The popular Western series “Gunsmoke” was no stranger to some pretty amazing guest stars over the years.
From Bruce Dern to Harrison Ford to Wiliam Shatner to Adam West to Cloris Leachman to Dennis Hopper, the Western town had a lot of visitors to keep things interesting in the show’s 20 years on the air.
Bette Davis on ‘Gunsmoke’
In the episode on “Gunsmoke,” her character is the matriarch of a family of outlaws. They are trying to hold Marshal Matt Dillon responsible for the hanging of her husband.
Her sons end up kidnapping Miss Kitty in the hopes that Dillon will come chasing after her. Bruce Dern also co-stars in the episode alongside Bette Davis. When Matt Dillon does in fact come to rescue his “damsel in distress,” he is locked up by the group and threatened to be hanged.
According to an interview with the Archive of American Television, James Arness said the thought of performing alongside someone like Bette Davis was incredibly intimidating. Not to mention she was playing an absolutely ruthless and terrifying character on that episode. James Arness said she “was dynamite.” He also said that he remembered Amanda Blake was “absolutely petrified at the idea of working with this great lady.”
The casting director for the episode, Pam Polifroni, went out of her way to cast someone she thought could be haunting enough in the role. It clearly seemed to work. She told the Archive that “Amanda was scared to death.”
Bette Davis had a widely expansive career acting. She had over 100 acting credits and over 50 years appearing on the screen. She starred in “All About Eve,” “Dark Victory,” “Now, Voyager,” and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” amongst many other landmark roles. Her last acting credit was in 1989 in the “Wicked Stepmother.”
She is the first person to get 10 different Academy Award nominations during her career. She won two. Davis was one of the most celebrated leading ladies in cinema at the time.
Davis and Blake allegedly became friends after her guest appearance on “Gunsmoke.” Despite playing a terrifying persona, others would describe her as down to Earth and easy to get along with.
Amanda Blake Feline Lover
While she wasn’t portraying the fabulous Miss Kitty on “Gunsmoke,” Amanda Blake was instead helping real-life animals.
She was an animal breeder and is one of the first to successfully breed cheetahs in captivity. She ended her role in “Gunsmoke” in the 1970s and pursued her passion for animal welfare. Blake also had her own wild animal compound in Phoenix, Arizona. Her pet lion, Kemo, lived there. He even went with her to work sometimes while she was filming “Gunsmoke.”
In 1971, Blake formed the Arizona Animal Welfare League alongside others, which is the oldest and largest no-kill shelter in the state.