Gunsmoke is an American radio and television Western drama series. The series created by director Norman Macdonnell and John Meston (Writer) aired from 1952 to 1961 on radio and from 1955 to 1975 on television. It had a total of 20 seasons with 635 episodes.

Gunsmoke was set in the 1870s in and around Dodge City, Kansas during the settlement of the American West. The drama series revolved around Marshal Matt Dillon a lonely, isolated man, toughened by a hard life played by William Conrad on radio and James Arness on television.

Radio Cast

The Western drama series was aired from April 26, 1952, to June 18, 1961. The main character Marshal Matt Dillon was played by William Conrad, Chester was played by Parley Baer, Doc Adams was played by Howard McNear, and Miss Kitty was played by Georgia Ellis.

On radio, Gunsmoke portrayed a slow and halting dialogue to make room for the sound effects giving the show a spacious feel.

Television Cast

On television, James Arness plays Matt Dillon a U.S. marshal charged with maintaining law and order in an American frontier town.

Amanda Blake plays Miss Kitty Russell, owner of the Long Branch Saloon, which doubled as a bordello. Milburn Stone plays Doc Adams the town’s adept physician, and Dennis Weaver plays Deputy Marshal Chester Goode Dillon’s loyal sidekick.

Gunsmoke Cast Salaries

Depending on the roles of their characters, Gunsmoke actors earned a salary of between $300 to $1500 weekly. When the show became popular and won numerous awards and nominations, the Gunsmoke cast was earning between $9000 to $50 000 when the show became popular.

How did Kitty leave Gunsmoke?

Miss Kitty played by actress Amanda Blake was written out in 1994. The series explained that Kitty returned to her homeland in New Orleans. Amanda left the show after 500 episodes claiming she was tired and wanted to retire to her home to take care of her animals.

Why was Chester written out of Gunsmoke?

Dennis Weaver who played Chester left Gunsmoke after nine seasons to pursue other opportunities. His character Chester was written out when he went to find a murderer following a suspicious deathbed confession. Chester was replaced by Festus played by Ken Curtis.

Where did Matt Dillon live on Gunsmoke?

Matt Dillon lived in Dodge City, Kansa where he was the U.S Marshall preserving law and order.

Who was the mother of Matt Dillon’s daughter on Gunsmoke?

Matt Dillon found out that he had a daughter Beth who was 21 years old. Her mother was played by actress Michael Learned, his former love interest.

Gunsmoke Cast Today

Gunsmoke brought out many iconic actors in Hollywood who gave birth to the American Western drama. After over forty years since the show ended, let’s find out what the cast of Gunsmoke are doing now and what their next projects are after Gunsmoke whether dead or alive.

James Arness

James Arness played the main character Marshall Matt Dillon for 20 years. He then appeared in the film’s Gunsmoke films between 1987 and the 1990s. He has also appeared in other films such as Island in the Sky, The First Traveling Saleslady, In a Lonely Place, and the Western series How the West Was Won.

 James Arness
James Arness during his times on Gunsmoke

James Arness Death

Arness was born on May 26, 1923, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He died on June 3, 2011, at 88 years old of natural causes in Los Angeles, California. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

James Arness Parents

Arness was born to his parents Rolf Cirkler Aurness and journalist Ruth Duesler. He was of both German and Norwegian ancestry. Arness was raised alongside his younger brother Peter Graves who was also an actor.

Career As an Actor

Arness was drafted into the US Army and reported to Fort Snelling in March 1943. He was severely wounded while on duty in Italy which resulted in him being honorably discharged from the Army on January 29, 1945.

Arness then took up the job of a radio announcer at WLOL in Minneapolis in 1945. He soon began making casting calls in Hollywood and soon landed his first acting gig in the film RKO. He then began appearing in a number of American Western films and later a few sci-fi films.

James Arness Wife

Arness married his first wife Virginia Chapman in 1948. They divorced in 1963 and in 1967 he began dating actress Thord Brandt. They were in a relationship for six years before they went their separate ways. Arness then married Janet Surtees who survived him.

 James Arness and his wife Janet Surtees
James Arness and his wife Janet Surtees

James Arness Relationships

  • 1948 -1963 Virginia Chapman
  • 1967 – 1973 Thord Brandt
  • 1978 – 2011 Janet Surtees.


Arness had three children from his first marriage. He adopted Virginia’s son Craig and later had a son Rolf Aurnes and a daughter Jenny Lee Arness with his wife Virginia. Craig died in 2004 while Jenny died of a drug overdose in 1975.

Amanda Blake

Amanda Blake played the role of Miss Kitty Russell, the red-haired owner of the Long Branch Saloon in Gunsmoke.

After Gunsmoke ended, Blake began devoting her time to her animals at her retirement home while still appearing in a few films. She had her pet lion called Kemo and also raised a number of cheetahs at her home with her husband.

Amanda was the daughter of Louise and Jesse Neill.

Amanda Blake Age and Death

Blake (born Beverly Louise Neil) was born in Buffalo, New York on February 20, 1929. Blake died on August 16, 1989, of liver failure brought on by viral hepatitis.

Amanda Blake Marriages

  • 1954 – 1956 Don Whitman
  • 1964 – 1967 Jason Seymour Day Jr.
  • 1967 – 1982 Frank Gilbert
  • 1984 – 1985(Died)  Mark Edward Spaeth