Gunsmoke was often a somber program, particularly in its early years.
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Dunning writes that Dillon. He arrived too late to prevent a lynching. He amputated a dying man's leg and lost the patient anyway. He saved a girl from brutal rapists then found himself unable to offer her what she needed to stop her from moving into Some listeners, such as Dunning, argue the radio version was more realistic.
Episodes were aimed at adults and featured some of the most explicit content of their time, including violent crimes, scalpings , massacres , and opium addicts. Many episodes ended on a somber note, and villains often got away with their crimes.
Nonetheless, due to the subtle scripts and outstanding ensemble cast, over the years, the program evolved into a warm, often humorous celebration of human nature. Despite Gunsmoke's realism in some areas, the show took liberties with accuracy in others.
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The program was set after the arrival of the railroad in Dodge City and Kansas had been a state since Marshal actually a deputy marshal, only the senior officer in the district holds the title "marshal" would not be based in Dodge City and would not be involved in local law enforcement. Any peace officer, then and now, also would not approach an armed individual with his side arm holstered, and give the suspect a chance to draw.
Apart from the doleful tone, Gunsmoke was distinct from other radio Westerns, as the dialogue was often slow and halting, and due to the outstanding sound effects , listeners had a nearly palpable sense of the prairie where the show was set. The effects were subtle but multilayered, giving the show a spacious feel. John Dunning wrote, "The listener heard extraneous dialogue in the background, just above the muted shouts of kids playing in an alley.
He heard noises from the next block, too, where the inevitable dog was barking. Gunsmoke was also unique from other Westerns in that it was unsponsored in the first few years of production. The program got its support from CBS in the first two years. Series producers felt that if the show were sponsored, they would have to "clean the show up". Not long after the radio show began, talk began of adapting it to television. Privately, Macdonnell had a guarded interest in taking the show to television, but publicly, he declared, "our show is perfect for radio," and he feared, as Dunning writes, " Gunsmoke confined by a picture could not possibly be as authentic or attentive to detail.
Conrad and the others were given auditions, but they were little more than token efforts—especially in Conrad's case, due to his obesity. However, Meston was kept as the main writer. In the early years, a majority of the TV episodes were adapted from the radio scripts, often using identical scenes and dialogue. Dunning wrote, "That radio fans considered the TV show a sham and its players impostors should surprise no one.
That the TV show was not a sham is due in no small part to the continued strength of Meston's scripts.
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Macdonnell and Meston continued the radio version of Gunsmoke until , making it one of the most enduring vintage radio dramas. Conrad directed two television episodes, in and , while McNear appeared on six, playing characters other than Doc, including three times as storekeeper Howard Rudd. It was the second Western television series written for adults,  premiering on September 10, , four days after The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. During its second season in , the program joined the list of the top television programs broadcast in the United States.
It quickly moved to number one and stayed there until It remained among the top programs until The television series remains the longest-running, primetime, live-action series of the 20th century. As of [update] , it had the highest number of scripted episodes for any U. On April 29, , The Simpsons surpassed Gunsmoke for the most scripted episodes. Some foreign-made programs, i. James Arness and Milburn Stone portrayed their Gunsmoke characters for 20 consecutive years, a feat later matched by Kelsey Grammer as the character Frasier Crane , but over two half-hour sitcoms Cheers and Frasier.
When Gunsmoke was adapted for television in , in spite of a campaign to persuade the network, the network was not interested in bringing either Conrad or his radio costars to the television medium.
Conrad's weight was rumored to be a deciding factor. Denver Pyle was also considered for the leading role, as was Raymond Burr , who was ultimately also seen as too heavy for the part. Charles Warren , television Gunsmoke' s first director, said, "His voice was fine, but he was too big.
When he stood up, his chair stood with him. The belief that Wayne was asked to star is disputed by Warren. Although he agrees Wayne encouraged Arness to take the role, Warren says, "I hired Jim Arness on the strength of a picture he's done for me I never thought for a moment of offering it to Wayne. Wayne came in. Warren asked Wayne if he knew James Arness, and Mr. Wayne said yes. Warren told Mr.
Wayne about the transition of the show from radio to TV, and Mr. Wayne readily agreed that James Arness would be a terrific choice for the part of Matt Dillon. I have no reason to doubt the story, because Jimmy absolutely knew everybody. In the end, the primary roles were all recast, with Arness taking the lead role of Marshal Matt Dillon on the recommendation of Wayne, who also introduced the pilot , Dennis Weaver playing Chester Goode, Milburn Stone being cast as Dr.
