5 Surprising Facts About The Classic Western "Gunsmoke"

On September 10, 1955, the first episode of the TV show Gunsmoke aired on CBS and became one of the most popular TV westerns in television history. Here are five things you probably didn't know about the iconic show.  

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James Arness Appeared In All 635 Episodes Of The Show James Arness played U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon in every episode for 20 years. All the other characters had times when they did not appear on the show, but Matt Dillon had to be there to round up the bad guys. Since it was originally a half-hour show, it probably got more difficult for the actor as it expanded to one hour because of its popularity. Kelsey Grammer, star of “Cheers” and “Frasier,” is the only other actor to play the same character for 20 years, and he had to act in two different television programs to do it.

Raymond Burr and William Conrad were almost cast as Matt Dillon A total of 26 actors screen tested for the lead role. William Conrad, who voiced Matt Dillon on the radio program, and Raymond Burr were close to winning the gig, but were both considered too heavy to play the role. Producers reportedly yearned to cast John Wayne, who could not be lured from the the silver screen to the boob tube. However, Wayne recommended his pal James Arness, and turned up to introduce the series in the first episode.

All 4 Senior Officers On Star Trek Officers Appeared On The Show They came without their lasers and backup from the starship, but Captain Kirk, Bones, Scotty and Mr. Spock all appeared on “Gunsmoke” at different times, with Leonard Nimoy appearing in four episodes. Three of the kids from “The Brady Bunch,” who played Peter, Cindy and Jan, appeared as well. Other famous actors who appeared in episodes included Bette Davis, Bruce Dern, Richard Dreyfuss and Kurt Russell.

Gunsmoke Killed Off “Gilligan’s Island” Gunsmoke was in danger of being canceled in 1967, as the show slipped out of the Top 30. However, CBS president William Paley was a fan of the series. He gambled and moved the show to an early Monday primetime slot — Mondays at 7:30PM. Unfortunately, that was the slot of "Gilligan's Island, which was canceled to make room for Gunsmoke. The move worked, as the Western leaped to No. 4 in the ratings.

The Show Popularized The Idiom "Get The Hell Out Of Dodge." Ever ponder the source of that saying? Well, Gunsmoke was set in Dodge City. Criminals were often compelled to "get the hell out of Dodge." Teens started mimicking the line, and it stuck.