Amanda Blake: Dennis Weaver ''did the right thing'' when he left Gunsmoke

Weaver never regretted his decision.

The Everett Collection

Nobody could have predicted the cultural imprint Gunsmoke would leave on the viewing audience. From September 10, 1955, to March 31, 1975, CBS produced 635 different episodes of the long-running Western. This means that, in the entire history of American TV, only The Simpsons and Law and Order would rival Gunsmoke in terms of the sheer number of scripts. But this indelible Western never prided itself in quantity, instead prioritizing the quality of its stories and the believability of its characters. However, not even the show's cast and crew could've foretold its long-lasting legacy.

"If someone would have told me back then that the show would last this long, well, I couldn't have even imagined, much less believed," Amanda Blake told the Press and Sun-Bulletin in 1970. By then, Blake had been starring as Gunsmoke's Kitty Russell for an unfathomable 15 years.

"We all signed up to do a part in a TV series and it has turned into a career. I remember we all hoped it would go for a couple of years. We had no idea we'd grow old together," said Blake.

It should follow, then, that not everybody was contented to dedicate decades of their life to the same project. When they signed up, there was no precedent for a show that ran for that many seasons. It'd be like buying a train ticket, only to find out that the train was so popular that it wouldn't be reaching its terminal destination for the foreseeable future. 

Dennis Weaver was a part of Gunsmoke's cast from 1955 to 1964. On any other program, this would've been a commendable tenure, but on Gunsmoke, he'd stopped short of the show's 20 seasons. 

However, due to the constraints of the commitment, there weren't any hard feelings from the actors who stayed on with the series.

"Dennis came to our 15th anniversary party — what a blast, 600 people — and he asserted he never regretted his decision," recalled Blake.

"And I think he did the right thing when he quit. He felt that the role (as Deputy Chester) was suppressing him as an actor. I hear Dennis has another series coming up next fall, but so far he has wound up playing second banana to a Chinese boy and a bear."

The two series Blake referred to, Kentucky Jones and Gentle Ben, lasted a combined total of 82 episodes, or roughly 13% of Gunsmoke's episodic output.


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8 Comments

Runeshaper 28 days ago
Gunsmoke is a FANTASTIC series!
Deleted 29 days ago
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SteveMcQueen99 29 days ago
Why? That's literally what he did in Kentucky Jones and Gentle Ben, respectively.
LoveMETV22 29 days ago
Thank You MeTV staff for your Daily stories and Quizzes. They are truly apreciated!
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 29 days ago
Well why didn't they say the next series was McCloud which lasted longer than those 2 shows? Not as many episodes because it wasn't weekly! BTW, Clint Howard wasn't Asian...LOL!
You need to slow down and read the article before you start asking questions. They didn't mention McCloud because that's not what Amanda Blake was referring to. "So far he has wound up playing second banana to a Chinese boy and a bear." McCloud hadn't come out yet. Also, the Chinese boy she referred to was the adopted son in Kentucky Jones, not Clint Howard.
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