‘Gunsmoke’: One Christmas Episode Featured a Handful of ’70s Child Stars

by Madison Miller

“Gunsmoke” was no stranger to guest stars.

The popular Western series ran for 20 seasons from 1955 to 1975. People like James Arness, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Dennis Weaver, and Ken Curtis were the backbone of the show during its long run on television.

In one special Christmas episode, however, a handful of recognizable ’70s stars happened to appear in the “Gunsmoke” world briefly.

‘Gunsmoke’ Christmas Episode

According to MeTV, a 1971 episode titled “P.S. Murry Christmas,” tells the story of seven orphans suffering under the guardianship of Emma Grundy.

The strict Grundy is played by Jeannette Nolan. She is most known for her role in the television series, “The Virginian” and “Dirty Sally.”

Jack Elam then plays the caretaker, Titus Spangler. He is known for often playing the villain in several different Westerns over the years. He appeared on “Once Upon a Time in the West,” “High Noon,” “Support Your Local Sheriff!” and “The Twilight Zone.”

Elam’s character gets fired and takes the kids with him. He is hoping to get them away from Grundy and instead give them a magical, carefree Christmas experience. They roll into the famous “Gunsmoke” town, Dodge City, and Titus happens to be jailed for his kidnapping actions.

However, both Marshal Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty begin to see his reasoning. Grundy is stubborn but reveals why she is so strict with the orphan children. The Christmas episode ends up being heartwarming and far less violent than other episodes.

Like any fun and happy Christmas special, there’s joy, laughs, and a renewed sense of purpose and understanding commonly associated with the holiday season.

More Guest Stars in Christmas Episode

Elam and Nolan aren’t the only notable guest stars on “Gunsmoke.” In addition, Jodie Foster makes an appearance as one of the kids. She appeared in three different “Gunsmoke” episodes over the years. She is well-known now for her role in “Taxi Driver,” “Freaky Friday,” “The Accused,” and “The Silence of the Lambs,” amongst many others.

Erin Moran also appears in the “Gunsmoke” episode. She appeared in one other episode as well. Moran is well-known for her role as Joanie Cunningham on “Happy Days.” Additionally, Willie Aames, known for his role in the television series “Eight Is Enough” also appears on the celebrity-loaded Christmas episode.

Lastly, Todd Lookinland is also in “P.S. Murry Christmas. TV fans may recognize him as the brother of Mike Lookinland, or Bobby Brady in “The Brady Bunch.” He also happened to appear in other shows as well as a spinoff of “The Brady Bunch.”

All these ’70s stars would go on to become successful in their own projects over the years. But their cameos on the longstanding Western is definitely a fun thing to look back on.

“Gunsmoke” has had well over 50 actors appear in small or medium-sized roles in the series following the happenings of Dodge City and Sheriff Dillon. Many of whom have gone on to become very popular later on.