It is very common for actors to go by stage names or professional names. One of the many actresses who chose to do so was the woman famous for playing Miss Kitty Russell on “Gunsmoke.”
Miss Kitty was a very prominent character on the classic Western television show. She was usually spotted at the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City. Portraying the popular character was actress Amanda Blake. However, Amanda Blake was not the name the actress was given when she was born.
So what was her birth name?
According to MeTV.com, the woman who rose to fame as Miss Kitty Russell on “Gunsmoke” was given the name Beverly Louise Neill at birth. She was born in Buffalo, New York. According to IMDb.com, Beverly Louise Neill was born on Feb. 20, 1929.
Her father was a banker. During her teenage years, she moved with her family to California. While living in California as a teenager, the future Miss Kitty earned her high school diploma from Claremont High. She decided to continue her education at Pomona College. However, she fell in love with acting and decided to make that her career and her main focus.
A break in Niell’s career came in 1950 when got her first movie role. This was in the film “Stars in My Crown” from MGM. She made her television debut in 1952 in “Schlitz Playhouse: Double Exposure,” according to IMDb.com.
The role of Miss Kitty Russell on “Gunsmoke” came three years later in 1955.
Here are a Few Interesting Facts About ‘Gunsmoke’ Actress Amanda Blake
Interestingly, Beverly Louise Neill – a.k.a. Amanda Blake – has a very famous ancestor. According to MeTV.com, that ancestor is Kate Barry. Barry lived during the Revolutionary War and is remembered for her brave act of warning the colonials that the British were approaching. She reportedly did so prior to the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina.
Here’s another interesting fact about Amanda Blake – she loved wild animals. This love was on display even on the set of “Gunsmoke.” While she was filming the beloved Western show she brought her pet lion with her to work. Talk about a spin on “Bring Your Dog to Work Day!”
The lion’s name was Kemo. When Blake ended her acting career, Kemo went to live on her Phoenix, Arizona, property. And, Kemo reportedly had a wild animal compound to live on.
In addition to her pet lion, Amanda Blake also had a love for cheetahs. And, she was one of the first people who figured out a way to breed cheetahs in captivity. Her solution worked so well that she managed to breed seven generations of cheetahs that lived on her wildlife compound.
Amanda Blake was honored for her efforts. The honor was the creation of the Amanda Blake Memorial Wildlife Refuge for African Wildlife in California.