started life as a CBS radio series in 1952, starring William Conrad.
The show was created by the director Norman Macdonnell and writer John
Metson. Macdonnell was not involved with the television version,
although Metson was the main writer for the series and the show's
success can be attributed not least to Metson's skillful writing.
the show's producer was looking for an actor to cast as Matt Dillon
for the television version, Conrad was the obvious choice, but because
of his increasing obesity, Conrad was sidelined and more photogenic
actors were considered for the part. After Conrad was rejected for the
television series, he became embittered that he had lost the role he
had created. Before James Arness got the part, other actors were
considered, including Raymond Burr; although he was considered to be
too heavy-set for the part. Rumours also abounded that John Wayne was
offered the role of Dillon, but this cannot be verified. James
Arness was then approached by the producer, an audition took place and
James Arness proved to be perfect for the part.
is set in Dodge City, Kansas in the 1870s and Marshal Matt Dillon
has a tough job keeping law and order in the thriving cattle days of
the latter part of the 19th century. Matt Dillon always tries
to capture villians and bring them to justice, rather than kill them.
Dennis Weaver is Chester Goode, Dillon's deputy, a
role Weaver played until 1964. After Dennis Weaver left the series, the
role of deputy was taken by Ken Curtis, playing a character called Festus
Two other notable characters in the series are Dr. Galen
'Doc' Addams (Milburn Stone), although in the radio version Doc
seems to be a rather embittered man. By the time
Doc reaches television, this Jack-of-all-trades is now a
much more endearing character. There is also Miss Kitty (Amanda
Blake), initially a saloon girl, but later in the series a saloon
proprietor. She and Matt Dillon share a close personal
relationship, although this is not explored to any great degree.
Gunsmoke holds the record of being the longest
running entertainment series with continuing characters on primetime
television in the United States. Many well known faces guest star in
the series over its long run, including - Burt Reynolds, John
Carradine, Chuck Connors, Aaron Spelling, Dan Blocker and Warren Oates.
Gunsmoke, which originally aired on CBS Television
from 1955 until 1975, can be split into three distinct segments: From
1955 until 1961: black & white 30 minute episodes / 1961 until
1966: black & white 60 minute episodes / 1966 until 1975 colour 60
minute episodes. When some of the early episodes were repeated in the
early 1960s, they were re-titled as Marshal Dillon. When the
show was cancelled in 1975, James Arness and Milburn Stone were the
only actors to have been with the series over its entire run of 20
years, and 635 episodes.
Several TV movies were made based on the original television
series: Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge City (1987), Gunsmoke:
The Last Apache (1990), Gunsmoke: To the Last Man (1992),
Gunsmoke: The Long Ride (1993), and Gunsmoke: One Man's Justice
Listen to the theme tune
Official James Arness Website