“Gunsmoke” was one of the longest-running TV series, on the air for 20 years. But for one of the show’s actors, it also ended up being their last project.
Glenn Strange portrayed the bartender Sam Noonan, starting in 1961. He portrayed the role almost exclusively until his death in 1973. But Strange had actually been on the show since 1959. Prior to landing the bartender role, the actor had portrayed various characters on “Gunsmoke” before then.
Noonan became part of the tapestry of Dodge City, giving life to the saloon where the various patrons visited. As the bartender, Strange became a voice of reason and a calming element on the show. According to IMDb, “The Hanging of Newly O’Brien” ended up being Strange’s last episode in 1973.
Other than “Gunsmoke,” Strange appeared in various westerns including multiple guest spots on the series “The Rifleman.” His last guest spot on that show ended up being in 1962. For almost a decade, Strange portrayed Noonan without appearing on any other programming. Strange died in 1973 from lung cancer. “Gunsmoke” itself ended its impressive run two years later as well.
Glenn Strange and His ‘Gunsmoke’ Co-Star
Strange and his “Gunsmoke” co-star Buck Taylor, who portrayed Newly O’Brien, became good friends in real life. Taylor actually admired Strange’s work as an actor before appearing on the show together. Strange was also known for appearing as Frankenstein’s monster in three Universal films.
“I loved Frankenstein and Glen Strange was Frankenstein. I met him when I was 9 years old as Frankenstein. And, 20 years later, here I was sharing a dressing room with him,” Taylor told Tulsa World. “I looked at Glen Strange and my dad said, ‘Glen, this is my son, Buck.’ He didn’t have his mask on, his makeup, and all that. He looked at me and smiled and with this big craggly face, that great face that he had, he said, ‘Well, Buck, how are you doing?’ I just thought that was the greatest thing in the world.”
After Strange passed away, Taylor showed respect to the actor and his legacy. Taylor actually named his son’s middle name after the actor – Cooper Glenn Taylor.