Gunsmoke, An American Institution Celebrating 50 Years of Television’s Best Western
This is the best book ever written about the longest running drama in prime time. Any episode of “Gunsmoke” showed why it was the giant series. It had the best writers, directors, producers, and actors. Actors loved to participate because they knew it led to bigger and better things. For example after her appearance on the show Katharine Ross was hired without a screen test for the role she played in the movie “Shenandoah.” Strother Martin, William Schallert, Robert Lansing, Victor French, Bruce Dern, Eric Braeden, and others who were regular guest stars. Matt Dillon, Chester, Doc Adams, and Kitty were the core characters, then when Dennis Weaver no longer wanted to play the role of Chester, the series was able to introduce Ken Curtis as Festus Hagen who fit right in.
What made this show work was the interplay of the main players. But it also had adult themes and conflicts. The author has many interviews with many of the actors, episode guides for all 635 episodes, summaries and stories behind the five movies for television, behind the scenes gossip, and pictures galore. Other westerns came and went but “Gunsmoke” ran 20 seasons with quality shows that still hold up today. With the episodes now coming to DVD, this is the best resource to use as a guide for watching them.