Stories about actors not getting residuals from TV shows abound in Hollywood. “Gunsmoke” star Milburn Stone was not one of them, though.
Stone, who played “Doc Adams” on CBS’s long-running Western drama, did something a bit unheard of at the time. He sold all rights to “Gunsmoke” residuals back to CBS for $100,000 in 1961. At the time, that was a heck of a lot of money for anyone to receive from a network.
No specific reason is given as to why Stone took those actions, according to IMDB. Stone and “Gunsmoke” lead actor James Arness were the only original actors who stayed during the show’s entire 20-season run.
Yet his work was recognized by his peers. Stone won an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama” in 1968. It was his lone Emmy for playing “Doc,” a rather crusty old soul who took care of people in Dodge City. He also never received another nomination throughout his career.
Another ‘Gunsmoke’ Star Also Sells Her Residual Rights
One might think that Stone would be the only “Gunsmoke” star to sell their residual rights back to the network. Well, actress Amanda Blake, who played “Miss Kitty,” did the same thing in the same year.
In 1961, Blake worked out a deal with CBS to sell back her rights for $100,000. Again, no specific reason is given for Blake taking this action. One might be led to believe both of them did this in order to take their money and use it in their lives. Hard to blame them for that.
While Stone remained with “Gunsmoke” until its run ended in 1975, Blake left the show in 1974. That’s 19 seasons of playing the bar owner of Dodge City’s saloon.
In the radio version of “Gunsmoke,” “Miss Kitty” actually ran a house of prostitution. But carrying that over into 1950s TV would not work. During its first couple of seasons, only hints were dropped about what “Miss Kitty” did in Dodge City.
Ultimately, show producers stopped that and simply let her be a saloon owner. Man, that’s tough work anyway when you’re dealing with a lot of rough guys rolling through town.
Amanda Blake Was Ticked With CBS for Canceling Show
But we’re not quite through with the tale of Amanda Blake and “Gunsmoke.” Even though she left in 1974, seeing the show get canceled in 1975 from CBS’s lineup reportedly did not sit well with her.
According to the book, “The Gunsmoke Chronicles: A New History of Television’s Greatest Western” by David R. Greenland, the cast and crew of “Gunsmoke” were pretty shocked to hear about the cancellation.
Blake, though, was ready to go make a call on CBS executives about it.
In his book, Greenland said that Blake was all set to give some people a piece of her mind. She was traveling by CBS’s office in New York City and Blake reportedly said, “I think I’ll go in there and hit Bill Paley over the head with a brickbat.”
The Paley whom Blake refers to was CBS President William Paley, one of television’s toughest executives. It was Paley, though, who oversaw a network filled with stars like Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason. Of course, it was the home network for 20 years for “Gunsmoke.”