Gunsmoke Meet The Cast

The Gunsmoke Cast

If you are too young to remember the original episodes of Gunsmoke, don’t worry. There are many places where you can find reruns or even purchase DVD’s of the classic show. Watching it today is still very relevant with interesting story lines.

This show ran for 20 years for pete’s sake from 1955 to 1975 with 635 episodes. With many of today’s “one and dones”, this seems almost incredible. So what did this show have to make it so popular? No doubt there were great writers. But surely the cast was what brought viewers back time and time again. Here is a run down of the most popular cast members (you can read in depth biographies by clicking on the name).

James Arness

Played Marshall Matt Dillon of Dodge City, KS. It is not known if he appeared in every episode but he did stay with the show for the entire 20 years. It is not widely known that Arness was injured in the leg during a battle at Anzio. If you watch closely, there are instances where he appears to have difficulty mounting his horse – the old injury never went completely away. Read more….

Amanda Blake

Known to everyone as Ms. Kitty, she was the owner of the Long Branch salon in Dodge City. Although there was never any explicit proof that she and Matt Dillon had a relationship it was sometimes implied. She appeared in 19 of the 20 seasons that Gunsmoke was on the air. Tragically, she died of AIDS in 1989 at the age of 60. Read more…

Dennis Weaver

Dennis Weaver played Chester Good who was an assistant to Matt Dillon. He appeared in 9 seasons from 1955 to 1964. Although he appeared with a stiff leg, he was actually a good athlete appearing in decathlon’s and track. At one point he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, USA. Read more…

Milburn Stone

He played Doc Adams, the only doctor in the town of Dodge City, KN. He acted in all 20 seasons. Doc and Chester always had good natured fun that came out comical. He passed away in 1980 at the age of 75. Read more…

Here is a short video with scenes from the first season of Gunsmoke:

How Did Amanda Blake Die?

There seems to be some confusion on how Amanda Blake (who played Miss Kitty) actually died. An article in the LA Times on August 17, 1989 prints this:

Actress Amanda Blake, the earthy Miss Kitty who ran the Longbranch Saloon on the long-running television series “Gunsmoke,” died of oral and throat cancer in Sacramento’s Mercy Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said late Wednesday. Blake, 58, underwent surgery for oral cancer in 1977 and afterward made appearances throughout the country on behalf of the American Cancer Society. She was once a two-pack-a-day smoker.

Then on November 6, 1989, another article was published which seems to suggest that she actually had Aids:

Blake Cause of Death Revealed Actress Amanda Blake, who starred for many years as television’s Miss Kitty in the Western series “Gunsmoke,” died of AIDS, her doctor has confirmed. Her Aug. 16 death of throat cancer at age 60 was complicated by a type of viral hepatitis brought on by acquired immune deficiency syndrome, her physician Lou Nishimura said Saturday. She died at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento.

Two days later the LA Times published another article:

A longtime friend of actress Amanda Blake says she feared before she died last August that the AIDS disease she had contracted would affect her work in animal rights. Pat Derby, the head of the Performing Animal Welfare Society refuge in Galt, said Tuesday that the actress knew she was fighting AIDS and feared negative publicity about it would harm her animal welfare causes. “She wanted to use all of her energy for animals,” Derby told the Sacramento Bee.

So it looks like she actually died from AIDS. Here is further proof from Wikipedia:

Blake had been a heavy cigarette smoker and had surgery for oral cancer in 1977. She became a supporter of the American Cancer Society and made fundraising appearances throughout the country. In 1984, she was the recipient of the society’s annual Courage Award.
Blake died on August 16, 1989, from complications of AIDS. Some initial confusion existed over the exact cause of her death. When she died at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, California, a statement by the hospital and some of her friends reported the cause of death as cancer. Blake’s death certificate, however, listed the immediate cause as cardiopulmonary arrest due to liver failure and cytomegalovirus (CMV) hepatitis. CMV hepatitis is AIDS-related, and her personal doctor and close friends soon confirmed the facts of her death from AIDS-related complications. It was reported that she likely contracted AIDS from her fourth husband, Austin City Council member Mark Spaeth, who died from AIDS soon after their 1985 divorce.

As you probably know, Amanda Blake played saloon-keeper Miss Kitty Russel for 19 of the 20 years it was on the air, leaving in 1974. She was married three times and, unfortunately the last time was probably the cause of her disease and death.

Here she is when she appeared in “Stars in My Crown” in 1950. Beautiful lady!

amanda blake

Stars in My Crown 1950

Gunsmoke Episode with a Young Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell plays Packy Kerlin who is a runaway seeking his mother in Dodge. He meets a man on the run and they travel to Dodge together. Even as a youngster, he does well in his acting. Check it out: … [Continue reading]

Kity Kills a Killer

In this episode of Gunsmoke, Kitty and another man shoots and kills a killer. The dead man's brother is seeking out everyone connected to the killing in order to kill them. Take a look:   … [Continue reading]

Matt Dillon Gets a Visit From an Old Flame

Matt Dillon is surprised when Cara, and old flame from 12 years ago, shows up in Dodge. It appears that she is there for sentimental reasons but something is just not right. It seems that she has a suspicious past and is in Dodge for a sinister … [Continue reading]

Gunsmoke Episode Where Chester Nearly Dies

In this episode of Gunsmoke, Chester is dragged at the end of a horse by a couple of thugs. When Marshall Dillon finds him, he is barely alive. Doc Adams tends to Chester but is worried. Marshall Dillon finds the two culprits and puts them in jail. … [Continue reading]

Leonard Nimoy on Gunsmoke

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy performed on Gunsmoke just before he became famous as Dr. Spock in the TV series Star Trek. In the Gunsmoke episode, he played an American Indian fur trader. His best friend was killed in Dodge and he comes up with an ingenious plan to … [Continue reading]

Did James Arness and Amanda Blake Have a Relationship?

There is no evidence that James Arness and Amanda Blake had an off screen affair.  Amanda Blake had five husbands the last of which was bisexual and was thought to have given her AIDS from which she died at age 60. On screen, Matt Dillon and Miss … [Continue reading]

Matt Dillon Gets Shot

Matt Dillon is shot and critically wounded by a super fast gunman who had just shot and killed another sheriff. The gunman stays in Dodge while Matt recovers and then they meet again. … [Continue reading]

Festus – A Better Singer Than Talker?

Festus Haggen

We have all seen Festus (Ken Curtis) talk on the Gunsmoke TV series. He manages to get the words out but it seems to be a struggle. Here is an example:   But did you know that Ken Curtis was a singer before he became an actor? He sang … [Continue reading]

Gunsmoke – The Eighth Season

Gunsmoke Cast

A Look at the Eighth Season of Gunsmoke The eighth season of Gunsmoke was the second season of the one hour format. Prior to that, it was only one half hour. The longer time was an asset to the series because there was more time to develop more … [Continue reading]