Ever wonder what became of the cast of Gunsmoke? What this excellent video and you will probably learn many things that you did not know before. There is even pictures of Dodge City and the Long Branch Salon as it existed in the 1880’s. Very interesting!
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!
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:
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:
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 reason. Take a look:
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. Then he gets some pay back from the offending cowboy. Watch this episode called “Never Pester Chester”:
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 get revenge. Here is a clip from the Gunsmoke show:
It turns out that this was the last job he had before the Star Trek series. Later he talked about how it was to work on Gunsmoke:
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 Kitty never officially had a serious relationship. But many people used their imaginations to create one. Here is James Arness discussing their roles:
As for Amanda Blake, here is her discussion of Miss Kitty and Matt:
So, it shall remain a mystery but we can all fantasize and make up our own story!