Gunsmoke the Early Years

I grew up watching the hour-long color episodes (seasons 12-20) of Gunsmoke in reruns and I liked the show. Now I’m watching the first 6 seasons…they are black and white and very different. There is no Festus or Newly…we have Chester (Dennis Weaver) and he is a refreshing character. They just never played these episodes on television when I was younger. There still is Doc Adams  (Milburn Stone)and a very young good looking Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake).

These episodes dealt with murder, rape, human trafficking, and plenty of Matt Dillon (James Arness) decking bad guys with his fist or the butt of his gun. They are 30 minutes long which is great. They got to the point quickly. Some of the stories were grim but it matched the look of the series.

I was surprised at how rough, violent and authentic they were and that is not knocking the later episodes but there is a difference. The violence was toned down as the series continued.

The later color episodes centered more around the guest stars and the old black and white ones centered more on the local cast of Dodge City.

Have Gun Will Travel was also on CBS along with Gunsmoke. You will see some of the same character actors and sets. Some Have Gun Will Travel scenes were filmed in a redecorated Long Branch… Too bad there wasn’t a crossover at least once.

Chester…I’ve always liked Dennis Weaver as an actor…in McCloud, Duel and anything he was in… He brings his character Chester alive as a real person. Chester had a limp on the show and Dennis Weaver said he would take yoga classes so he could do things like putting on a boot look believable with a bad leg…he also put a pebble in his boot on his right foot so he would not forget which leg was lame.

Chester could be lazy but he was invaluable and loyal to a fault to Matt Dillon. Dennis Weaver left the show after the 9th season with no explanation on what happened to Chester as was the way back then with TV shows.

If you are a fan and have seen only the later episodes…check these out.

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

7 thoughts on “Gunsmoke the Early Years”

  1. I am only familiar with the later episodes. Festus was the key character I thought- kind of like the George in Seinfeld or Barney in Andy Griffith. When my brother was born in 1968 my dad only half jokingly wanted to name him- Festus Eugene… That wasn’t happening.. If I recall correctly Gunsmoke was on Monday nights at 8pm.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is funny about your Dad… Festus was a great character…a good sidekick for Matt. My Dad told me about Chester and his limp and I never got to see him. He is not as capable as Festus but he is there for Matt. The reason I wrote it is that I was taken aback by the violence and the grim stories that worked really well with the 30-minute black and white episodes. If you ever get a chance check it out. I’ve read where the network censors made them tone it back.

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      1. I never saw Amanda Blake that young either. She was very good looking… As you watch Have Gun Will Travel in one episode they do mention Matt Dillon…like I said it would have been a cool crossover on an episode.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That would have been awesome- a crossover episode.. they must have not thought outside of the envelope that much back in that time. Today they would probably have done it. Mentioning Have Gun Will Travel makes me want to get the DVD’s out…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know how I missed this yesterday but also in the old programs from the 50’s-70s…people would just disappear off the show like Chester with no explanation. I don’t know why they thought it would be a bad thing to explain why…


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