In the two decades that “Gunsmoke” was on the air, Marshal Matt Dillon had just one on-screen kiss, who wasn’t Miss Kitty, leaving viewers in disbelief.
The Dodge City marshal, played by James Arness, got his kiss on Sept. 24, 1973, in the episode titled “Matt’s Love Story,” one of the highest-rated”Gunsmoke” episodes.
Instead of Kitty, who played the Long Branch saloon owner, Amanda Blake, Michael Learned was the one who received the smooch.
“She’s the only woman Matt ever kissed on screen,” said Arness.
In the CBS movie Gunsmoke 2, the film includes a flashback to the specific episode. Matt had amnesia and was recovering from a wound, and Matt winds up having a brief affair. When he regains his memory, he returns to Dodge.
Learned, the Emmy-winning actress who played Olivia on “The Waltons,” returned to “Gunsmoke” later in 1973 as a “lady of questionable occupation.”
The same season, Kitty was not without her own on-screen kiss. In an episode titled “Kitty’s Love Affair,” her lover was a former gunfighter played by Richard Kiley.
Matt and Kitty set off for a weekend in St. Louis, but Matt is called back to Dodge City. Kitty, annoyed that Matt is leaving, continues alone and meets Kiley and, as a result, form a romance that ends with a kiss.
The History Behind ‘Gunsmoke’
The classic Western was on the air from 1955-75 and became the longest-running dramatic shows in television history. Before that, It made its on-air debut on CBS Radio in 1952 with William Conrad as Matt Dillon.
Dennis Weaver starred in the early years as Matt’s deputy, and Burt Reynolds was a regular from 1962-65. Milburn Stone, who played Doc Adams, was the only actor to stay with the show’s entire run besides Arness.
Although “Gunsmoke” had a regular cast, it also featured numerous guest stars. Over the years, guest stars included Richard Dreyfuss, Bette Davis, Jean Arthur, Ellen Burstyn, Jon Voight, Nick Nolte, Loretta Swit, and Mariette Hartley.
After “Gunsmoke,” Arness starred in “How The West Was Won” and in a short-lived detective series called “McClain’s Law.”
In the years following, he’s also starred in a remake of “Red River” and “Alamo: 13 Days to Glory.”