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.
The two season halves have been released at the same time. It offers you the opportunity to buy it all together, and why wouldn’t you? You get 38 episodes on 10 discs total. Highlights from the season include: In Quint Asper Comes Home Matt has to head off a feud out of control when an Indian half-breed goes after the men who shot his father. The Comanches are about to go to war if Matt can’t stop the fuse. In Root Down Chester is the target of a drifter’s daughter who is looking for a husband. That gets Chester in hot water with the girl’s father after she tells Pa that she spent the night with the unsuspecting Chester. In Jenny a bank robber’s girl fakes an affair with Matt in order to get him killed.
Guest stars in this collection include: Adam “Batman” West, Leonard Nimoy, Ruta Lee (who was injured after Arness accidentally hit her head), Claude Akins, Gary Walberg, Roy Thinnes, Andrew Prine, Art Lund, Mariette Hartley (in her very first television roll), Booth Colman, Joyce Van Patten, James Best, Michael Constantine, William Schallert and Beverly Garland.
This was a pretty big season for the long-running Western. Burt Reynolds joins the cast as Quint Asper, Dodge City blacksmith. Ken Curtis also joins the show as the popular Festus. He’s not a regular yet, but he got in his first episodes in season 8. It’s still one of the best of the old-time television westerns. It holds up even today. “You know what they say, there’s been many a good tune played on an old fiddle.”