Although there were some squabbles on the set of Gunsmoke, most of the cast members really did get along well over the years.
Gunsmoke ran for a total of 20 seasons, and it continues to be one of the most-beloved and most-influential Western shows to this day.
It turns out that one of the reasons why the show was able to go on for as long as it did, is because the cast all seemingly got on well behind the scenes.
Gunsmoke’s lasting legacy
Classic American Western radio- and television-shows may not be as popular now as they once were, but shows like Gunsmoke have certainly left an incredible and lasting legacy.
Gunsmoke is now perhaps best-known for being one of the longest-running dramatic series in network television history, spanning across 20 seasons with about 635 total episodes (and a few bonus television movies).
But Gunsmoke’s unwavering law-man, Marshal Matt Dillon (played by James Arness), and its incredible cast of comedic and dramatic actors became the blueprint for many shows to follow through the years and remains a favorite among both old and new fans today.
Did the cast of Gunsmoke get along?
The Wild-West town of Gunsmoke’s Dodge City may not always have been the most welcoming and friendly of places, especially if you were a criminal on the run, but things were seemingly entirely different behind the scenes.
It is an incredibly rare phenomenon for any show to go on for as long as Gunsmoke did and only a few shows, like Law and Order: SVU, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live (all of which are still airing to this day), have been able to accomplish this same feat.
Throughout the decades of filming together, the Gunsmoke cast built up incredible rapport, both on and off the screen.
Arness, who was the show’s lead and a notorious on-set jokester, admitted long after the show had ended that his close friendship with Milburn Stone (who played “Doc” Galen Adams) and Amanda Blake (who portrayed Miss Kitty) is what really made the show so enjoyable to film.
He said, “We all, of course, got to know each other so well. We knew how to get along and have fun with the show, which we really did.”
Blake also weighed in on the Gunsmoke cast camaraderie, stating that “We’re almost like a family now. We have parties on the set with the crew members whenever there’s a special occasion.”
This seemingly confirms that the Gunsmoke cast did get along when the cameras stopped rolling.
All about the Milburn Stone and James Arness’s feud
Although there have always been rumors of small scraps and disagreements on the set of Gunsmoke, few of the show’s on-set feuds are as notorious as the one between the show’s star, James Arness, and Millburn Stone.
Matt Dillon and Doc were two of the characters who appeared most frequently during Gunsmoke’s 20-season run, but these two actors initially bumped heads behind the scenes.
The difference between Stone’s serious approach and Arness’s playfulness eventually even culminated into an on-set screaming-match between the two.
And although neither of these actors ever really changed their approach, they eventually learned to appreciate each other’s quirks and even became very close friends.
The cast’s close friendship may just have been the key to Gunsmoke’s success
There are many theories as to why Gunsmoke continues to be such a stand-out in the American Western genre to this day.
Arness has credited the friendships between the show’s cast members as one of the main reasons for its continued success.
Arness expressed in a 2001 interview with the Los Angeles Times that “The bottom line of it is I don’t think you could make the series with the basic characters like we had unless they really got along well, which our people certainly did”.
Even the guest stars enjoyed being on the Gunsmoke set
Gunsmoke was so popular in its initial run on television that the show attracted the attention of many celebrities, who eventually signed on for various guest appearances.
And as a result, the fun and friendships on the Gunsmoke set extended even beyond the show’s lead characters.
Jan Shepard, who has guest appearances in quite a few different Gunsmoke episodes, admitted in 2017 that she truly loved working on the show and that it really was “impossible” to do close-up scenes with Dennis Weaver, because he would purposefully try to make her laugh between takes.
Burt Reynolds, who joined Gunsmoke later in season eight, confirmed that he “enjoyed being on Gunsmoke” even if he did take Stone’s advice to leave the show in order to move on to bigger and better things.