If you’ve seen any episode of Gunsmoke, you know the unmistakable romantic tension between U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon and saloon owner Kitty Russell. Their will-they-won’t-they relationship lasted almost the show’s entire run, for 19 seasons. Amanda Blake, who played Miss Kitty, appeared in 569 of the shows 635 episodes. James Arness starred as the marshal. He attributed the lack of definitive romantic answers to the fact that keeping the audience guessing also kept them watching.
Both characters would occasionally meet other potential romantic partners, but it never seemed to work out. Marshal Dillon even stayed with a woman in the 1973 episode “Matt’s Love Story.” He was shot pursuing a fugitive and a lonely widow named Mike nursed him back to health. Michael Learned (Olivia Walton on The Waltons) played the frontierswoman and inspired the character’s name.
At first, Dillon couldn’t remember who he was so he stayed with Mike for a week. Conveniently, all his memories returned toward the end of the episode and he knew he had to ride back to Dodge City. Years later, this little tryst gained more significance when Marshal Dillon found out he had a daughter in the 1990 TV movie Gunsmoke: The Last Apache.
Any Gunsmoke fan knows that Matt and Kitty were clearly in love — it was just never explicitly shown.
However, James Arness and Amanda Blake did lovingly interact on television while the show was still in its first few seasons.
They starred in a commercial for L&M cigarettes where Blake hands Arness a carton and plants a big kiss on his cheek. Arness playfully says, “That’s the way I like to get L&Ms, folks.”
The Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company was an early Gunsmoke sponsor. Arness starred in many different commercials for the company.
While not as good as their characters getting together on the show, this commercial from the late 1950s is a fun way to see the incredible onscreen chemistry between these two iconic TV stars.