‘Gunsmoke’: Where Was the Classic TV Western Filmed?

The TV series “Gunsmoke” was a huge success from 1955 to 1975, but where was the classic western show filmed?

Although “Gunsmoke” took place in Dodge City, Kansas in the 1870s, according to Visit Southern Utah, the majority of the TV show’s 635 episodes and many of the outdoor scenes of the western TV show were actually shot in Johnson Canyon near Kanab, Utah. The website claims that Johnson Canyon’s movie set to considered the largest movie set constructed in the Kanab area. While it can still be viewed from the road, the set is actually not accessible. This is due to its current state of general disrepair. 

IMDb further reports that along with the Johnson Canyon set, other locations for “Gunsmoke” include Old Tucson, Arizona; Hill City, South Dakota; Empire Ranch in Sonoita, Arizona; and Coronado National Forest, Arizona. Also according to IMDb, “Gunsmoke” follows Marshal Matt Dillion, who keeps the peace in rough-and-tumble Dodge City. James Arness starred in the series as Dillion. Others who appeared in the TV show’s cast are Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Ken Curtis, Dennis Weaver, and Glenn Strange.

“Gunsmoke” star Arness was nominated for three Emmy Awards for his portrayal on the TV show. He was nominated for Best Continuing Performance by an Actor in a Dramatic Series (1957); Best Continuing Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic or Comedy Series (1958); and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series (1959).  

“Gunsmoke” Star James Arness Opens Up About the TV Show’s Quick Success

While speaking to True West Magazine, James Arness discussed “Gunsmoke” and the TV show’s quick success. “It ran on radio for, I think, three or four seasons before they brought it to television,” Arness explained. “So they had the characters all honed down and the storylines. In fact, during the first couple of years, we used many of the old radio scripts just readapted for television. That was one o the main things that got the ball rolling. People would see it and realize it was a really high-quality show.”

Arness also declared that it was fun playing his “Gunsmoke” character, Matt Dillion. “As far as playing him, it was wonderful. It took me a little while to get into the groove. When we first started, I had played a number of different parts in pictures and everything but never had to carry that much responsibility. In most of those early episodes, I was in almost every scene. I was suddenly faced with being in 15 pages a day and having to learn all this dialogue.”

In regards to who he would think of if there was a “Gunsmoke” reboot and someone else was playing Dillion, Arness added, “I can’t really think of somebody offhand, but I’m sure there would be somebody out there. I’ve been watching Band of Brothers. They’ve got some amazing casting there. I don’t know where they got those guys because most of them are completely unfamiliar.”

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