After 20 long seasons, it seemed like “Gunsmoke” might just never end at all. Obviously, that sadly couldn’t be the case. All good things must come to an end at some point.
It was on from 1955 to 1975, which actually made it the longest-running prime-time TV Western in history. It was also the top-rated show from 1957 to 1961 as well. Despite the show being on for so long, some of the main cast members truly didn’t see the cancelation coming.
They weren’t given much notice of the cancellation, either.
James Arness, who played the gunslinging Marshal Matt Dillon on “Gunsmoke” once talked about learning the show was not continuing.
“We didn’t do a final [Gunsmoke] wrap-up show. We finished the 20th year, we all expected to go on for another season, or two or three. The [network] never told anybody they were thinking of canceling,” Arness once said, according to Gunsmoke Net.
Arness and Producers Reacton to ‘Gunsmoke’ Getting Cut
That’s certainly a tough pill to swallow for the people that had been around since the beginning of the series. Suddenly, the characters they had played for 20 years were ripped away from them.
There were actually only two actors that appeared during the entire duration of the show — Arness and Milburn Stone.
During an interview with the Archive of American Television in 2002, Arness shared the moment he found out he wasn’t going to be Matt Dillon anymore. A producer called him and asked if he had seen the cover of The Hollywood Reporter yet. He got himself a copy and on the corner of the publication, it said that “Gunsmoke” was being canceled.
Arness called the way in which the show was canceled very “callous.” He said, “They didn’t even have the courtesy to call him up and tell him.” Instead of dwelling on it all, just a couple of days later, Arness was busy working on “How the West was Won” instead.
Amanda Blake Reaction to Show’s Cancelation
As it turns out, James Arness wasn’t the only one upset about the entire situation. Even Amanda Blake shared her frustrations. She wasn’t even on the show at the time of cancellation.
Rather, she left the show after Season 19 instead. By not giving any notice, “Gunsmoke” was not able to wrap the show up in any way.
According to the book, “The Gunsmoke Chronicles: A New History of Television’s Greatest Western,” the entire cast and crew were left feeling hurt after the entire situation. Amanda Blake, or Miss Kitty, was ready to show up and give executives at CBS a piece of her mind.
She apparently said, “I think I’ll go in there and hit Bill Paley over the head with a brickbat.” For reference, Paley was an executive over at CBS.