CBS-TV'S GUNSMOKE BEGAN 20 YEAR RUN 60 YEARS AGO TODAY
Hollywood, California (JFK+50) Sixty years ago today, September 10, 1955, the Western television series "Gunsmoke" premiered on CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System).
The popular series, starring Jim Arness* as United States Marshall Matt Dillon, ran for twenty years (1955-1975) making it the longest running prime time drama in American television history.
The show, created by Norman Macdonnell and John Meston, was nominated for more than a dozen Emmy Awards during its long tenure. The series was first presented as a radio program from 1952 to 1961.
The lead characters in the television series have all passed on. Jim Arness died in 2011. Dennis Weaver**, who portrayed Dillon's sidekick Chester Goode, passed away in 2006. Amanda Blake***, a.k.a. "Miss Kitty" Russell, died in 1987, and Milburn Stone****, "Doc Adams," in 1980.
Dennis Weaver won an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as "Chester" in 1959. The character was portrayed as having a "stiff leg" because sidekicks almost always have some weakness to bolster the strength of the lead character.
According to the Wichita Eagle, a reunion will be held in Dodge City, Kansas later this month attended by some of the surviving actors in the series. The most notable will be Burt Reynolds, now 79 years old, who played blacksmith "Quint Asper."
More information on the event can be found at www.dodgecitywildwestfestival.com/
*James Arness (1923-2011) was born in Minneapolis, MN & served in the 3rd Infantry Division at the Battle of Anzio in WWII where he was severely wounded. JA won the Purple Heart & 3 Bronze Stars. After the war, Jim attended Beloit College then began his acting career at RKO in Hollywood.
**William Dennis Weaver (1924-2006) was born in Joplin, MO & studied at Joplin Jr. College. WDW was a Navy pilot in WWII. After his role as Chester in Gunsmoke, Dennis played "McCloud" in a TV police series by the same name.
***Beverly Louise Neill, aka Amanda Blake (1929-1987) was born in Buffalo, NY. After playing 'Miss Kitty" on Gunsmoke, she went into semi-retirement in Phoenix, AZ where she raised animals with her husband.
****Hugh Milburn Stone (1904-1980) was born in Burrton, KS and went to Los Angeles to begin his career in acting during the 1930s. HMS won an Emmy for his role as "Doc Adams" on Gunsmoke in 1968.
"Surviving 'Gunsmoke' cast to reunite in Dodge City six decades after show's start," by Beccy Tanner, The Wichita Eagle, August 13, 2015, www.Kansas.com/
James Arness as Matt Dillon
Milburn Stone & Dennis Weaver
John Wayne Introduces TV's Gunsmoke