8 married couples who appeared on Gunsmoke

Dodge City is for lovers.

Gunsmoke is landmark series that brought the grit and drama of Western cinema to the small screen. As the title spelled out, the show delivered a slew of gunslingers, showdowns and shootouts. But any program that topped the ratings with a third of America watching week-to-week had to include a good dose of romance, too.

The will-they-or-won't-they tension between Marshal Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty Russell kept audiences tuned in. In season 19, the writers even gave us "Matt's Love Story," where he falls hard for Michael Learned of The Waltons.

Love could be found behind the scenes, as well. The two-part thriller "Vengeance" from 1967 even kindled a Hollywood romance. But we'll get to that in a bit. 

Here are eight celebrity couples who can be found on Gunsmoke. Alas, most of them did not appear onscreen together, but we like to think their relationships led to both husband and wife being cast.

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1. James Arness and Virginia Chapman


Of course, we have to start with the star himself, James Arness. The actor met Virginia Chapman early in his career, in 1948. The two married shortly thereafter and Arness adopted her young son Craig. The two would have a son of their own, pro surfer Rolf Aurness (who used dad's given name), and a daughter, Jenny Lee. Chapman was an actress herself, most notably in the Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Gallant Grafter." She can also be found in one of great early episodes of Gunsmoke, "The Killer," the season-one tale with Charles Bronson. She plays "Gypsy."

Image: AP Photo

2. James Stacy and Kim Darby


As we mentioned above, "Vengeance" sparked a Hollywood romance. The gripping two-hour tale centered around a sly, lightning-quick gunslinger named Bob Johnson, played by James Stacy (Lancer). The 20-year-old Kim Darby, who would soon go toe-to-toe with the Duke in True Grit, played Angel, a young woman who falls hard for the scoundrel Bob Johnson. The actors fell for each other, too, getting hitched in 1968. They divorced in 1969.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Burt Reynolds and Judy Carne


Burt Reynolds made a name for himself on Gunsmoke as the brooding, brawny blacksmith Quint Asper. He appeared in 50 episodes from 1962–1965. That span nearly lined up with his first marriage. Reynolds wed Judy Carne in 1963, divorcing in 1965. Carne was a wonderful comedian, best known for her "Sock it to me!" catchphrase on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Before that, she headlined her own Sixties sitcoms, Fair Exchange and The Baileys of Balboa. She can also be seen in the Gunsmoke episode "Sweet Billy, Singer of Songs." It aired in 1966 — after she and Reynolds split, after he left the show.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Robert Culp and France Nuyen


Before becoming a man of action on I Spy (and as an elder man of action on The Greatest American Hero), Robert Culp was a TV cowboy. He starred in the underrated Trackdown, and turned up in The Rifleman, Rawhide and more. In 1964, he appeared in "Hung High" on Gunsmoke. Two years later, France Nuyen, probably best known to classic TV fans as Elaan of Troyius on Star Trek, appeared in two Gunsmoke stories, "Honor Before Justice" and "Gunfighter, R.I.P." That same year, she guest-starred alongside Culp on I Spy. The two married a year later, in 1967. The couple split in 1970.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Barbara Eden and Michael Ansara


Eden will forever be known as Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie (1965–70). Michael Ansara, born in the Levant, was an actor best known for playing Cochise on a short-lived 1960 series called Broken Arrow. His studio, 20th Century Fox, had played matchmaker and arranged a date between Ansara and Eden. Two two married in 1958. Ansara popped up on Jeannie as the Blue Djinn, the magical being that trapped Jeannie in her bottle. He can be seen in the Gunsmoke episodes "Honor Before Justice" and "The Returning." Eden beat him to the show, appearing in the 1957's "Romeo."

Image: The Everett Collection

6. Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross


Sam Elliott continues to be the consummate Western macho man, appearing in Super Bowl commercials with Lil Nas X. It's hard to imagine him without that iconic mustache, but in his early career (notably on Mission: Impossible), Elliott was indeed smooth-shaven. He played the groom in the 1972 Gunsmoke episode "The Wedding." Alas, he was not alongside his future bride, Katharine Ross. She was in the much earlier episodes "The Lady" and "Crooked Mile."

Image: The Everett Collection

7. Darren McGavin and Kathie Browne


Darren McGavin is burned into our memory as both the dad in A Christmas Story and the seersucker-sporting vampire hunter of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. But like any actor working in the 1950s and 1960s, he had plenty of Westerns on his resume. Spot him in three Gunsmoke stories — "Gunfighter, R.I.P." (alongside France Nuyen!), "The Hostage," and "Twenty Miles from Dodge." Kathie Browne kicked off her acting career with an early role on Gunsmoke, "Cows and Cribs" in 1957. She and McGavin married in 1969, years after both of them had Gunsmoke under the belts.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd


The veteran actors, pictured here in the outlaw biker cult classic The Wild Angels (1966), both have countless credits  — and continue to rack them up. Ladd can be seen in the Gunsmoke episodes "The Favor," "Sweet Billy, Singer of Songs" and "Blue Heaven." He has her beat by one, having been in "The Long Night," "The Jailer," "South Wind" and "Ten Little Indians." The two were married throughout the Sixties, divorcing when the decade ended. In that span, they had a daughter, Laura Dern.

