Gunsmoke's Amanda Blake didn't need a man

Career came first for Amanda Blake.

If you're involved in a show that lasts twenty years, it won't leave much room for a personal life. Sure, there are plenty of examples of healthy relationships in Hollywood, but they're more of an exception than the rule. Especially if you're devoted enough to appear in 569 episodes of anything, there's not a ton of time to devote to anything else. 

From 1955-1975, Gunsmoke led the pack of television Westerns, setting the standard for long-running, compelling grown-up dramas. All while James Arness held the throne at the top of the call sheet. But while Arness' Matt Dillon was the most identifiable aspect of the series, he was aided in making the show succeed by a solid cast of supporting characters. Chief among them was Miss Kathleen "Kitty" Russell, as played by Amanda Blake. For each of the show's seasons, save the 20th, Kitty was a mainstay of the TV Western.

The role came into Blake's life at a critical, make-or-break moment in her career. She'd previously been a part of the studio system, signed exclusively to appear in MGM movies. Briefly, it appeared as though the studio would bring into Blake's life everything that she came to Hollywood for. The arrangement promised money, fame and adulation. However, as the business around her shifted, the studio system was restructured, priorities changed, and Blake was dropped by MGM.

In 1961, Blake's mother spoke about that period to The Vancouver Sun. "We tried, her father and I, to get Amanda to give up her career, to find a nice young man and settle down and make us grandparents," she said. "But no, she said acting was her whole life. It still is. She's dedicated to her career with a kind of fanaticism which is difficult for us to understand. But that's the fact, and we recognize it. Marriage just has no place in her present plan of progress."

Amanda Blake had been, by that point, married, briefly, twice. Both marriages ended before she debuted on Gunsmoke.

"I think," said Blake, "that I used marriage as an escape mechanism, and an escape from frustration, born of the fact that I wasn't working as an actress.

"I know now that I cannot mix marriage with a career, because to me, the career comes first. And that's not fair to any husband. So I live alone.

"I don't go on dates, and many people can't understand that. 'How can you live with such a manless life?' they ask me. Well, it's not a manless life at all. I work all day with James Arness and Milburn Stone and Dennis Weaver and a whole crew of grips and prop men. Over the weekends, Milburn, Dennis, and I frequently play at state fairs and radios. I have men around me all the time." 

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3 Comments

Dina 8 months ago
It's too bad she didn't avoid her last marriage.
Cheyos21 9 months ago
I grew up on Gunsmoke! My dad was a huge western fan and I for sure inherited his love of westerns from him, as we watched many together. Fond memories!
Runeshaper 9 months ago
Very interesting insight. Thanks, MeTV!
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