How ‘Gunsmoke’ Stars Took Their Characters Off Screen

Back in the day, a show like Gunsmoke had lots of viewers tune into the action in Dodge City. What happens when the actors go off-screen?

This focuses on the lives of three of the show’s stars, Milburn Stone, Dennis Weaver, and Amanda Blake. All three would occasionally make personal appearances as themselves, not their characters. Still, people wanted to see their favorite Gunsmoke stars.

Life for these talented actors changed for the better regarding personal appearances when their lives intersected with one of the Western movies’ greatest stars. We’ll get there in a minute with some help from an article by GunsmokeNet.com.

‘Gunsmoke’ Trio Would Find Themselves Dipping Into World of Vaudeville for Tips

They added a little flavor of the old-school theater world of Vaudeville to their lives. On Gunsmoke, they played Doc Adams, Chester Goode, and Miss Kitty, respectively. As we said, individually, they could do OK but not great. Together, though, they could have an asking price for up to $10,000. Split three ways in circa late 1950s-early 1960s, that’s some pretty good cash.

The three of them would appear at rodeos, horse shows, or country fairs. What would they do at these appearances? A little bit of this and that. Stone used to do a song-and-dance act briefly in Vaudeville. Weaver had a little experience being an OK guitar player. What could Blake do? Sing?

Not really. She says that she “had a voice so low it could easily pass for bass.” As we said, they did OK but not great individually from Gunsmolke in personal appearances. That all changed when a movie star named Roy Rogers happened to spot them out.

Roy Rogers Would Have Pivotal Role In Shifting Three From Performing Individually

See, Roy Rogers was appearing at the Florida State Fair at the time in Tampa, Fla. Who was in the audience? Stone, Weaver, and Blake. Rogers looks to the audience and asks, “Folks, how would you like to meet Chester,
Kitty and Doc?”

In reflecting on that moment, Stone said, “Well, they like to tore the joint apart.” That means those attending the fair really wanted to see all three of them together. Gunsmoke was a hot commodity for CBS; these three stars found themselves working together for bigger money collectively.

And they did appear in their clothes as Doc, Chester, and Kitty. This pattern also would continue once Ken Curtis came aboard as Festus in place of Weaver, who left the show. Nowadays, you will see a number of TV shows go out and have their stars appear at different events, too. They do this after a lot of ads or announcements have been made in advance.

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