The setting for Gunsmoke was the by-now-famous Dodge City, circa 1870’s. Phrases like “get out of Dodge” would enter the popular lexicon as a result of this resilient series. Marshall Dillon (Arness) was charged with keeping the peace in Dodge City. The only other character to see the entire 20-year run was kindly Doc Adams (Stone). Star Trek’s own Doc, Leonard McCoy, took many of his traits from Doc Adams. He was the humanitarian of the city, always looking to help someone. Like McCoy, he had a taste for bourbon and a soft heart underneath a rather gruff exterior and was always ready with free advice. Dillon’s love interest throughout most of the series was Miss Kitty Russell (Blake). While there were certainly a few romantic undercurrents, the romance never came to fruition. Miss Kitty was a prostitute on the radio and was likely one here as well, but CBS chose to underplay that aspect of her character as a “saloon girl”. Finally Dillon’s faithful sidekick deputy was Chester (Weaver). Chester often found himself in trouble and was the naïve son figure to Dillon.
Gunsmoke is the longest-running scripted live-action television show in history. The series ran from 1955 to 1975. At first it was a half-hour black-and-white show that evolved into a color hour by 1967. It actually started before the days of television, premiering on radio in 1952. Then it was William Conrad as the tough-as-nails Marshall Matt Dillon. When television came into its own, Gunsmoke made the jump to the bright living room box and made history. Westerns would ride across our small square screens for the next three decades, making it the most successful genre of that time, and it was Gunsmoke that started it all. The television version of Gunsmoke was originally conceived as a vehicle for John Wayne, who opted to remain in movies. Yet it was Wayne himself who suggested James Arness, and it turned out to be a career for the one-time “carrot” monster from The Thing. Gunsmoke started before all of the big westerns and was around when most of them had departed.
You get 17 more episodes on five discs. It’s another half season of classic television western adventure. When Doc finds old drunk Dan Whitter by the side of the road, he attempts to clean him up and get the town to show him some kindness. But will Doc’s kindness lead to murder? Find out in the set’s first episode, Old Dan. In Half Straight a killer is hired to kill Matt, but along the way he falls in love. But will it be enough to save Matt? In He Learned About Women Chester is once again taken hostage. This time it’s the famed Comancheros. When he manages to shoot one of his captors, he’s sentenced by the others to be killed at dawn. In Reprisal Matt has to shoot another outlaw, and this time the man’s widow comes looking for revenge. When a man kills someone for the bounty, it causes serious complications when Matt has no wanted poster on the dead man. Find this one in The Summons. When competition for Kitty’s comes to town Kitty might lose more than just her business if she won’t deal with the owner. It’s cutthroat business dealings in The Dreamers.
Guest stars in this collection include: William Campbell, Dick Sargent, Claude Akins, Harry Dean Stanton, and George Kennedy.
One of the best things about watching these old Western episodes is the guest stars and the recurring characters. Horror fans will enjoy seeing the often uncredited Glenn Strange as a bartender at Kitty’s. He was in tons of westerns as a bit player and also a respected stunt performer for most of his career. Horror fans remember him for playing Frankenstein in the Universal House films and Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein. After Boris Karloff he was the best to play the monster in Universal’s series of films. His makeup pieces were also used on Fred Gwynn when he played Herman on The Munsters. Here he can be found tending bar. I guess you could say he’s playing history’s first bouncer. “He’d start a row in an empty house.“