Here's what you didn't know about Cannon's ''Gunsmoke'' connection

You could say William Conrad and Gunsmoke were "canonically" linked!

From 1971 to 1976, William Conrad was TV's Cannon. As the title detective, Conrad used street smarts to solve crimes across 122 episodes. The show's five seasons, produced by Quinn Martin, were among Conrad's most high-profile appearances. However, it wasn't the first time that William Conrad served justice over the airwaves. 

We all know what Marshal Matt Dillon looks like. He's James Arness, after all, how could you miss him? The guy is 6'7"! But before Matt Dillon had a face, he was just a voice. Between the years of 1952 and 1961, Gunsmoke was a popular radio program broadcast by CBS. The audio-only Western preceded its television counterpart by three years. While he bore little resemblance to the Marshal Dillon audiences would later identify on TV, it was William Conrad who first performed the lawman role.

After ten consecutive years on the air, radio's Gunsmoke came to an end, but William Conrad had no regrets, according to a 1962 interview with the Elmira Advertiser

"It's not every day you get a job that pays you $1,000 a week for 10 years for just working three hours every Saturday afternoon!"

While the radio program was certainly successful, the televised version of Gunsmoke overshadowed its predecessor, just as Arness towered above Conrad. While the actor who provided Marshal Matt Dillon's radio voice was a natural choice for the TV version, Conrad just didn't stack up. 

"I just wasn't tall enough for the TV image of Matt, even with built-up western boots," said Conrad.

"But everything has worked out for the best. Otherwise, I might never have discovered that directing gives me a full joy of satisfaction that acting never did. I can direct seven days and nights a week and feel like I'm on a vacation. Acting never affected me this way."

Conrad steadily built a strong directorial résumé, helming episodes of The Rifleman, Route 66, and Have Gun, Will Travel

This is where the plot thickens.

William Conrad, the original voice of Marshal Matt Dillon, would eventually direct not just one but TWO episodes of Gunsmoke

He was able to revisit the franchise when he directed the season 8 episode "Panacea Sykes" in 1963, and again with season 16's "Captain Sligo." 

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19 Comments

CarnivorousVulgaris 2 months ago
Because of his directing, he was gifted the Maltese Falcon (the one the Fatman ruined) from the movie. It was found in his estate after his death.
Moody 2 months ago
I think I would've liked being a director. I like telling people what to do & where to go after all!
Runeshaper 2 months ago
William Conrad was a cool 😎 dude + $1K a week for 10 years for 3 hours a week doesn’t sound bad at all!
justjeff 2 months ago
I repeat comments from older posts of mine... I prefer Conrad's radio version of "Gunsmoke" to the TV version. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!
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justjeff justjeff 2 months ago
The "Man in Black" was not a permanent fixture of the show. By the time Autolite took over as sponsor, some of their earlir shows had 'Hap" and his son or 'Hap' with Harlow Wilcox [the commercial pitchman] do lead-ins for the programs...
justjeff justjeff 2 months ago
Additionally, some of the 'regulars' who played supporting character parts on Suspense were Cathy Lewis, Lureen Tuttle, William Conrad, Bill Johnstone (formerly "The Shadow") and Lawrence Dobkins (along with Kearns)...
MrsPhilHarris justjeff 2 months ago
Harlow Wilcox was the announcer on Fibber McGee & Molly.
justjeff MrsPhilHarris 2 months ago
...and also on Amos 'n' Andy in later years...
DocForbin 2 months ago
Let's not forget that Conrad also did narration, most notably on "Bullwinkle" and "The Fugitive".
Bapa1 DocForbin 2 months ago
I wonder how much he got paid for that?
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