Gunsmoke (CBS 1955-1975, James Arness, Dennis Weaver)

Premiering on CBS in September 1955 and completing its network run September 1975, Gunsmoke is the longest running dramatic non-soap series in the history of US television. Two of its stars, James Arness and Milburn Stone, remained all 20 seasons, with Amanda Blake a close second, departing after 19 years.

The series started out as a half-hour show, and expanded to an hour in its seventh season. Prior to Gunsmoke (and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp which premiered the same week), western shows generally focused on fantasy characters such as the Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy, holdovers from movie and radio serials. Gunsmoke was one of the earliest “adult westerns,” centering around the exploits of Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) in the frontier town of Dodge City, Kansas in 1873. His kindly companion was Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), the town physician who spent many hours chugging beers at the Long Branch Saloon, owned and operated by the shapely Kitty Russell.

RELATED:   CBS Mornings: Lara Mahler, Nischelle Turner (CBS, July 16, 2024)

Over the years there were several changes in the supporting cast, most notably the replacement of Matt’s loyal deputy, Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver), with hillbilly deputy Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis).

Gunsmoke started a longtime trend for TV westerns. At one point there were 30 of them on the air at the same time. But Gunsmoke outlasted the others and at the time of its cancellation in 1975, it was the only show of its kind still on the air. John Wayne introduced the very first episode.

production details
USA / CBS / x60 minute episodes / Broadcast 10 September 1955 – 1 September 1975

Theme Music: Gunsmoke aka Old Trail by Glenn Spencer and Rex Koury

James Arness as Matt Dillon
Amanda Blake as Kitty Russell
Dennis Weaver as Chester Goode
Milburn Stone as Doc Galen Adams
Ken Curtis as Festus Haggen
Buck Taylor as Newly O’Brien
Burt Reynolds as Quint Asper
Glenn Strange as Sam Noonan
Ted Jordan as Nathan Burke
Hank Patterson as Hank Miller; the stableman
Roger Ewing as Thad Greenwood
Sarah Selby as Ma Smalley; boarding house owner
Roy Roberts as Mr. Bodkin; the banker
Howard Culver as Howie Uzzell; hotel clerk
Kelton Garwood as Percy Crump; the undertaker
John Harper as Percy Crump; later
Woody Chambliss as Woody Lathrop; the store-keeper
Charles Wagenheim as Halligan; townsperson
Tod Brown as Ed O’Connor; rancher
James Nusser as Louis Pheeters; town drunk
Robert Brubaker as Jim Buck; stagecoach driver
Budd Buster as Moss Grim- mick; stableman
Clem Fuller as Clem; bartender
Dabbs Greer as Wilbur Jonas; storekeeper
Pat Hingle as Dr. John Chapman; 1971
Roy Roberts as Harry Bod- kin; banker
Fran Ryan as Hannah Cobb; saloon owner later
Charles Seel as Barney Danches; telegraph operator
Rudy Sooter as Rudy; bartender; 1965–67
Charles Wagenheim as Joshua Halligan; rancher

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.