The Major Actors Still Alive From Gunsmoke


“Gunsmoke” may not be the longest-running TV show in history, but the CBS series certainly had a good run under its elaborate cowboy belt. From 1955 to 1975, Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) presided over the good — and, as his profession dictated, bad — people of Dodge City, while the colorful cast of residents and visitors lived their lives around him. Combine that with the “Gunsmoke” radio show and the several TV movies that came after the show ended its run, and the franchise contains many exciting Old West stories that can stand beside some of the best Western movies of all time.

The thing is, of course, that while “Gunsmoke” is an iconic show, it’s also a pretty old one. Because of this, very few of the actors behind Dodge City’s most iconic characters are with us anymore. Let’s take a look at the major “Gunsmoke” actors who are still alive today.

Roger Ewing (Thad Greenwood)

Roger Ewing started his acting career in 1964. After some time toiling away in minor guest roles on shows like “Bewitched,” “The Bing Crosby Show,” and “Rawhide” — as well as appearing in the Frank Sinatra WWII movie “None But the Brave” –  he landed a major role in “Gunsmoke” as Matt Dillon’s second-in-command, Thad Greenwood.

As truly ardent “Gunsmoke” fans might know, Thad is actually Ewing’s second role on the show. His first “Gunsmoke” appearance is in the Season 10 episode “Song for the Dying” as Ben Lukens, but it’s not until Season 11 that the actor truly starts to make his mark. In the aptly-titled episode “Clayton Thaddeus Greenwood,” the capable but somewhat inexperienced Thad arrives in Dodge City as a deputy from Oklahoma, pursuing a dangerous gang that has humiliated him on his home turf, and that he blames for his father’s (John Dix) death. Dillon eventually informs Thad that he has no authority in Dodge, but the young, freshly rootless man nevertheless decides to stick around. Thad eventually becomes the Robin to Dillon’s Batman, and he’s one of the more prolific characters in Season 11 and Season 12.

After leaving the show behind, Ewing moved away from the show business entirely, pursuing the field of photography instead. He only appeared in a handful of projects after “Gunsmoke” and his last screen credit is the 1972 movie “Play as It Lays.”

Buck Taylor (Newly O’Brian)

In case you’ve wondered why Emmett Walsh from “Yellowstone” looks so familiar, look no further than “Gunsmoke.” Actor Buck Taylor spent years as a guest star journeyman before landing a major role in the CBS Western and became an instrumental part of the latter half of “Gunsmoke’s” run as Newly O’Brian. Another one of Matt Dillon’s deputies, Newly is a man with many skills, from medical knowledge to gunsmithing. Above everything else, however, is the fact that Newly holds the distinction of being so good at what he does that he takes over Dillon’s duties when the old Marshal retires.

Taylor can be seen in no less than 173 episodes of the show, from Season 13 to “Gunsmoke’s” f inal Season 20. He also appears in the TV movie “Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge.” After the show ended, the actor continued to work steadily, often appearing in Westerns.  Apart from “Yellowstone,” viewers may have spotted him in movies like “Wild Wild West,” “Tombstone,” “Cowboys and Aliens,” and “Hell or High Water.”


Kim Darby (Carrie Neely and Angel)

Kim Darby’s career in the late 1960s was full of Western work. While she’s arguably best-known for her role as Mattie Ross opposite John Wayne’s Academy Award-winning turn as Rooster Cogburn in 1969’s “True Grit,” she also appeared on “The Road West,” “Bonanza,” and of course “Gunsmoke.”

Darby can be seen playing two roles in “Gunsmoke.” She appears in the Season 12 episode “The Lure” as Carrie Neely, the titular lure who’s key in an attempt to capture her father, outlaw Dal Neely (Stephen McNally). In Season 13, she returns as the character Angel for the two-part episode “Vengeance!” which centers around gunslinger Bob Johnson (James Stacy) and his quest for revenge. Apart from the professional benefits of appearing in a popular show like “Gunsmoke,” Darby’s time on the Western series affected her personally, as well. Though their marriage ultimately ended in a divorce, she and Stacy met while filming “Gunsmoke” and later were married.

After “Gunsmoke” and “True Grit,” Darby continued to act in a wide variety of projects. Her best-known roles include Virginia Calderwood in the miniseries “Rich Man Poor Man,” Jenny Meyer in the romantic comedy “Better Off Dead,” and Debra Strode in “Halloween – The Curse of Michael Myers.”

William Shatner (Fred Bateman)

The untold truth of “Gunsmoke” features plenty of visiting guest stars, some of whom became very famous in their own right. From Jodie Foster and Harrison Ford to Dennis Hopper and Leslie Nielsen, there’s no telling who you could bump into on an old episode of the show — and thanks to the sheer number of these guest stars, some of them are still active in the industry.

Let’s highlight the soon-to-be-famous guest stars with a single particularly entertaining one: William Shatner as Fred Bateman. As the villain of the week in the Season 12 Episode “Quaker Girl,” Bateman and Roger Ewing’s Thad Greenwood find themselves in the middle of a Quaker community that can’t quite figure out which one of them is the killer and which is the deputy.

The 1966 episode first aired as Shatner was on the cusp of immortality for his role as James T. Kirk in “Star Trek,” so it’s pretty wild to see him play a bad guy who looks exactly like Kirk with a cowboy hat and a mustache. “The quirky acting of William Shatner is the real star,” one IMDB reviewer wrote of the episode. “He kills a sheriff, has a large amount of stolen money hidden, he alternates between being evil, being kind to everyone, and laughing at Roger Ewing like he is crazy.” Shatner went on to star in many prolific roles, of course, but he still has a place in the annals of “Gunsmoke” history.