“Gunsmoke” star Amanda Blake made quite a chunk of money for her role in the western. Blake starred on “Gunsmoke” as saloon owner Miss Kitty for 19 years. Back in 1961, the actor took home a massive payday in exchange for selling her residual rights to the show.
Production paid Blake a lump sum of $100,000 for the rights. Today, that amount would be equivalent to $774,856. Of course, Blake might have netted an even bigger payday had she held onto those rights. Residual rights mean networks have to pay actors for reruns and syndication. Actors make money off royalties every time episodes of their show return to the air, in addition to DVD sales and streaming.
Over the past few decades, “Gunsmoke” has been incredibly popular in syndication, guaranteeing a steady payday for its actors and their estates. While Blake made a decent amount of money by selling, she would have made even more money if she held onto her residual rights to the show.
Amanda Blake Leaves ‘Gunsmoke’
From the very first episode, Blake was one of the stars of the show. Blake’s character Miss Kitty was the proprietor of the Long Branch Saloon out in Dodge City. Finally, after 19 seasons, Blake decided to call it quits, and she left the Old West. “Gunsmoke” ended up going off the air a season later, meaning audiences barely had a chance to feel her absence.
So why did Blake leave? The actor resided in Phoenix and traveled to California during production. After multiple years of traveling, Blake grew tired of leaving her home. But the biggest deciding factor was Blake had numerous health problems. The actor had been a heavy smoker during her life. In 1977, doctors diagnosed Blake with oral cancer. She managed to beat her battle with cancer.
In 1989, Blake reportedly died from complications related to the AIDS virus. “There was no recurrence of cancer,” her doctor, Dr. Lou Nishimura, told People. “Technically she died of liver failure brought on by viral hepatitis, which was AIDS-related.”
Before she passed away, Blake reprised her role as Miss Kitty one last time in what ended up being one of her final film roles. She appeared in the TV movie “Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge,” which picked up where the series left off and continued the adventures of Matt Dillon and the gang. Blake ended up passing away two years later.