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 – The Eighth Season

A Look at the Eighth Season of Gunsmoke

Gunsmoke Cast

Gunsmoke Cast

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 characters. Prior to that, most shows concentrated on the four main characters: Matt Dillon, Chester Good, Miss Kitty and Doc Adams.

Dennis Weaver was growing weary of his character when the eighth season rolled around. He was allowed to direct a few episodes but that didn’t help. He appeared in only 15 out of 38 shows. This opened the door for Burt Reynolds to become involved in the show as Quint Asper, a half-Comanche that usually got into scrapes because of his darker color.  Interestingly, Reynolds appeared in 16 shows, more than Weaver. It was rumored that Reynolds got more fan mail than all other cast members combined.

Another new face this season was the appearance of Ken Curtis as Festus although he only appeared in one episode. He became a full time cast member in season 9.

Here is what one reviewer said about the season:

As before, U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) and his eccentric, game-leg assistant (not deputy) Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver) are still maintaining the peace in unruly, barely-tamed Dodge City, Kansas. The various gunslingers and cattle rustlers causing Marshal Dillon no end of grief usually can be found drinking and gambling at one of the innumerable saloons. Matt’s friend Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake), formerly a (coded) prostitute, is now half-owner of the city’s finest, the Long Branch Saloon. She’s also its madam, and though the audience doesn’t get to see much of that business, it’s implied. Matt’s line of work often requires the services of cantankerous Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), another close friend of Matt, Chester, and Miss Kitty.

Writer John Meston (1914-1979) was to Gunsmoke what Rod Serling was to Twilight Zone; he penned an incredible 257 episodes of the series during its 20-year run, and that’s not counting episodes of the radio show he also wrote (though there was a lot of crossover, apparently). Two of his favorite devices are the “What’s Going On Here?” and “How’s Matt Going to Solve/Get Out of This?” structures, with Matt presented with a puzzling situation/irresolvable conflict at the beginning of the episode, and he and other characters working through the mystery which is revealed/resolved, often violently, at the end. A favorite plot Meston did myriad riffs on has cool cucumber Matt withholding judgment on an accused killer’s guilt or innocence while all of Dodge City is ready to lynch the accused. Sometimes in these shows the accused is a friend of Matt’s, like Chester, sometimes he’s a guest star, but always, even with a mountain of evidence stacked against him, Matt remains calm and just.

Gunsmoke – The Eighth Season, Volume 2 : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video

 

Here is the Gunsmoke Eighth Season Videos, Volumes 1 & 2:

 

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: