Here's why Kitty Russell never shared a kiss with Marshal Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke

Kitty wasn't the type to kiss and tell.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Gunsmoke's Kitty Russell, the proprietor of Long Branch Saloon for 20 years, and Marshal Matt Dillon was everyone's favorite "will they?" or "won't they?" couple. 

The two characters shared a strong bond and a relationship that was speculated, hinted at and rumored to have been much more than just a friendship during the entire 20-season run. 

TV viewers loved their love, and most were desperate for more romance between the two characters before Gunsmoke ended in 1975. Kitty even won herself a famous nickname created by TV viewers and critics across the country: "Kissless Kitty."

As much as fans wanted to see a relationship blossom between the two, the actress who played Kitty had a different idea.

According to a 1964 interview with Fort Lauderdale News, Amanda Blake said people would ask her about Matt Dillon around 40 to 100 times per week. She added: "But to an actress, questions are a pretty good indication of how well she's doing."

"I am more encouraged than annoyed by the one question I have to answer more than any other: 'Aren't you going to be kissed by Marshal Dillon?'" Blake said.

The answer was a simple and straightforward "no" each time she was asked. But that answer always invited a second follow-up question: "Why not?" 

Since the beginning of the series, Kitty and Marshal Matt Dillon had a spark between them. But as Blake said it: "Wrong place, wrong time."

"Romantic love, while not unknown to that time and place, had to be secondary to the protagonist's struggle to stay alive and do his job. For the Marshal to become overly involved in a romance would dilute the drama of his story," Blake said. 

According to the interview, Blake said producers and cast members avoided the love story at all costs. The producers eliminated the possibility from the series all together, not even leaving a door open for the two love birds.

"Of course, it's traditional that Western heroes like their horses way better than they do girls," Blake said. "I can assure you that Marshal Dillon likes me - Kitty Russell - better than he does his horse. I can also assure you that he won't ever be caught kissing a horse!"

Blake said that Gunsmoke was a TV program aimed at everyone. It was based around the idea that the Western could reach any audience — from young to old — and the Old West history could carry the series. There was no time for kissin' and huggin'.

"If viewers want visible romance between Kitty and The Marshal, they'll have to supply it themselves in their imaginations," Blake said. "As I've had to do."

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14 Comments

gig889 1 month ago
I do not think having Matt and Kitty kiss would have made the show better, but in Return to Dodge when he was no longer a U.S. Marshal a kiss would have helped the movie.
robert 1 month ago
She was a madam and a saloon keeper. She had 8 rooms upstairs at the Long Branch and 2 of them were hers but she did not work in the trade. She often complained about bed springs squeaking when she was trying to get some sleep up there.
The1Butler 1 month ago
I always liked when someone messed with Kitty they were most likey gonna go to boothill!
dhbrown96 1 month ago
Of course they did but the tv didn’t have to show it. They showed it with looks and the display of caring deeply for one another. When bad outlaws came to town they always looked for “ the Marshall’s Woman “ ! Like someone else said here , tv back then left a lot of things to the imagination! Tv had strict ratings then, whether spelled out or not !
TereF 1 month ago
In the days when this classic Western was on tv, we knew how to use our imagination and everything didn't have to be spelled out to us. We all knew through dialogue and actions that Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty had feelings for one another. In my opinion, acknowledging that relationship or having them marry would have changed the show to its detriment.
AgingDisgracefully 1 month ago
"Not one to kiss and tell" doesn't mean she was a stranger to...putting it about.
Bullitt2019 1 month ago
I have no desire to kiss a woman who smokes. Maybe James Arness didn’t either, or did he smoke too?
Tresix 1 month ago
There was one little kiss: In the episode “P.S. Murry Christmas” (the one where Jack Elam leaves an orphanage with some children in tow), Kitty, Matt, and the citizens of Dodge are having a Christmas party for those kids at the Long Branch. At the end, Kitty gives Matt a peck on the cheek and says “Merry Christmas, cowboy.” The only kiss between the two in the entire show’s run.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
I honestly figured/imagined that they had a romantic relationship and definitely loved each other, but I also grasped the idea that the audience was not privy to viewing it.
Kaydee 1 month ago
I too had always wondered "Will it ever happen" but of course, it never did happen Lol I always knew there was an undying Love between Matt and Kitty. But Matt Dillon was such a strong character that he 100% avoided a public or private romance with Kitty for the sake of his job and Kitty's life, they never shared a bed on the show! Ha! . Even though Doc, Chester, Sam, Quint, Festus, some outlaws who came to town figured it out eventually, and for that matter the whole town KNEW how Matt and Kitty felt about one another, I believe if Matt had given in to his affection for Kitty she would've been more than happy to make it public. But it never happened onscreen. There were episodes where you saw how those two felt about one another. Like the episode "The Bullet" when Katherine Justice's character threatened to tell the killers on the train that Matt Dillon was on the train and Kitty confronted her and confessed to the girl that Matt is her man and she would KILL HER before she tells the killers. And the episode "Seven Hours till Dawn" when bandits take over the town till dawn (Excellent performance by Drew Barrymore's father John Drew Barrymore) Matt gets shot trying to go for help and Kitty believing Matt was dead although Doc miraculously saves his life and at the end of the episode that touching scene when Kitty finds out Matt is alive in the saloon hugging him but never kissing him Ha! I loved that scene but it didn't happen.. No Kiss.
Tantoes Kaydee 1 month ago
At the JD Barrymore episode,
shooting of Matt thing, he and Doc were pretending he was dead. Not a miracle required by Doc that time...right?
And every bad guy called Kitty 'the Sheriff's 'woman'. Also, a few times they'd come down the stairs, from her room, together.
Kaydee Tantoes 1 month ago
WRONG..I was referring to Doc miraculously saving Matt's life because Matt was technically "dead" when he was shot off of his horse. Nothing to do with them pretending with Kitty. WRONG..Not every bad guy called Kitty "the Marshall's woman" Sheriff?? And WRONG..No one at the Long Branch had a notion that Matt and Kitty were a couple because Matt had visited her in her room.
Irish 1 month ago
I agree with Amanda Blake's comments about Kitty and Matt's romance. We've seen them plan trips together, go to breakfast and dinners together, and even attend the socials and dances together. We've seen both of them in Doc's office caring for each other's gun shots and injuries. I don't think a kiss would define their love for each other anymore than that. We all know they loved each other. I think a display of an intimate relationship would have complicated the show.
KJExpress Irish 1 month ago
Well said. Of course, these days absolutely nothing is left to the imagination. 🙄
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