Fans of the classic TV show “Gunsmoke” remember it for its beloved characters and plot. The show, which ran for 20 years on CBS, is widely regarded as one of the best Westerns. From 1955 to 1975, the cast graced our screens, and we fell in love with them and their personal stories.
For instance, “Gunsmoke’s” comic relief character, Chester, was a longtime character on the show. He even landed a role before the iconic Matt Dillon made his entrance. Played by Dennis Weaver, his character had a distinctive limp that was impossible to miss. Yet, how did his limp come about?
Once the show was cast, the showrunners quickly realized that they had cast two men who appeared like leading men. To make it clear to viewers who was the leading actor, they had to go to the drawing board to make it evident that Chester was the sidekick.
According to MeTV, the producers told Weaver that “historically and traditionally, a sidekick has always been too old or too fat or too young or too something to get involved in the physical stuff.” As a result, they asked Chester to have a limp.
“I thought that is really a silly reason for someone developing a handicap. But I was excited about the challenge,” Weaver said at the time. “So I thought if I just can’t bend my knee and do everything else as good as I can, that might work.”
The story behind Chester’s limp on ‘Gunsmoke’
However, putting the limp into practice was easier said than done. Weaver spent hours perfecting the limp, only to realize years later that it was tough to maintain.
“If I knew I was going to be doing that for nine years, I might’ve had a different thought about it,” he said. “Because you ever try and build a campfire with a stiff leg? Or worst of all, you ever try to put your boot on without bending your knee? I had to take yoga lessons to do some of that stuff.”
Although there’s no apparent reason for how Chester got the disability, fans have speculated that his character was injured during the Civil War. In addition, eagle-eyed fans of the show will see that the show’s producers had several slip-ups regarding Chester’s limp.
Per reporting from True West Magazine, showrunners didn’t enforce his limp all the time, resulting in a few hiccups. As it turns out, Weaver would sometimes forget about his character’s limp while filming. Moreso, he would even limp using the wrong leg.
As it turns out, this mishap happened enough times that there are plenty of clips out there of Chester walking just fine or on the wrong leg. So next time you’re watching “Gunsmoke,” make sure you keep an eye out for Chester’s limp.