It’s the 62nd anniversary of Gunsmoke. The classic western premiered on CBS on September 10, 1955. If that seems like a long time ago, consider this — the show went off the air a little over 40 years ago. It’s no surprise that hundreds of actors passed in front of the camera over the show’s two decade run. Still, the litany of stars that appeared on Gunsmoke — often before they were famous — is stunning.
Members of the Star Trek and Star Wars universe passed through Dodge City. Kung Fu masters and Men from U.N.C.L.E. wore cowboy hats. The episode “P.S. Murry Christmas” alone is a consortium of child stars.
To celebrate, we’ve gathered 60 actors and actresses who were guests on the series.
John Astin After Gomez, after his brief stint at the Riddler, he was the title character in “Hard Luck Harry”Ed Asner Years before he would become Mary Tyler Moore’s boss, “Lou Grant” appeared twice, as different characters in 1964 and 1966.Beau Bridges A 24 year old Bridges was Jason in “My Father’s Guitar.”Charles Bronson The hard-boiled action star was the psychopathic Crego in the early episode “The Killer” (1956) and showed up again two years later in “Lost Rifle.”Gary Busey In “The Busters,” Busey plays Harve, a man kicked in the head by a horse.David Carradine Long before Tarantino tried to kill Bill, the Kung Fu star was a horse thief in “Lavery.”Robert Culp If you watch “Hung High” you will espy this I Spy spy.Bette Davis At 58, she still had Bette Davis eyes in “The Jailer.”Bruce Dern Laura’s dad appeared in four episodes between 1965 and 1969, including “The Jailer,” too.Angie Dickinson The young starlet is in “The Sins of the Father.”
James Doohan Scotty was beamed down to Dodge for a bit role in “Quint Asper Comes Home.”Richard Dreyfuss Not long before landing Jaws, he appeared in “This Golden Land.”Buddy Ebsen Before and after being a Beverly Hillbilly, Ebsen was a cowboy thrice — in 1960, 1961 and 1971.Barbara Eden Before getting in the Jeannie bottle, Eden appeared in “Romeo.”Sam Elliott With that ‘stache and voice, he was born to be in westerns. But it wasn’t until “The Wedding” in 1972 that he hit Gunsmoke. Harrison Ford Han Solo and Indiana Jones got used to holsters, leather and hats in “The Sodbusters” and “Whelan’s Men.”Jodie Foster The child star burst onto the screen in 1969 (“Roots of Fear”), and would twice more show up in Dodge (“P.S. Murry Christmas” and “The Predators”).Leif Garrett The teen idol is also in “The Sodbusters” along with Ford.Alan Hale, Jr. The Skipper was cast (away) on Gunsmoke three times (“Minnie,” “Champion of the World,” “Jubilee”). Alas, his Little Buddy never made it.Ron Howard Between Mayberry and Happy Days, he was in “Charlie Noon” (and still billed and Ronny Howard).
Dennis Hopper Fun fact: He was actually born in Dodge City, Kansas! He had to show up eventually (“One Killer on Ice”).DeForest Kelley Bones was in “Indian Scout.” As you will see, most of the Enterprise crew shows up at some point.Jack Klugman One half of The Odd Couple was Earl Ticks in “Buffalo Man.” Earl Ticks sounds like a bad roommate, tooTed Knight The Too Close for Comfort man was in “Print Asper” and “Run, Sheep, Run.”Diane Ladd The actress popped up three times between 1964 and 1967.Martin Landau Before his impossible mission and trip to Space: 1999, this legendary actor was in “The Patsy” and “The Goldtakers.”June Lockhart Lassie and Will Robinson’s mom branches is far wilder in “Dirt,” an early script by Sam Peckinpah.Jack Lord The Hawaii Five-O lead plays twin brothers in “Doc’s Reward.”Ricardo Montalbán Fantasy Island’s host was the title role in “Chato.” Alas, William Shatner is not there to yell, “CHAAAAAATO!”Harry Morgan Col. Potter of M*A*S*H is one of the few on this list to show up twice as the same character — Jed Hockett in “The Wiving” and “Brides and Grooms.” But he played other characters twice before, too.
Richard Mulligan The unmistakable Soap star was in “Wonder.”Leslie Nielsen Though he became a slapstick comedic star late in his career, Nielsen is a tough gang leader in “Time of the Jackals.”Leonard Nimoy Spock can be spotted in “A Man a Day,” “The Search,” “I Call Him Wonder” and (as a Native American) in “Treasure of John Walking Fox.”Nick Nolte He got in late in the run, in 1974’s “The Tarnished Bridge.”Slim Pickens It should come as no surprise this cowboy earned four roles between 1964 and 1972.Suzanne Pleshette A couple years before landing The Bob Newhart Show, she was in “Stark.”Burt Reynolds Okay, we’re cheating a bit here, as a young Reynolds was a regular for years as the hunky blacksmith Quint.Kurt Russell A very young Russell was in “Blue Heaven” and came back a decade later as Buck Henry (not that Buck Henry) in “Trail of Bloodshed.”William Shatner Captain Kirk can be found in “Quaker Girl.” Any show with Shatner is a great show.Tom Skerritt Could it be a record here? Five different characters in five different episodes, from 1965 to 1972.
Aaron Spelling Though best known as a producer, this TV mogul played Weed Pindle in “The Guitar.”Loretta Swit Hot Lips appeared twice in 1970, in “The Pack Rat” and “Snow Train.”Harry Dean Stanton The character actor worked in eight episodes — as eight characters — over a decade, from 1958–1968.Robert Urich Before becoming Spenser, Urich was for hire as Manolo in “Manolo.”Lee Van Cleef The ultimate spaghetti western villain twirled his mustache in three episodes in the early 1960s.Robert Vaughn Early in his career, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. was Kid in “Cooter.”Jan-Michael Vincent The eventual Airwolf star can be seen in “The Visitor.”Jon Voight Angelina Jolie’s dad (and Ray Donovan’s fictional father) shows up in three episodes in the late 1960s.Adam West Blazing saddles, Batman! In “Ash,” the Caped Crusader played Emmett, the target of troubled man who was hit in the head with a barrel.James Whitmore The great character actor, who was in everything from Planet of the Apes to The Shawshank Redemption, put in his time for three episodes.
Phew! But wait, you say, that is only fifty. Well, we should also mention sitcom kid Willie Aames (“P.S. Murry Christmas”), Prairie girl Melissa Gilbert (“The Judgement”), Col. Klink portrayer Werner Klemperer (“Sunday Supplement”), Dick Van Dyke Show star Rose Marie (“Twelfth Night”), A Christmas Story dad Darren McGavin (three episodes), Hitchcock actress Vera Miles (“Sam McTavish, M.D.”), Joanie of Happy DaysErin Moran (“P.S. Murry Christmas”), Trapper John of M*A*S*HWayne Rogers (three episodes), F Troop lead Forrest Tucker (6 episodes), and Mission: Impossible beauty Lesley Ann Warren (“Harvest”).
And that’s not counting the dozens of western regulars. The dusty streets of Dodge City are a veritable Walk of Fame.