Image: The Everett Collection

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VickieHaller 24 months ago
I had never seen Trackdown until MeTV aired it on Saturday mornings. Sadly, it was replaced...
Nushalee 27 months ago
Gunsmoke was and is the very best show that TV has turned out. Violent to a point yes, but turn on the news, and that is not make believe. Thank you for taking us back, loved this article.
DavidKesinger 33 months ago
I'm watching Quint-cident now with 47-yr married couple Catherine McLeod and Don Keefer. What about a personal favorite Jeanette Nolan and John McIntire? I'm sure there were other married couples.
You are so right! I thought of them just after James Arness and his wife
Greg 41 months ago
Never knew Burt and Judy were married. Michael Ansara nickname luckiest man in the world for being married to Barbara Eden. He was in both Star Trek and Buck Rogers
trishy 41 months ago
While many feel the show was violent, it had to be to truly depict how it was in the west in the late 19th century. Otherwise the shows success could not be validated to viewers.
Greg trishy 41 months ago
James Arness did insist the violence was shown as a last resort and not glorified as it was in some westerns.
LisainVA 41 months ago
Interesting to see how short some marriages were - no sooner than they said I do, one person must have filed for divorce since it takes many months for the divorce process....
Greg LisainVA 41 months ago
Depending on the state and the willingness to make a clean break. Nevada was home to the fastest divorce in the west lol
Tresix 43 months ago
One couple you forgot to mention: Lou Antonio and Lane Bradbury. They first appeared together in the 1965 episode “Outlaw’s Woman”, the same year they got married. Antonio would appear on “Gunsmoke” five times; Bradbury, six (four of them as hillbilly girl Merry Florene). They last appeared together on the show in the ‘69 episode “Gold Town”, playing cousins. They also worked together in other things, often with Antonio behind the camera as a director. The couple divorced in 1980, just one week short of their fifteenth anniversary.
Lbolen55 44 months ago
The most notable thing about Gunsmoke to me is the sound of gunfire on the show. It is unlike the "pew, pew, pew" sound on most Westerns and clearly dramatizes the seriousness of gunplay.
travlincardiacnurse 45 months ago
I enjoy watching tv that doesn’t include violence and bad language
Tresix travlincardiacnurse 43 months ago
You don’t think “Gunsmoke” was violent?!
trishy Tresix 41 months ago
like I stated before it was necessary in order to depict how people lived at that time in America.
BlessedtoBe 45 months ago
I didn’t grow up watching these shows, but as I got older I became fascinated by classic radio shows because as my grandfather said let your imagination create the excitement. Well Gun Smoke became a favorite with William Conrad, Georgia Ellis and Howard McNear. Now I alternate between metv and radio classics. There’s enough drama, negativity and hatred in the world, it wonderful to see problems and ugliness solved within 30 - 60 minutes. Not to mention the crap on TV today. Thank you metv for giving me hours of enjoyment.
Greg BlessedtoBe 41 months ago
Yes William Conrad was even considered to continue the role of Matt on the TV show. I bet the horses were very relived when the idea was dropped LOL
jcholiday 45 months ago
Surprised, wasn't aware of these unions but seeing them here brought a smile to my face! I am avid, every day gun-smoke watcher.
sldaniels 47 months ago
Love all these shows.
trishy sldaniels 41 months ago
Any tv program that takes us back, teaches us how life was lived then. I adore this show and only wish there were more stories of controversial issues. But then that would be an entirely different show.
starrmervine 47 months ago
What great tidbits about favorite show of mine so many years ago. That show just never seems to grow old
vbkenneth1 47 months ago
I grew up watching Gunsmoke, as far as I'm concerned Gunsmoke and Bonanza were the best tv western shows ever.
trishy vbkenneth1 41 months ago
I unfortunately didn't grow up watching this show. Now I am very happy that it us on MeTV!
ILLumina1959 47 months ago
I love watching Gunsmoke because this show gives you hope that there are goodness and real friendship in people.
DelbertMac 47 months ago
My life blew by teaching school, but I remember Dad "in rapture" in front of our b&w teevee watching Arness & Co. I realize now the old shows portrayed the best of us (along with the worst)! Every humane lesson of life (which most Americans reject now) was taught on the 50's best shows. I LOVE the 30 minute ones best and the integrity of the stars, especially Quint Asper who was persecuted for being "a half-breed ". Thank you MeTV!!!!!!
LynneJones 48 months ago
When I was a kid my stepfather always watched the show and the rule was no talking at all while the show is on. Now that I'm older, I love the Gunsmoke shows and watch them whenever they're on. I don't think there's any better show on TV than the old westerns.
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