From Academic Kids

Gunsmoke was a long-running old-time radio and television western drama program.



The radio show ran 1952 to 1961 on the CBS radio network, with William Conrad as Marshall Matt Dillon, Howard McNear as Doc, Georgia Ellis as Kitty, and Parley Baer as Deputy Chester.

Gunsmoke was notable for its talented cast and its excellent writing.

Some critics have argued the radio program was far more realistic than the television program. Episodes were aimed at adults, and featured some of the most explicit content of the day. Many episodes ended on a down-note, and villains often got away with their crimes.


The television show ran 1955 to 1975 on CBS, to this day the longest run of any single series of any genre in prime-time TV in the United States. Conrad was the first choice to play Dillon, having established the role, but his increasing obesity led to more photogenic actors being considered.

James Arness played Marshall Matt Dillon throughout its 20-year run, the longest uninterrupted period any actor has played the same role in the same show in prime time. (Kelsey Grammer has since tied the role-playing record as Frasier Crane, but that role spanned two different shows, Cheers and Frasier). Actors asked to play Matt Dillon on TV before Arness included John Wayne and Denver Pyle. It was Wayne who recommended Arness, and "The Duke" also introduced the first episode of the series.

Dillon's deputy was at first Dennis Weaver playing Chester, then Ken Curtis playing Festus. Other important ongoing characters were the alcoholic doctor, Doc (Milburn Stone) and the saloon girl, later saloon owner, Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake). Viewers were left to wonder the relationship between Miss Kitty, who seemed to be a madam, though this was never mentioned, and Matt Dillon. If she was a whore, the show put a good spin on Miss Kitty and viewers were never made privy to what exactly she did besides run the Longbranch saloon.

From 1955 to 1960, Gunsmoke was a half-hour show. It then went to an hour-long format for the rest of its long run. From 1955 to 1965, it was in black and white, then in color from 1965 to 1975. In the early 1960s, older episodes of the series were rebroadcast under the title Marshall Dillon.

In 1967, the show's twelfth season, CBS planned to cancel the series, but widespread viewer response -- it was even mentioned in Congress -- convinced them to continue it in the early evening on Mondays instead of Saturday nights.

In 1987, most of the original cast reunited for the made-for-television film, Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, which was filmed in Alberta, Canada. This was a huge ratings success and led to four more reunion films being filmed in the U.S.: Gunsmoke: The Last Apache (1990), Gunsmoke: To the Last Man (1992), Gunsmoke: The Long Ride (1993), and Gunsmoke: One Man's Justice (1994).

As of the start of 2005, two American series are aiming at matching or beating Gunsmoke's 20-year record. The sitcom The Simpsons, now in its 16th season, has been renewed through its 19th season, whilst the crime drama Law & Order, now in its 15th year, is also expected to be a possible 20-year survivor.

Regular Cast, Major Characters

Regular Cast, Minor Characters

  • Clem (bartender; 1959-61): Clem Fuller
  • Sam (bartender; 1961-73): Glenn Strange
  • Rudy (bartender; 1965-67): Rudy Sooter
  • Floyd (bartender; 1974-75): Robert Brubaker
  • Quint Asper (blacksmith; 1962-1965): Burt Reynolds
  • "Thad" - Deputy Clayton Thaddeus Greenwood (1965-1967): Roger Ewing
  • Newly O'Brien (gunsmith; 1967-1975): Buck Taylor
  • Wilbur Jonas (storekeeper, 1955-63): Dabbs Greer
  • Howie Uzzell (hotel clerk, 1955-75): Howard Culver
  • Moss Grimmick (stableman; 1955-63): George Selk
  • Jim Buck (stagecoach driver; 1957-62): Robert Brubaker
  • Louie Pheeters (town drunk; 1961-70): James Nusser
  • Ma Smalley (boardinghouse owner; 1961-72): Sarah Selby
  • Hank Miller (stableman; 1963-75): Hank Patterson
  • Mr. Bodkin (banker; 1963-70): Roy Roberts
  • Barney Danches (telegraph agent; 1965-74): Charles Seel
  • Roy (townsperson; 1965-69): Roy Barcroft
  • Halligan (rancher; 1966-75): Charles Wagenheim
  • Mr. Lathrop (storekeeper; 1966-75): Woody Chambliss
  • Nathan Burke (freight agent; 1966-75): Ted Jordan
  • Percy Crump (undertaker; 1968-72): Kelton Garwood
  • Ed O'Connor (rancher; 1968-72): Tom Brown
  • Judge Brooker (1970-75): Herb Vigran
  • Dr. John Chapman (1971): Pat Hingle
  • Miss Hannah (saloon owner; 1974-75): Fran Ryan

There was also a Gunsmoke video game produced for the NES by Capcom.

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