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Gunsmoke: Eleventh Season, Vol. 1 [4 Discs] [DVD]

Release Date:12/02/2014

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    By the time Gunsmoke entered its record-breaking eleventh season in the fall of 1965, the series had past beyond the realm of ordinary western and into the lofty heights of American institution. Unfortunately, its ratings were not quite so lofty: The series had long ago relinquished the Number One slot to rival western Bonanza, and had dropped to 30th place, just belong the juvenile adventure series Flipper. Blame for this cannot be laid at the feet of its ever-reliable leading players, James Arness (Matt Dillon), Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty), or Milburn Stone (Doc Adams), nor the newest member of the regular cast, Ken Curtis as erstwhile deputy Festus Haggen. Rather, the series' drop in viewership and quality was most likely the result of new producer Philip Leacock's habit of hiring writers who seemed either uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the established Gunsmoke formula, and with his over-reliance upon celebrity guest stars. Some of these players, notably Forrest Tucker, John Saxon, Michael Ansara, James Gregory, Darren McGavin, Lee Van Cleef and James Whitmore, adapted quite well to their surroundings; others (and why mention names?) did not. This season marks the first time that all four of the main Gunsmoke actors are billed in the opening credits, rather than just James Arness. Also, the design of the closing titles was altered, replacing the standard line art of the Dodge City skyline with photographs of the various artifacts found in Matt Dillon's office--including that old, battered coffeepot. Finally, in an ongoing effort to provide the series with a tall, good-looking male supporting character (Burt Reynolds had long since left the series), Roger Ewing was cast as Thad Greenwood, a gangly townsman who occasionally aided Matt and Festus in tracking down miscreants. Unfortunately, Ewing's character was uncompelling and vaguely defined, and by the end of Season Eleven he was gone. ~ Hal Erickson

    Cast & Crew

    • James Arness - Marshal Matt Dillon
    • Milburn Stone - Dr. Galen `Doc' Adams
    • Amanda Blake - Kitty Russell
    • Dennis Weaver - Chester Goode
    • Ken Curtis - Festus Haggen

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