James Arness Made Every Returning ‘Gunsmoke’ Member Feel Special While Filming The Movies


Gunsmoke actor James Arness brought joy to audiences around the world with his portrayal of U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon. However, he was also a bright beam of light for the cast and crew that worked with him for many hours. In fact, many of them became like a family away from home. Arness made a point of making the same familiar faces feel special while filming the made-for-TV Gunsmoke movies.

James Arness returned for 5 ‘Gunsmoke’ movies

Arness was one of the original Gunsmoke cast members, which also included Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty Russell, Milburn Stone as Doc Adams, and Dennis Weaver as Chester Goode. They started working together from the very first episode that aired in 1955 based on the radio show until its final episode hit television screens in 1975. CBS suddenly canceled the show, which even surprised the cast and crew involved in the production.

Fortunately, that sour note didn’t define the conclusion of Gunsmoke forever. Arness returned to star in five made-for-TV movies, which started with Return to Dodge. It was followed up by The Last Apache, To the Last Man, The Long Ride, and One Man’s Justice.

James Arness made every ‘Gunsmoke’ actor feel special

Actor Amy Stoch played Beth Dillon, Matt’s daughter. In an interview with the TV Confidential podcast, she talked about what it was like working with Arness on the Gunsmoke movies. He was known for the kindness that he exuded during the television production, but he never lost that special touch that set the tone for the set. Stoch recalled how Arness interacted with every familiar face that worked on the original show.


“They brought back a lot of the character actors from the original series on to these movies of the week, and every time he would see someone he used to work with, ‘Oh, go up, hug them, Hi,’” Stoch said. “They’d joke and it was a lot of fun to watch these people and their relationships.”

Stoch was a new addition to the world of Gunsmoke, but she admired having the opportunity to work alongside Arness. She had the opportunity to step behind the camera, learning a whole lot more about the production process.

Amanda Blake also returned for ‘Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge’

Gunsmoke fans were delighted to see Arness return as Matt, but there was another addition that brought a glimmer of hope into their eyes. Blake returned for the first made-for-TV movie, Return to Dodge, bringing Miss Kitty back one last time. Unfortunately, she didn’t return for the four remaining films that closed out the franchise.

Blake originally quit after season 19, almost lasting the entire 20 seasons. At the time, the story was because of the long commute that she had to endure traveling from her home in Phoenix, Arizona, to Los Angeles, California, to film Gunsmoke. However, more recent reports indicated that Blake wasn’t getting along with the show’s producer and had no choice but to leave the show behind and pursue other opportunities.