Influential Radio and TV Western 1952 - 1975
Set in Dodge City in the 1890s, the show revolved around United States Marshall, Matt Dillon. Other characters became firm favourites with the audience: Kitty Russell, owner of The Longbranch Saloon and a suggested intimate of Matt's; Doc Adams offered rationality and wisdom; Chester Goode, the Deputy Marshall, whose honesty, loyalty and trustworthiness were a needed match for the villainy surrounding the town. It was more than just shootouts and horse-riding, it was about community, resourcefulness and frontier courage.
Born as a CBS radio show on 26th April 1952, Gunsmoke quickly became a broadcasting and entertainment legend. The series ran until 18th June 1961 for a total of 413 episodes. Six of the nine seasons coincided with the television series. The cast included:
William Conrad as Matt Dillon
Howard Mcnear as Charles "Doc" Adams
Georgia Ellis as Kitty Russell
Parley Bear as Chester Wesley Proudfoot
The first TV broadcast was on 10th September 1955
, and it ran until 31st March 1975
. Initially, John Wayne
was asked to play Matt Dillon, but he declined in favour of boosting his film career.
The opening main cast included:
James Arness as Matt Dillon
Milburn Stone as Galen "Doc" Adams
Amanda Blake as Kitty Russell
Dennis Weaver as Chester Goode
Ken Curtis as Festus Haggen
Burt Reynolds as Quint Asper
Roger Ewing as Clayton Thaddeus Greenwood ("Thad")
Buck Taylor as Newly O'Brien
A total of 633 episodes were aired over the 20 seasons - only the last nine seasons being made in colour. More than that, there's not much to say. The popularity of the series pushed shows such as Gilligan's Island
into lesser timeslots, or even off the air altogether.
In addition to providing good entertainment, it helped to form many people's careers, providing a launch pad for a number of actors, including Martin Landau. In 1970, Gunsmoke was canceled, but so great was the outcry (even being mentioned in Congress) that CBS brought it back for a further five seasons.
The Smoking Gun
I remember the series as being a touch above the Saturday Matinee Western fare of cowboys and indians - it was one of the few things I recall from early television viewing (from the age of about 7). Nowadays it would probably seem a little dated, but in its day it was a breath of fresh air to audiences everywhere.
The impact of the show was fabulous, being aired all over the world, and influencing many later TV Westerns, including Rawhide and Bonanza. It was considered by many to be the first great 'adult' Western. Many generations recall this series with great fondness and nostalgia.