A Christmas episode during the first season of Gunsmoke saw two brothers reuniting with each other. The show went on to become the longest on-air show of the time. After 20 years, the show ended in 1975. The cast came full circle, though. They reunited for Christmas only two years later, in 1977. It’s bittersweetly reminiscent of that first Christmas episode.
After the show ended, Milburn Stone retired. During the filming of Gunsmoke, he had three heart attacks. After undergoing open-heart surgery, Stone decided to step away from acting to focus on his health. He spent his time walking and fishing the Colorado River.
Two years into his peaceful wilderness retirement, Stone got a call from CBS. The network was celebrating its 50th anniversary and wanted Stone to join in on the party. Stone would be one of 120 actors filming two-hour shows to celebrate the network.
The network failed to mention that Stone wouldn’t be the only Gunsmoke actor there. The whole cast didn’t show up but co-stars Jim Arness and Dennis Weaver were present. That nice surprise, paired with the ambiance of the season, made the absence of the rest of the cast that much more noticeable.
When talking to United Press International, Stone talked about missing his coworkers. “I felt bad because Ken Curtis — who played Festus — wasn’t included. Amanda Blake was invited but she couldn’t make it. But Jim and Dennis and I spent the whole day talking about the good times we had together,” Stone said.
Holiday Get-Together Could’ve Led to A ‘Gunsmoke’ Revival
When Stone arrived at the holiday bash, he wasn’t sure what to expect. He had been given a very minimal rundown of what he should do. He wanted more details, but CBS would not give him any further information. They kept it as basic as possible and told him that all he had to do was walk through a door. Since it had been a couple of years since his acting days, he just wanted to be prepared. Nothing could’ve prepared him for seeing his old castmates’ faces once more.
He wasn’t nervous for long at the party, and it even made him wish for a Gunsmoke reunion. Stone stated, “I really miss Gunsmoke and I’d dearly love to go back to work. I’m getting really bored with retirement.”
Even though the CBS event made Stone want to start acting again, he never carried out that wish. After Gunsmoke and a Dean Martin roast, Stone hung up his acting cap for life. At least for a moment, there was a glimmer of community and hope for the future amongst the Stone and his co-stars. Stone summed the experience up perfectly, “Damn, it was good to see those guys again.”