Bring Gunsmoke Home!

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 Gunsmoke - The Directors Collection

 Gunsmoke - The First Season

 Gunsmoke - 50th Anniversary Collection, Volume 1

 Gunsmoke - 50th Anniversary Collection, Volume 2

 Gunsmoke - 50th Anniversary Collection, Volumes 1 & 2

 Gunsmoke Movie Collection (Return to Dodge/The Last Apache/To the Last Man)

 Gunsmoke: An American Institution Celebrating 50 Years of Television's Best Western

 Gunsmoke: A Complete History and Analysis of the Legendary Broadcast Series with a Comprehensive Episode-by-Episode Guide to Both the Radio and Television Programs


Show Type: Western

First Telecast: September 10, 1955

Last Telecast: September 1, 1975

Theme Song: "Gunsmoke" (a.k.a. "Old Trail") by Glenn Spencer and Rex Koury

Broadcast History:

September 1955 - September 1961, Saturday 10:00-11:00 on CBS

September 1961 - September 1967, Saturday 10:00-11:00 on CBS

October 1961 - October 1964, Tuesday 7:30-8:00 on CBS

September 1967 - September 1971, Monday 7:30-8:30 on CBS

September 1971 - September 1975, Monday 8:00-9:00 on CBS


Marshal Matt Dillon..... James Arness

Dr. Galen "Doc" Adams..... Milburn Stone

Kitty Russell (1955-1974)..... Amanda Blake

Chester Goode (1955-1964)..... Dennis Weaver

Festus Haggen (1964-1975)..... Ken Curtis

Quint Asper (1962-1965)..... Burt Reynolds

Sam, The Bartender (1961-1974)..... Glenn Strange

Clayton "Thad" Thaddeus Greenwood (1965-1967)..... Roger Ewing

Newly O'Brien (1967-1975)..... Buck Taylor

Moss Grimmick (1955-1963)..... George Selk

Mr. Jonus (1955-1960)..... Dabbs Greer

Louie Pheeters..... James Nusser

Barney Danches..... Charles Seel

Howie Culver..... Howard Culver

Ed O'Connor..... Tom Brown

Percy Crump..... John Harper

Hank Miller (1957-1975)..... Hank Patterson

Ma Smalley (1962-1975)..... Sarah Selby

Nathan Burke (1963-1975)..... Ted Jordan

Mr. Bodkin (1965-1975)..... Roy Roberts

Mr. Lathrop (1966-1975)..... Woody Chamblis

Halligan (1967-1975)..... Charles Wagenheim

Dr. John Chapman (1971)..... Pat Hingle

Miss Hannah (1974-1975)..... Fran Ryan


The few Westerns seen on TV during the early 1950's starred old-style movie heroes such as The Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy, and had little to do with the real West. Westerns were considered another form of obvious fantasy, strictly for the kids. Two shows, Gunsmoke and The Life and Legend Of Wyatt Earp, changed all that. These two programs, which premiered during the same week in 1955, introduced the "adult Western" to TV, and begun an enormous wave of Westerns on TV over the next ten years.

Gunsmoke had its genesis on CBS radio in the spring of 1952, with William Conrad in the role of the resolute, determined Marshal Matt Dillon. Conrad, who later became TV's Cannon in the 1970's, remained the radio voice of Matt Dillon for a total of nine years, but when CBS decided to add a video version of the series the first choice for the role was John Wayne. Wayne would probably have done very well in the role, but did not want to commit himself to the rigors of a weekly television series and suggested James Arness, a young, relatively unknown actor friend of his. Wayne even offered to introduce the program's first episode, an offer which was quickly accepted by CBS brass. James Arness, six feet seven inches in height, was even bigger physically than John Wayne, and he proved to be perfect casting for the role of the heroic marshal.

Gunsmoke was set in Dodge City, Kansas; the year, arbitrarily, was 1873 (according to producer John Mantley). Crusty old Doc Adams, the only cast member besides Arness to stay with the show for its entire run, was the town's kindly, sympathetic physician. Doc spent most of his spare time, as did many of Dodge City's residents, at the Long Branch Saloon, which was owned and operated by Kitty Russell. Kitty was extremely softhearted, beneath what could be a very business-like exterior, and would have willingly become romantically involved with Matt. In the radio version the implication was that she was a prostitute, but on TV Matt and Kitty exchanged no more than smiles. Matt's loyal, well-meaning sidekick was Chester Goode, who walked with a pronounced limp, talked with a twang ("Mister Dillon!"), and brewed a mean pot of coffee - which was often seen behind the closing credits.

Gunsmoke was not an immediate hit. It premiered on Saturday night against the established George Gobel Show and did not make TV's top 15 during it's first season. In its second year it jumped to No. 8, however, and for the next four years - 1957 to 1961 - it was the top-rated program in all of TV. Gunsmoke precipitated a deluge of Westerns in the late 1950's (at one time there were more than 30 prime-time network Westerns on in the same season), but it outlived them all. It went into a considerable decline in the mid 1960's, after being expanded to an hour, and was about to leave the air when CBS gave it one more chance, moving it to Monday night in 1967. The result was a stunning comeback that put the show in the top ten once again, where it stayed well into the 1970's. It is ironic that when it finally did leave the air in 1975, it was the last Western left on network television at that time. In all, Gunsmoke ran for 20 years, longer than any other prime-time series with continuing characters in the history of the medium.

Over the years there were changes in the supporting cast. Chester (Dennis Weaver) left in 1964 to be replaced by Festus Haggen, the scruffy, illiterate hillbilly deputy who remained for the rest of the run. Half-breed Indian Quint Asper was featured for a while as the town blacksmith, as were gunsmith Newly O'Brien and Matt's young friend Thad Greenwood.

In addition to the principal cast members, there was an extensive supporting cast of Dodge City residents who appeared from time-to-time. Miss Hannah ran the Long Branch Saloon after Kitty's departure. Jones and Lathrop were storekeepers; Halligan and O'Connor, local ranchers; Louie, the town drunk; Barney, the telegraph agent; Howie, the hotel clerk; Percy, the Dodge City undertaker; Hank, the stableman; Nathan, the freight agent; Mr. Bodkin, the banker, and Ma Smalley, the boardinghouse owner. For a couple months in 1971, John Chapman served as the town physician (while actor Milburn Stone was recovering  from a heart attack).

As the years passed, less and less was seen of Matt. Stories often revolved around other members of the cast while he was out of town, and, to some extent, Gunsmoke frequently resembled an anthology as stories often came to center on guest stars, using Dodge City simply as a background. "Hard" social issues of the 1960's, such as the rights of minorities, social protest, and crimes such as rape, began to be tackled in stories adapted to the Dodge City setting.

Matt Dillon set the tone of the show throughout its long life, however, standing up for justice, sincerity, and truth. The opening of the show (during its early seasons) said it all. There was Matt in a fast-draw show-down in the main street of Dodge City. The other man fired a fraction of a second faster, but missed completely, while Matt's aim was true. Matt could be beaten up, shot, and ambushed, but that indomitable will would never be defeated.

For the first three seasons following the expansion of Gunsmoke from half an hour to a full hour on Saturday nights, CBS aired reruns of the original half-hour version on Tuesdays under the title Marshal Dillon.