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Gunsmoke was an adult western and was the creation of writer, John Meston, and producer-director, Norman Macdonnell. It absolutely took the country by storm. Variety Magazine, the show business journal, called it an amazing presentation, and The New York Times labeled it Something new and entirely exciting in radio. Listeners began sending in thousands of letters voicing their approval. Nothing li…

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Early on, Gunsmoke received the acclaim due it from both critics and the audience. One major reason for this was the program’s dedication to authenticity. Not only could the audience hear the wind on the prairie or the clomping of horses’ hooves common on other shows, but they heard sounds that made the show real to them. The keys on the ring clanging as Matt Dillon sorted through them before open…

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Originally a story editor for CBS, John Meston left that behind in 1953 and went to work full time writing Gunsmoke. The next three years, Meston essentially wrote every episode, numbering around forty scripts a year. Both Meston’s contemporaries and researchers since saw this period as when Gunsmoke came into its own, truly defining what an adult western would be and becoming the classic show it…

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Gunsmoke added a layer to Matt Dillon that many western lawmen in fiction did not have. He was a paradox. First and foremost, Dillon sought to keep the law he had sworn to uphold and protect those covered by that law. He also, however, in many episodes showed an understanding of human nature, of how good people could be driven to do bad things for complicated reasons. Sometimes this contradiction…

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Authenticity was something that the creators of Gunsmoke strived for. A key locale in Dodge City for Marshall Dillon, Doc Adams, Chester, and Miss Kitty was the Long Branch Saloon – which actually existed for a brief time in the booming Wild West Town of Dodge City, Kansas between 1874 and 1885, before it burned down, never to be rebuilt. In order to achieve their goal of imbuing Gunsmoke with as…

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Intent on setting it apart from other programs, the creators behind Gunsmoke focused on upending the traditional storybook ending in Westerns. Sure, The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, and others made mistakes. Yet these mistakes were just minor nuisances for the heroes. Marshall Matt Dillon was not a picture perfect radio Western cowboy hero – he was far from it and the people he tried to help wer…

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Marshall Matt Dillon was different from the traditional Western hero radio archetype because he stood alone and had no real friendships. Dillon had only one person that he trusted in Dodge City, and that was Chester Wesley Proudfoot, an amiable expatriate from Waco. Though never directly implied in the radio series, there are some hints that Chester Wesley Proudfoot was of Native American Indian h…

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The strength of Gunsmoke as a whole largely relied on the depth of every figure in each episode, from small quirks given to one time only roles to complex histories woven into the recurring cast. Doc Adams’ back story slowly unfolded during Gunsmoke’s first few years across the radio waves. Grumpy and grim, McNear slowly took the edge off of Doc, and Dodge City’s resident medical become more fully…

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In the 1870s, Dodge City, Kansas was located at the end of a very long cattle trail called The Great Western Cattle Trail, The Dodge City trail, or The Old Texas Trail. During the American War Between The States, the Civil War, cattle herds in the State of Texas had grown very large, since the south did not want beef delivered to the north during the conflict. As a result, at the end of the war, a…

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It is 1872 and you are living 12 miles from town. Your wife is screaming in pain in her last stages of labor, about to give birth to your first born. You are frantic because you have no idea how to deliver a child. Suddenly, a horse drawn carriage pulls up out front. It is the doctor with his bag and his medical knowledge. You shout into the house to your wife that the doctor has arrived. Who is i…

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If Gunsmoke had followed the traditional, but strictly constrictive cookie-cutter programming format that most successful radio shows adhered to during the Golden Age of Radio, then it would have been a dismal, half-remembered failure of a great idea for a Western adventure series done in by the rigid production values of the era in which it was first produced. Yet, Gunsmoke’s popularity amongst l…

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Gunsmoke was an adult western and was the creation of writer, John Meston, and producer, Norman Macdonnell. With CBS Chairman William S. Paley in their camp, Macdonnell and Meston had a strong ally in creating their version of a gritty, authentic Western that eschewed the established Western pathos that had been set forth in such “juvenile” Western adventure radio programs like The Lone Ranger, St…

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While Norman Macdonnell and John Meston were openly relishing the opportunity to upend the highly popular romanticized clichés of the Old West in a new show green lighted by CBS and Paley; the producer and writer still had to tackle a major problem if they wanted Gunsmoke to succeed. Macdonnell and Meston need to find the ideal voice actor to give the newly christened Marshall Matt Dillon life. Wi…

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Without Conrad as the lead in Gunsmoke, it’s doubtful if the “adult radio” program would have flourished during its nine-year run on radio. Not only did Conrad bring a sense of doleful gravitas to the role of Marshall Matt Dillon; but he helped Macdonnell and Meston flesh out the supporting characters of Chester Proudfoot, Miss Kitty, and Doc Adams. Still, in order for Gunsmoke to successfully wor…

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The Gunsmoke theme is considered by many to be one of the most renowned pieces of music of classic radio themes. Rex Koury was hired to provide the music for the program, and while having experience on a variety of radio shows, Koury had never composed for a western before. As a matter of practice, Koury wrote the music for the show itself first, openers and bridges and the like, then he would wri…

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In the early programs, Matt Dillon has a grudging tolerance for his deputy, Chester Proudfoot. Chester’s primary purpose it seemed, both to Matt and the audience, was to essentially irritate Dillon. Whether it was his constant searching through desk drawers or putting sugar in his whiskey, Chester’s idiosyncrasies defined the character more than anything else. As the show continued, however, the t…

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