‘Gunsmoke’: Why Did Amanda Blake Leave the Show After 19 Seasons?

by Joe Rutland
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Amanda Blake entered into millions of homes as Miss Kitty on “Gunsmoke” for 19 seasons. Then Blake decided it was time to go.

Blake, who portrayed the saloon owner in CBS’s popular western TV series, left one season before the show ended. This was, primarily, due to the fact that she had been living in Phoenix and was commuting to Los Angeles for filming.

In a 1985 interview with the Chicago Tribune, the publication lists that 6-hour drive to Hollywood as the reason why her tenure wrapped up in 1974. She appeared in 425 episodes before wrapping up the show.

‘Gunsmoke’ Bartender’s Death Shook Up Blake, Costars

Perhaps another thing that contributed to Blake’s departure was the death of Glenn Strange. Strange died on Sept. 23, 1973, from lung cancer at 74 years old. He portrayed Sam Noonan, a mainstay bartender on “Gunsmoke.”

He was beloved by many on the show. Buck Taylor, another of Strange’s costars on “Gunsmoke,” named his son Cooper Glenn Taylor in honor of Strange.

One more interesting bit of trivia about Strange. He played Frankenstein in “House of Frankenstein” in 1944, “House of Dracula” in 1945, and, just for laughs, “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” in 1948. It should be noted that Boris Karloff, who played the original Frankenstein, coached Strange on playing the role in his off-hours.

“Gunsmoke,” starring James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon, ended its 20-season run on CBS in 1975. However, it remains one of television’s most beloved shows, seen in syndication around the world.

Show’s Cancellation Catches Its Stars, Fans Off-Guard

When the network called for “Gunsmoke” to shut down business in Dodge City, it was surprising news to its stars and fans alike.

Why so surprising? Heck, there was no pre-emptive warning that the show was being pulled from CBS’s lineup. “Gunsmoke” never had a shot at doing a final farewell episode. Whatever show you saw at the end of its 20th season was it, friend.

Cast members read about the cancellation in an Associated Press story. Even though she left the show a season earlier, Amanda Blake wasn’t taking the news lightly.

‘Miss Kitty’ Wanted To Go Give CBS President Piece Of Her Mind

Author David R. Greenland, in his book “The Gunsmoke Chronicles: A New History of Television’s Greatest Western,” writes about her reaction to the cancellation.

Blake wanted to storm the steps of CBS in New York City. She was ready to give CBS President William Paley a piece of her mind. In the book, Greenland writes that one time, while Blake was traveling by the network’s Big Apple offices, she said, “I think I’ll go in there and hit Bill Paley over the head with a brickbat.”

She was serious, too. But CBS was moving away from westerns and “rural” comedies by the mid-1970s. They were looking for a more sophisticated viewer and their lineup reflected it.

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