Remember watching CBS’s classic western “Gunsmoke” with James Arness as Marshall Matt Dillon?
Obviously, “Gunsmoke” and many other classic TV western series were filmed at Melody Ranch Studio. Its history within western TV shows, along with other shows you’ve seen over the years, is deep.
Melody Ranch actually was purchased by one of the greatest on-screen cowboys ever, Gene Autry, in 1952. This became the go-to place for some of Hollywood’s biggest western stars to film movies, including John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Roy Rogers.
Now “Gunsmoke” had its general store, a saloon run by Miss Kitty played by Amanda Blake, and other places familiar to the show’s viewers. That Main Street view, though, took a hit in 1962 when a fire in Placerita Canyon destroyed it.
‘Gunsmoke’ Plays Part In Filming Of Movies, TV Shows
Autry sold a portion of the ranch’s acres, then the remainder of them were purchased in 1990. Since then, it’s been the site of shows like HBO’s “Deadwood” and “Westworld.” Even other films like “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” and “Django Unchained” have been filmed at the iconic ranch.
“Gunsmoke,” though, is a show that people from generation to generation remember. In fact, it was one of those TV shows that moved off of the radio and into television. Remember whose voice was the radio version of Dillon? Probably not, but he was an actor who played in one of the 1970s’ classic TV private-eye shows.
William Conrad, who played Detective Frank Cannon on CBS’ “Cannon,” was the radio voice of Dillon on “Gunsmoke.” He also did voiceover work on the classic comic “Rocky and Bullwinkle” as the narrator.
Arness, though, is remembered and seen on TVs all over the world today. He watches over the town along with fellow cast members like Ken Curtis, who played Festus; Milburn Stone, who played Doc; and for nine seasons, Dennis Weaver, who played Chester.
Main Street Scene On ‘Gunsmoke’ Remains Vivid Memory
At one time, Arness had a Top 20 show on CBS at the same time his brother did. Peter Graves, who in real life was Arness’ brother, played in another iconic CBS series (although not a western) in “Mission: Impossible.”
Seeing Main Street as the center of life on “Gunsmoke” could either bring out the best in people or the worst. You always knew if a shootout was going to happen, then it was going down on Main Street.
That the Melody Ranch is so recognizable in many western TV shows and movies shows how adaptable it was for different uses. It’s been remodeled since the 1962 fire, obviously, and has allowed for more filming to occur. It keeps the studio alive and vibrant, close enough yet just far enough away from Hollywood for outdoor scenes.
H/T: Wide Open Country