Image: The Everett Collection
Gunsmoke lasted a remarkable — perhaps untouchable, at least when it comes to hourlong dramas — 20 seasons. It must have been a pleasure to act in the show. How else to explain that a core cast could work together for two decades? James Arness would continue to return to the role of Marshal Matt Dillon in subsequent TV movies, all the up until 1994.
His castmates, including Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty), Ken Curtis (Festus) and Milburn Stone (Doc), would also play their roles for years and years.
Let's take a peek behind the scenes of this most iconic of American Westerns.
Amanda Blake reads a letter, perhaps a piece of fan mail. In full color, you can see the splendor of her costumes from the black & white years.
M*A*S*H favorite Harry Morgan pops in for a guest roll in a later episode, giving him time to kick back with Arness on the porch.
Blake keeps it clean for the airwaves of the 1950s.
Director Bill Conrad (center, with his back to the camera) walks the cast through a script.
Keeping the peace in Dodge City is no funny business, but Arness and Curtis share a laugh with Betty Hutton on the set.
Arness peers over a collar of leis he received after he crossed the finish line first in the Multihull Transpacific Yacht Race, Sunday, July 15, 1968, in Honolulu.
Blake sure earned a lot of clams working on the show.
Arness and Blake get big laughs at Dennis Weaver's rope fumbling during a rehearsal.
Hickman Hill, grandson of veteran Western actor Tom Mix, makes his acting debut in a segment of Gunsmoke.
Members of the Texas A&M football team meet Arness as they visit the set, October 9, 1964.
President Ronald Reagan is flanked by Blake and Garland Murphy of the American Cancer Institute, during a White House ceremony in 1984. Blake was presented the American Cancer Society's Courage Award.
Craig Arness gets the drop on dad during an afternoon of play at the Arness home in 1958.
Dennis Weaver (Chester Goode) leans on a lamppost with Blake on set. Interesting to see that, in color, Goode wears a pink shirt.
Doc, Dillon and Kitty visit the real Dodge City in Kansas in 1958.
Arness sits with his wife, Virginia Arness, 23, in 1958.
Milburn Stone collects an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor — Drama in 1968. Next to his is Barbara Anderson, who won the same award for Ironside.
Amanda Blake and James Arness reunite at the Golden Boot Awards, August 15, 1986.