Amanda Blake Biography
Amanda Blake, born Beverly Louise Neill (Buffalo, February 20, 1929 – Sacramento, August 16, 1989) was an American actress best known for her role as “Miss Kitty” in Gunsmoke, long-lived CBS television series, which aired from 1955 to 1975.
Early Days and Acting Career
Born Beverly Louise Neill in Buffalo, New York, was a telephone operator before acting. Nicknamed “Young Greer Garson,” became best known for her 19 years as the fictional “Kitty Russell.” Miss Kitty was the owner-operator of the Long Branch Saloon, which dispenses wisdom, whiskey, and – although not openly – the boarding room keys and “fantasy” women. (In the early episodes of Gunsmoke, Miss Kitty is an employee of the Long Branch, although it is unclear what their functions are.) Like Perry Mason and his secretary Della Street, Kitty and Dodge City in the U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon (played by James Arness) apparently wrapped her in a relationship.
Blake’s Kitty presumably departed Dodge City at the end of the series ’19 season without an on-screen farewell. Character actress Fran Ryan (Hanna) assumed ownership of Long Branch for the 20th and final season, with very little mention of Kitty. In the first of three CBS after the film series (Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge), Kitty says Hanna (Ryan), who left to return to New Orleans Dodge, as she was not ready to see Matt continue to cheat death. (A flashback was created by skillfully integrating scenes from an episode of 1970 when Kitty left Dodge, but returned for the epilogue). The actress left in 1974 because she wanted more free time.
Due to her continuing role in Gunsmoke, Blake rarely had time for movies. She did appear once in a comedy routine with the legendary entertainer Red Skelton show produced by CBS.
In 1968, Blake was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. This was six years before the legendary John Wayne was induced in 1974 and more than a decade before co-stars Arness, Ken Curtis, Dennis Weaver and Milburn Stone Buck Taylor were induced in 1981. Blake was the third performer held in the Hall, after Tom Mix and Gary Cooper, which were induced in 1958 and 1966, respectively.
After Gunsmoke, Blake went into semi-retirement at her home in Phoenix, taking only a few film and television. She was an animal lover, was among the founders of the Arizona Animal Welfare League in 1971; today the oldest and largest animal shelter in the state. In 1980 she was diagnosed with a form of cancer of the mouth from which she could heal. In 1985, she helped finance the implementation of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and spent a lot of time and money in support of their efforts, including trips to Africa.
Blake was reportedly once a member of the board of the Humane Society of the United States. In 1997, the Amanda Blake Memorial Wildlife Refuge opened in Rancho Seco Park in Herald, California. The refuge is a sanctuary for PAWS hoofed free-ranging wildlife in Africa, most of which were originally intended to auctions exotic animal breeding or hunting.
In the early eighties Blake was diagnosed with AIDS. It is not clear how she contracted the disease, but she thought that she was infected by her fifth husband, who, from what was said, was bisexual. She died of this disease shortly after their marriage in Sacramento, at the age of sixty on August 18, 1989 at Mercy General Hospital in Los Angeles, California.
In 1997, the Amanda Blake Memorial Wildlife Refuge opened in Rancho Seco Park in Herald, California.
- Stars in My Crown, directed by Jacques Tourneur (1950)
- The Duchess of Idaho (Duchess of Idaho), directed by Robert Z. Leonard (1950)
- The angel Scarlet (Scarlet Angel), directed by Sidney Salkow (1952)
- Lili, directed by Charles Walters (1953)
- I married a pilot (Sabre Jet), directed by Louis King (1953)
- A Star Is Born (A Star Is Born), directed by George Cukor (1954)
- Goodbye Mrs. Leslie (About Mrs. Leslie), directed by Daniel Mann (1954)
- The Glass Slipper (The Glass Slipper), directed by Charles Walters (1955)
- High Society, directed by William Beaudine (1955)
- Betrayal, directed by Gordon Hessler (1974)
- B.O.R.N., directed by Ross Hagen (1988)
- Cocaine (The Boost), directed by Harold Becker (1988)
- Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (1952)
- Lux Video Theatre (1953)
- Cavalcade of America (1953)
- Four Star Playhouse (1954)
- Alfred Hitchcock presents, episode Who was it? (1956)
- State Trooper (1957)
- Studio One (1958)
- General Electric Theater (1959)
- The Quest (1976)
- The Love Boat (1979)
- Hart to Hart (1983)
- The Edge of Night (1984)
Interesting Facts about Amanda Blake
- After attending school in Buffalo, she and her parents moved to Claremont, California.
- She graduated from high school in Claremont.
- She enrolled at Pomona College, but due to her avid involvement with theater productions and community, she was devoting much time to the performance of their school work, being her lifelong ambition.
- Amanda began a comprehensive action program doing summer stock in New England.
- While acting in the theater and small corporations also painted backdrops and scenery.
- It was only in her teens when she debuted at MGM’s “Stars in My Crown“.
- Amanda’s first role was in the production of “Schlitz Playhouse of Stars” of “Double Exposure“.
- As Amanda had a full schedule of acting there was little time for anything else, but she enjoyed swimming and fencing.