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.
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!
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In this episode, the 26th shown but actually the pilot, the usual settings in Dodge are not the same as the ones we knew for 20 years. Matt's Marshal's office has the following noticeable differences; the side wall has a window instead of a door. The desk is a high roll-top instead of flat (and against the cell wall instead of angled towards the front door), there is no potbelly stove, the safe is against the front wall instead of the side wall and the outer door and outside front of the office are also different.Miss Kitty's Long Branch Saloon is a totally different building inside and out. The Dodge House is also a different building.
Despite Dillon’s scripted victory over the black-hatted gunslinger in the opening, Ojala earned high praise from the show’s star.
“There’s no one faster with a gun,” Arness, who received fast-draw pointers from Ojala, said in a 1959 Times story.
Ojala died of natural causes July 1 at his home in Gresham, Ore., his family said.
With an ability to cock his pistol, fire and reportedly hit his target in one-sixth of a second, Ojala was the go-to guy for learning the art of the fast-draw during the heyday of TV westerns in the 1950s and ‘60s.