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 26 episodes on seven discs total. The only extras are a few episode promo spots.
Highlights from the season include: The season begins with a common theme on the show and Westerns in particular. In Lyle’s Kid, a man is hoping to use his fast-draw son to get revenge on the man who crippled his hands and is about to get out of prison. Zavala is a rather milestone episode for the series. Matt travels to the Mexican town of Zavala, where apparently only outlaws go. He is chasing a band of bad guys. Once there, he gets involved with a widow and her son, which brings out some paternal feelings from Matt. It’s a rather powerful moment and was later remade as the film Cutter’s Trail. The Waltons’ Will Geer guest stars in Slocum as an old friend of Matt’s who comes for a visit only to be set up for murder, and Matt’s on the hook to try to clear his gentle friend. Can you believe that Festus is in charge while Matt’s out of town? You better believe it. Watch The Money Store. When a widowed farmer’s kids happen to pocket some bank money, he gets arrested for robbery, and it’s up to Festus to straighten the whole thing out. A woman gets in the crossfire as Matt shoots it out with another bad guy in Time Of The Jackals. Matt discovers that he knew the woman he accidentally shot. She was an old love of his, and he must now protect the wounded woman from a contract her gang boyfriend put on her head. The Civil War is back on when a hunter discovers an abusive Confederate soldier in Dodge. Matt must find a way to keep a mob from going after the guy in The Mark Of Cain. In The Night Riders we also return to a Civil War feud. A judge puts together a Confederate gang to get revenge for his home being destroyed by a unit of Union soldiers during the war. They might just burn Dodge to the ground if Matt can’t stop them.
Guest stars in this collection include: Joe DeSantis, Robert Pine, John Hopper, Joseph Campanella, James Wainwright, Susan Olsen, John Crawford, William Schallert, Leslie Nielsen, Sid Haig, Eve Plumb, Bruce Dern and John Voight.
This was the show that keeps on going. While Dick Wolf managed to match the 20 years, Gunsmoke still has more episodes than any scripted television series in history. At 635 episodes, it’s proved its lasting power. Only The Simpsons beats it, so it’s the longest-running non-animated show in television history. We’re now only six seasons away from having the entire series out on DVD. That’s going to be nice to see it all up there on your video shelves. “Just ain’t nothing prettier than a full bottle.”