more more unabashedly violent. The more recent entries displaying much less in the area of gunfights, fisticuffs and general mayhem per reel of film exposed. We've heard an explanation recently by the way of an interview on a PBS series. The now retired Marshall of Dodge said that there was an anti-violence crusade in progress fro the U.S. Senate. Consequently, the story lines were shackled with quotas of those very essentials that make a western a western.**

    ALL OF THAT being out of the way, we can now move on to what is it that made GUNSMOKE the perennial ratings block buster that it was for some two decades.

    IN ORDER TO state it plainly, we need just two words; cast and characterization. The production team knew that the key to success lie in having characters on the screen who would receive enough empathy from the 'characters' in the audience This would require a reasonable high dosage of realism and plain old fashioned authenticity; which of course, GUNSMOKE did posses.

    STEP TWO IN the formula for success requires the assembly of a stock company of thespians (that's Actors, to you Schultz) to create the best characterizations for those characters in the story for whom we will care. In the case of series such as GUNSMOKE, BONANZA or today's LAW & ORDER, this would also mean that the roster would undergo a considerably serious degree of metamorphosis; in that in the cast would undergo many changes over the normal course of an exceptionally long run.

    IN THE CASE of today's honoree, GUNSMOKE, its continued popularity over the the many seasons is in no way due to fine character development by a very talented stock company; who did their damnedest in giving us folks who we really identified with and truly cared for

    AND, WHILE WE are on the subject, we want to mention those very talented group of actors who made all of those seasons. We had people such as:

    Marshall Matt Dillon (James Arness), Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake), Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), Chester Goode (Denis Weaver), Ken Curtis (Festus Haggen), Buck Taylor (Newly O'Brien), Glenn Strange (Sam the Bartender), Burt Reynolds (Quint Asper, town blacksmith), and many more.

    COLLECTIVELY AND INDIVIDUALLY, these folks were responsible for our identification with an affection for Matt, Kitty, Doc, Chester, Sam, Festus, Newly, Quint, etc., etc., etc.

    NOTE: * The series truly hit the ground running; as it had been a popular Radio Series on the CBS Radio Network. It featured: William Conrad (Matt), Howard McNear Doc), Parley Baer (Chester).

    NOTE: ** Much in the same way as other Radio to TV Series such as THE LONE RANGER, many of the early GUNSMOKEs were adaptations of radio scripts.
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