Like it’s six-foot-seven star James Arness, this classic Western seemed to go on forever, setting the drama-series longevity record at 20 seasons. Arness’ Marshal Matt Dillon was the focus of life in Dodge City, Kan., whose large ensemble also included young Burt Reynolds as a half-Indian blacksmith and Amanda Blake as saloon keeper—or was that “saloon keeper”—Miss Kitty? (In an earlier radio version of the show, Kitty was implicitly a prostitute.) Crisply directed, moral but not naive, Gunsmoke showed good winning out over greed and brutality, but—like Dillon in the opening shootout—good was always only a split-second ahead on the draw.
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