Gunsmoke is arguably the most popular tv western in history. The show ran for an unheard of 20 years and 635 episodes in prime time, a record which stood until 2018 when The Simpsons surpassed it. Let’s take a look at some amazing facts about the series.
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1. Dennis Weaver was the first actor cast for the show.
He convinced the casting director to let him audition a second time because he felt his first audition wasn’t good. He obviously nailed the second audition.
2. Raymond Burr and William Conrad were both in the running for the role of Matt Dillon.
Unfortunately for them, they were considered too overweight for the role.
3. John Wayne recommended James Arness for the role of Matt Dillon.
There were rumors that Wayne himself was offered the role, but those claims have not been substantiated.
4. Polly Bond was the first choice to play Miss Kitty, but she turned down the role.
Amanda Blake was cast instead and played the role for 19 years.
5. Gunsmoke started as a radio show, starring William Conrad as Matt Dillon.
The show continued until 1961, ending after about 400 episodes.
6. James Arness appeared in every single one of the 635 episodes of the show.
7. Milburn Stone and James Arness are the only two actors to appear in every season of the show.
Milburn missed 7 episodes while recovering from heart surgery in 1971.
8. James Arness was wounded in the leg at Anzio in World War II.
As a result, he had a limp and sometimes couldn’t walk or stand for extended periods. The shooting schedule was adjusted to accommodate his injuries by filming scenes that required a lot of walking earlier in the day when he wasn’t as affected.
9. James Arness was naturally blond.
He had to dye his hair darker for 20 years to fit the role.
10. Gunsmoke was actually cancelled in 1967.
There was a public outcry about the cancellation. In addition, the show was a favorite of William Paley, chairman of the board of CBS, and his wife Babe. Upon finding out the show was not on the upcoming fall schedule, he insisted it be reinstated. Fearing for their jobs, CBS programmers moved Gunsmoke into Gilligan’s slot, where it thrived, and cancelled Gilligan instead.
11. Gunsmoke was not the origin of the saying "Get the hell out of Dodge", but the show certainly made it famous.
12. A comic strip of Gunsmoke ran in U.K. papers from 1957 to 1978 under the name "Gun Law".
13. Four of the USS Enterprise's senior officers guest starred on the show.
Leonard Nimoy was in 4 episodes, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and William Shatner were in 1 episode each.
14. Half of the Brady kids were also in episodes.
Susan Olsen was in two episodes, while Christopher Knight and Eve Plumb both guest starred in one episode each.
15. For the first 16 years of the show, Doc Adams didn't have a first name.
Producers allowed Milburn Stone to do the honors of picking his character’s name. He chose “Galen” because of a great doctor named Claudius “Galen” Galenus. He was a famous doctor in ancient Rome and the emperor Marcus Aurelius’ personal physician.
16. Amanda Blake left the show in 1974 because she missed her co-star Glenn Strange, who played Sam the Bartender.
He passed away in September of 1973 due to lung cancer.
17. During the show's 20 year run, Matt Dillon ended up shooting a grand total of 407 people.
18. Gary Busey played the last person to die on the show.
His character ended up dying as the delayed result of being kicked in the head by a horse.
19. Many of the actors actually read about the cancellation of the show in trade publications rather than from the network or producers directly.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t uncommon. Lost In Space had been renewed for a 4th season just 7 years before, but was cancelled over budget disagreements. The cast found out in the newspaper.
20. During the run of the show, Gunsmoke was nominated for 15 primetime Emmy Awards.
It won five of them for Best Dramatic Series, Editing, Sound Editing, and Milburn Stone and Dennis Weaver won Best Supporting Actor awards.
We hope you enjoyed these fascinating facts about Gunsmoke. If you did, please share with others you know that love Gunsmoke.