8 married couples who appeared on Gunsmoke

Dodge City is for lovers.

Gunsmoke is landmark series that brought the grit and drama of Western cinema to the small screen. As the title spelled out, the show delivered a slew of gunslingers, showdowns and shootouts. But any program that topped the ratings with a third of America watching week-to-week had to include a good dose of romance, too.

The will-they-or-won’t-they tension between Marshal Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty Russell kept audiences tuned in. In season 19, the writers even gave us “Matt’s Love Story,” where he falls hard for Michael Learned of The Waltons.

Love could be found behind the scenes, as well. The two-part 𝕥𝕙𝕣𝕚𝕝𝕝𝕖𝕣 “Vengeance” from 1967 even kindled a Hollywood romance. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Here are eight celebrity couples who can be found on Gunsmoke. Alas, most of them did not appear onscreen together, but we like to think their relationships led to both husband and wife being cast.

1. James Arness and Virginia Chapman

Of course, we have to start with the star himself, James Arness. The actor met Virginia Chapman early in his career, in 1948. The two married shortly thereafter and Arness adopted her young son Craig. The two would have a son of their own, pro surfer Rolf Aurness (who used dad’s given name), and a daughter, Jenny Lee. Chapman was an actress herself, most notably in the Perry Mason episode “The ℂ𝕒𝕤𝕖 of the 𝔾𝕒𝕝𝕝𝕒𝕟𝕥 𝔾𝕣𝕒𝕗𝕥𝕖𝕣.” She can also be found in one of great early episodes of Gunsmoke, “The Killer,” the season-one tale with Charles Bronson. She plays “Gypsy.”

Image: AP Photo

2. James Stacy and Kim Darby

As we mentioned above, “Vengeance” sparked a Hollywood romance. The gripping two-hour tale centered around a sly, lightning-quick 𝕘𝕦𝕟𝕤𝕝𝕚𝕟𝕘𝕖𝕣 named Bob Johnson, played by James Stacy (Lancer). The 20-year-old Kim Darby, who would soon go toe-to-toe with the Duke in True Grit, played Angel, a young woman who falls hard for the 𝕤𝕔𝕠𝕦𝕟𝕕𝕣𝕖𝕝 Bob Johnson. The actors fell for each other, too, getting hitched in 1968. They 𝕕𝕚𝕧𝕠𝕣𝕔𝕖𝕕 in 1969.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Burt Reynolds and Judy Carne

Burt Reynolds made a name for himself on Gunsmoke as the brooding, brawny blacksmith Quint Asper. He appeared in 50 episodes from 1962–1965. That span nearly lined up with his first marriage. Reynolds wed Judy Carne in 1963, divorcing in 1965. Carne was a wonderful comedian, best known for her “Sock it to me!” catchphrase on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Before that, she headlined her own Sixties sitcoms, Fair Exchange and The Baileys of Balboa. She can also be seen in the Gunsmoke episode “Sweet Billy, Singer of Songs.” It aired in 1966 — after she and Reynolds split, after he left the show.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Robert Culp and France Nuyen

Before becoming a man of action on I Spy (and as an elder man of action on The Greatest American Hero), Robert Culp was a TV cowboy. He starred in the underrated Trackdown, and turned up in The RiflemanRawhide and more. In 1964, he appeared in “Hung High” on Gunsmoke. Two years later, France Nuyen, probably best known to classic TV fans as Elaan of Troyius on Star Trek, appeared in two Gunsmoke stories, “Honor Before Justice” and “Gunfighter, R.I.P.” That same year, she guest-starred alongside Culp on I Spy. The two married a year later, in 1967. The couple split in 1970.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Barbara Eden and Michael Ansara

Eden will forever be known as Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie (1965–70). Michael Ansara, born in the Levant, was an actor best known for playing Cochise on a short-lived 1960 series called Broken Arrow. His studio, 20th Century Fox, had played matchmaker and arranged a date between Ansara and Eden. Two two married in 1958. Ansara popped up on Jeannie as the Blue Djinn, the magical being that trapped Jeannie in her bottle. He can be seen in the Gunsmoke episodes “Honor Before Justice” and “The Returning.” Eden 𝕓𝕖𝕒𝕥 him to the show, appearing in the 1957’s “Romeo.”

Image: The Everett Collection

6. Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross

Sam Elliott continues to be the consummate Western macho man, appearing in Super Bowl commercials with Lil Nas X. It’s hard to imagine him without that iconic mustache, but in his early career (notably on Mission: Impossible), Elliott was indeed smooth-shaven. He played the groom in the 1972 Gunsmoke episode “The Wedding.” Alas, he was not alongside his future bride, Katharine Ross. She was in the much earlier episodes “The Lady” and “Crooked Mile.”

Image: The Everett Collection

7. Darren McGavin and Kathie Browne

Darren McGavin is burned into our memory as both the dad in A Christmas Story and the 𝕤𝕖𝕖𝕣𝕤𝕦𝕔𝕜𝕖𝕣-sporting 𝕧𝕒𝕞𝕡𝕚𝕣𝕖 hunter of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. But like any actor working in the 1950s and 1960s, he had plenty of Westerns on his resume. Spot him in three Gunsmoke stories — “Gunfighter, R.I.P.” (alongside France Nuyen!), “The ℍ𝕠𝕤𝕥𝕒𝕘𝕖,” and “Twenty Miles from Dodge.” Kathie Browne kicked off her acting career with an early role on Gunsmoke, “Cows and Cribs” in 1957. She and McGavin married in 1969, years after both of them had Gunsmoke under the belts.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd

The veteran actors, pictured here in the outlaw biker cult classic The Wild Angels (1966), both have countless credits  — and continue to rack them up. Ladd can be seen in the Gunsmoke episodes “The Favor,” “Sweet Billy, Singer of Songs” and “Blue Heaven.” He has her beat by one, having been in “The Long Night,” “The Jailer,” “South Wind” and “Ten Little Indians.” The two were married throughout the Sixties, divorcing when the decade ended. In that span, they had a daughter, Laura Dern.

Image: The Everett Collection

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