“Gunsmoke” remains one of the longest-running shows in American TV history. Today, the Western is only topped by the contemporary crime drama, “Law & Order.” Throughout its 20 seasons on CBS, the classic Western centered around James Arness’s dynamic character, Dodge City Marshal Matt Dillon. However, alongside the cast mainstay, the show featured a host of memorable guest stars. However, one of the most important “Gunsmoke” guest stars by far is American actor Gary Busey. And here’s why.
Gary Busey was the Last Casualty of ‘Gunsmoke’
It’s strange to have your character make entertainment history as a fictional casualty, but hey, whatever works.
As Looper states, the violence and death portrayed across 20 seasons of “Gunsmoke” appears “extraordinarily tame” by today’s standards. But, given the genre of the iconic series, writers still needed to kill characters off every so often. Take Garey Busey.
Gary Busey made one sole appearance in “Gunsmoke,” and it was in one of the last episodes of the series. According to the outlet, Busey, a rising actor at the time, played the part of the “doomed” cowboy Harvey Daley.
Despite the lack of convincing visual effects at the time, Gary Busey’s character nevertheless suffers a pretty tragic end. The episode, entitled “The Busters,” leaves viewers in suspense when Harvey Daley gets kicked in the head by a horse. And while he doesn’t know it, he sustains what he doesn’t realize is a fatal injury.
As per the outlet, Doc, played by actor Milburne Stone, gives the cowboy less than a week to live. By the end of the episode, the character’s prediction is realized. Ultimately, Daley dies of a brain tumor and leaves Busey’s character’s demise to become the last of the hit series.
One Character Appeared in Every Single Episode of ‘Gunsmoke’
Gary Busey may have only appeared in a single episode of “Gunsmoke,” but one regular member of the Western’s cast appeared in every single episode in the series. And given that’s 20 seasons numbering 635 episodes in total, that’s more than impressive. As you might have suspected, that dedicated cast member is none other than James Arness as Dodge City’s keeper of the law, Marshal Matt Dillon.
Plenty of the “Gunsmoke” cast appeared in an impressive total of episodes. Other key characters include actress Amanda Blake as Kitty and Doc as Milburne Stone. Blake appeared in 509 episodes overall, while Stone boats 605 episodes in all.
Nevertheless, Arness saw the beloved Western through to the end as his character kept Dodge City safe from bandits, outlaws, and cons.
Interestingly, while “Gunsmoke” fans have come to, ultimately, associate James Arness with the hit series, we actually have the Western icon, John Wayne to thank. At one point in time, writers had actually wanted to cast Hollywood’s most famous cowboy as the Dodge City marshal. But thanks to The Duke’s endorsement, Arness was awarded the role instead.