One man appeared in nearly 200 Gunsmoke episodes but was only credited once
He’s also in one of the many openings used for the long-running series.
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A list of Gunsmoke cast members in order of how many episodes they appeared in would start predictably enough. James Arness, who lead the series as Marshall Matt Dillon, was in all 635 episodes.
Regular ensemble members Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Ken Kurtis and Dennis Weaver fill out the rest of the top five. They all appeared in over 300 episodes except for Weaver, who was in a mere 290.
After Weaver comes Glenn Strange, who played Sam, the bartender of The Long Branch saloon, in 239 episodes. But after Strange, things get, well… interesting.
The next person, appearing in 198 episodes between 1957 and 1975, is Fred McDougall. Even the most diehard Gunsmoke fan could be forgiven for not recognizing the name. While he was a regular presence on the show, it was mostly in the background.
The majority of McDougall’s roles are labeled “townsman” or “cowhand,” and sometimes just “Fred.” He was never credited for any of these roles. Most often, he can be seen sporting a mustache as a bartender. Other times, sans mustache, he is a wagon driver. Amanda calls him "Freddy" as he tends bar in "I Call Him Wonder" while Matt Dillon also calls him Freddy as he drives the stage in "Cotter's Girl," which you can see in the middle and on the right here. (On the left, he is driving a wagon in "Collie's Free.")
The one time he did receive credit for his work on the show was, ironically, in “Long Hours, Short Pay.” He was credited as “Tracker” in that 1961 episode. In fact, that one episode of Gunsmoke is the only official credit McDougall ever received despite a two-decade-plus career that included background parts on Bonanza, Wagon Train and Have Gun, Will Travel. He also performed stunts in Blazing Saddles and many other western films.
When it came time to film a slightly different intro at the beginning of season 10, Fred McDougall was the reliable choice to play the man in black facing off against Marshall Dillon.
Eagle-eyed viewers will note the street in this intro looks a little different than in previous seasons. That’s because this intro was filmed at the exterior set at CBS Studio City as opposed to the full western town at Melody Ranch where earlier opening sequences were shot.
Here’s to one of the people working behind the scenes, or behind the lead actors, to help make Gunsmoke that much better. Now that you know, keep an eye out for the same man in the background of many different episodes!