Amanda Blake had already made a name for herself when she joined the cast of Gunsmoke, though she was only in her 20s.
Gunsmoke is still one of the most influential old American Western shows in the history of television.
The stories of Marshal Matt Dillon and his exploits to try and restore law and order to the Wild West town of Dodge City, Kansas and all of its eccentric characters, have remained a part of the lives of both old and new fans of the genre for almost five decades.
Although Dillon was the star of the drama series, there is no denying that the Gunsmoke narrative would just not have been as entertaining without his close-knit friendship with characters like the town physician (and sometimes mortician), Doc Adams, and the feisty saloon owner, Miss Kitty.
Miss Kitty, Dillon’s girlfriend, who never minced her words, was played by the talented Amanda Blake for the majority of the series. She has remained a fan-favorite even though she left the show rather abruptly in its penultimate season.
Amanda Blake’s run on Gunsmoke
Blake was born in Buffalo, New York on February 20, 1929, and had already been a somewhat established actress with a contract at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by the time that she signed on to play Miss Kitty in Gunsmoke.
By the time that the first season of the series started airing in 1955, Blaek was only 26 years old.
Miss Kitty eventually became one of the most featured Gunsmoke characters during the course of the show’s 20 season-run. When Blake later departed from Gunsmoke in 1974, she was quoted as saying “I've spent half of my adult life as Kitty”.
Of course, this statement later proved to be even closer to the truth than she likely imagined, as Blake passed away just 15 years later, at the age of 60.
The Gunsmoke characters who appeared in the most episodes
At the end of its record-setting 20-year run on television, Gunsmoke had aired a total of 635 episodes.
A few of the recurring characters on the show, like Fred McDougall (who was credited for a few different characters throughout the show) and Ken Curtis (who portrayed Festus Haggen), appeared in over 200 episodes each.
But only a handful of characters appeared in almost all of the Gunsmoke episodes. This includes:
|Number of appearances (in episodes)
|Marshal Matt Dillon
|Chester B. Goode
Why Amanda Blake left Gunsmoke
Blake’s exit from Gunsmoke came as quite a shock to many fans who were regularly tuning in to watch the show at the time that the 19th season was airing.
But unlike the wordy character which she portrayed on the show, Blake had little to say about what brought about this decision.
She spoke to the The Daily Journal before her departure, saying “I felt I needed a change. I can really do anything I want to now.”
It also did not seem like Blake left the Gunsmoke set on bad terms. After she left the show, she frequently referred to the Gunsmoke cast as her “family.”
Amanda Blake’s life after Gunsmoke
Before Blake signed on to do Gunsmoke, she had already had a few notable roles in Cattle Town, Miss Robin Crusoe, and in the 1954 version of A Star Is Born.
And after she left the series, Blake reprised the role of Miss Kitty one last time for the 1987 Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge television film.
Aside from that, Blake spent most of her time split between her animal welfare work and various guest-appearances in shows like The Boost, B.O.R.N and many more.
Gunsmoke only ended up lasting one season without Miss Kitty
After Blake left Gunsmoke in 1974, the series tried to replace the character of Miss Kitty with Fran Ryan’s “Miss Hannah.”
But since the show only lasted one more season anyway, this new saloon owner never really got the chance to fill Miss Kitty’s shoes fully.
Blake’s departure was never directly linked to the show ending, but Gunsmoke’s cancellation did end up being quite controversial in the end.
David R. Greenland revealed in his book, The Gunsmoke Chronicles: A New History of Television's Greatest Western that none of the Gunsmoke cast members, or the show’s producer, John Mantley, received any warning that CBS would not renew the show after its 20th season.
In fact, many of these longtime recurring cast members found out alongside the general public that their beloved show was ending through the press.