Macdonnell became the associate producer of the TV show and later the producer. Meston was named head writer. Good evening. My name's Wayne. Some of you may have seen me before; I hope so. I've been kicking around Hollywood a long time. I've made a lot of pictures out here, all kinds, and some of them have been Westerns. And that's what I'm here to tell you about tonight: a Western—a new television show called Gunsmoke. No, I'm not in it. I wish I were, though, because I think it's the best thing of its kind that's come along, and I hope you'll agree with me; it's honest, it's adult, it's realistic.
When I first heard about the show Gunsmoke , I knew there was only one man to play in it: James Arness. He's a young fellow, and maybe new to some of you, but I've worked with him and I predict he'll be a big star, so you might as well get used to him, like you've had to get used to me! And now I'm proud to present my friend Jim Arness in Gunsmoke. In , Burt Reynolds was added to the show's lineup, as the "halfbreed" blacksmith Quint Asper, and performed that role from the year just before the departure of Chester Goode and to just after the appearance of Festus Haggen.
Curtis, a big band and Western singer Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Shep Fields Band, Sons of the Pioneers , had five previous guest roles, including one in as a shady ladies' man named Kyle Kelly "Lover Boy," season 9, show two [episode ]. Curtis first appeared in the episode "Jayhawkers" season four, episode 21 [episode ] , wherein he played Phil Jacks, a Texas cowboy, with Jack Elam as his boss during a cattle drive from Texas.
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The second was another episode entitled "Change of Heart" season four, episode 32 [episode ] , where he played Brisco. The third appearance is the episode "The Ex-Urbanites" season five, episode 30 [episode ] , where he plays Jesse. He also had a small role as an Indian named Scout in the episode "Speak Me Fair" season five, episode 34 [episode ] in In , Weaver left the series to pursue a broader acting career in TV series and films.
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In , Curtis was signed as a regular to play the stubbornly illiterate hillbilly Festus Haggen. The character, heretofore a comic feature, came to town in a episode titled "Us Haggens" to avenge the death of his twin brother Fergus, and decided to stay in Dodge when the deed was done. In the episode "Alias Festus Haggen", he is mistaken for a robber and killer, whom he has to expose, to free himself both parts played by Curtis. In a comic relief episode, "Mad Dog", another case of mistaken identity forces Festus to fight three sons of a man killed by his cousin.
As a side note, only one episode has all three actors in it playing their respective roles, in the episode entitled "Prairie Wolfer" season 9, episode 16 [episode ] , with Dennis Weaver as Chester, Burt Reynolds as Quint, and Ken Curtis as Festus. When Milburn Stone left the series for heart bypass surgery in , Pat Hingle played his temporary replacement, Dr.
John Chapman, for several episodes. His presence was at first roundly resisted by Festus, a bickersome but close friend of Doc Adams. Well-known actors played "visiting characters". Jeanette Nolan played Dirty Sally in several episodes. The back stories of some of the main characters were largely left to the imagination of the viewer. Matt Dillon spent his early years in foster care, knew the Bible, was a wayward, brawling cowboy, and was later mentored by a caring lawman.
In a few episodes, he mentions having spent some time in the army. Kitty Russell was born in New Orleans and reared by a flashy foster mother who once visited Dodge , although her father visited Dodge on one occasion and wished to have her return to New Orleans.
Barkeep Sam is said to be married, but no wife is ever seen. In the episode "Tafton", he is seen side-by-side with a woman in a church singing. Quint Asper's white father was killed by white scavengers. Thad Greenwood's father, a storekeeper, was harassed to death by a trio of loathsome ne'er-do-well thieves. Chester Goode is known to be one of many brothers raised by an aunt and uncle, and on one occasion, he mentions his mother; he refers to past service in the cavalry and years as a cattle driver in Texas. The cause of Chester's stiff right leg is never given, but it is shown as his own leg and not a prosthesis.
No direct reference to his disability is ever made in the script, although some oblique moments paint the free-spirited, comic deputy with a darker tone. Newly O'Brien was named after a physician uncle who ignited his interest in medicine. While Dillon and Miss Kitty clearly have a close personal relationship, the two never marry. In a July 2, , Associated Press interview with Bob Thomas, Arness explained, "If they were man and wife, it would make a lot of difference. End credits for Morton Stevens as a music supervisor. Tsiang, Allen Emerson. At the exit of the shaving parlor, he gets mixed up in a feud between three saddle bums and two Chinese people working in a laundry house.
In the very end, Bascome is wounded in the leg and in the shoulder, the antogonists are dead as well as the old Chinese man and his daughter Ching Lee actress France Nuyen takes care of Bascome by looking for Doc at Dodge City. Time passes and the Douglas brothers remind Bascome his contract but he is also in love with Ching Lee. Things take another turn at Dodge City …. That kind of story rather fits the Seventies series Kung Fu. As usual, actor Darren McGavin shines!
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