On this day 64 years ago it began and until recently it was the longest running drama on television.
"Gunsmoke" was first a radio show in 1952. Western script writer John Meston depicted a real location known for its rough and untamed past - Dodge City.
Meston and producer, Norman Macdonnell, picked William Conrad for the role of Marshal Matt Dillon. They selected Howard McNear as the town's physician, Doc Adams; Parley Baer as Matt's loyal Deputy, Chester; and Georgia Ellis to portray a saloon girl, Miss Kitty.
In the first few episodes, Kitty was a small recurring role.
Kitty evolved into a dramatic part of the show.
In its first year, the radio show lacked sponsors. Prospective sponsors insisted the creators "clean up" their story by having less violence, no saloon, and rewrite the part of Miss Kitty.
They felt Kitty should live with her parents instead of running a saloon. The creators refused to alter their show and sought sponsors on their own. In 1954, they got Liggett/Myers and their L & M cigarettes to fund their endeavor.
Gunsmoke soon rose to stardom.
Television was beginning to impact American lives. Meston and Macdonnell, took their popular storyline to CBS TV executives. The executives accepted their proposal for a TV adaptation. But they selected a different cast.
CBS offered the role of Dodge City's Marshal to John Wayne. Wayne's schedule was busy and he turned down the role.
Wayne recommended James Arness for the role of Dillon and he gave a special introduction for the first TV show which aired on Sept. 10, 1955.
Arness appeared in the TV show for its entire duration.
They cast Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty as a female addition to the male cast.
Initially, Kitty was a saloon girl in the Long Branch Saloon. But the character evolved to owner as she became more important to the plot. Blake appeared in all but the final season of the TV show.
There was an overlap for nearly six years of the radio and TV shows. The TV version of Gunsmoke first aired on Sept. 10, 1955. Gunsmoke's final radio episode aired in June 1961.
The TV show initially aired on Saturday night. There was gradual decline in ratings which, 12 years later, resulted in the network's decision to cancel Gunsmoke in 1967.
Fans were outraged.
The Kansas Legislature censored CBS.
U.S. Senator Robert Byrd moved to have objections to the show's cancellation be included The Congressional Record.
CBS's Chairman of the Board, William S. Paley, a loyal viewer of Gunsmoke, grieved over the cancellation.
CBS executives reversed their decision and moved Gunsmoke from its Saturday timeslot to Monday night.
Consequently, ratings grew as a new, younger generation found a fascination in the "old west."
The era of TV westerns ended when the last episode of Gunsmoke aired on March 31, 1975, after 20 seasons. Gunsmoke TV movies aired in the late 1980's and early 1990's.
With the exception of one in 1987, which had Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty, none featured any of the original cast except for Arness.
During its run, Dodge City basked in the fame of Gunsmoke.
The Chamber of Commerce declared, "as near as we can determine, Matt lived here at one time." In 1958, the cast of Gunsmoke participated in changing Walnut to Gunsmoke Street.
This was the first of many trips cast members made to Dodge City. Though most of the actors from the TV show are gone, Dodge City occasionally receives actors and individuals associated with Gunsmoke.