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Gunsmoke: The First Season [6 Discs] [DVD]

Release Date:07/17/2007
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The original radio version of Gunsmoke was in its third year on the air when the TV version made its CBS network bow on September 10, 1955. Replacing radio's William Conrad as Matt Dillon was tall-in-the-saddle James Arness, whose chief claim to fame at that time was his portrayal of the title role in the 1951 sci-fi thriller The Thing. Arness was a protégé of film superstar John Wayne, who in a good-luck gesture appeared on camera at the beginning of the opening episode, "Matt Gets It"--which like virtually all of the episodes seen during Season One was adapted from one of the original radio scripts. No sooner had this first episode gotten under way that Gunsmoke staked out its claim as TV's first "adult" western with a startling sequence in which hero Matt Dillon was shot down and nearly killed by the heavy of the piece! During its earliest episodes, the series boasts a different opening sequence than the familiar one in which Matt Dillon and an unknown assailant square off for a showdown in Dodge City's deserted Main Street. These initial episodes find Matt philosophically wandering around the town's cemetery "Boot Hill", as he introduces the story at hand via offscreen narration. Also, Milburn Stone's Doc Adams is younger and less cantankerous than he'd been in later years, while Amanda Blake's Miss Kitty is flashier and more flirtatious with Matt Dillon (Their relationship would always remain ambiguous, though it was clear from the "body language" of the two characters in the first season that they might have had something going on in the off-hours). Only deputy Chester, played by Dennis Weaver, is fully formed from the outset, though Chester's famous limp is a bit inconsistent--and, in at least one episode, he doesn't limp at all! Evidently in hopes of luring viewers away from NBC's high-rated The George Gobel Show, the producers of Gunsmoke stuffed the series' first season with no fewer than 39 first-run episodes,which were spread out over a nine-month period with but a handful of reruns. Appearing in several of these episodes are a number of actors who'd worked on the radio Gunsmoke, including John Dehner, Harry Bartell, Vic Perrin, Jeanne Bates and Lawrence Dobkin; and in the episode "The Pest Hole", Howard McNear, "Doc Adams" in the radio version, is seen as hotel keeper Mr. Bradley. Also seen on Gunsmoke's maiden season are such stars in the making as Charles Bronson, Claude Akins, William Hopper, Sebastian Cabot and DeForest Kelley.~Hal Erickson