Monday, May 2, 2011

Gunsmoke (1966)

1 comment:

Michael Powers said...

For some reason, I've been watching a lot of these Gunsmoke episodes on youtube just in the past three weeks or so, especially the earlier half-hour ones in which young Matt Dillon looks like the grandson of the version I grew up with, and I started with the later ones (like this one) that featured brilliant Ken Curtis as Festus, easily the most colorful regular series semi-lead character ever.

Oddly, the earlier ones tended to be shot outdoors more and the town looked more realistic while the later ones were all shot on obvious soundstages that are almost distracting, doubtless a prime factor in the longevity of the show since it became so dirt cheap to produce over time, and looked it except that almost everything on television and the TV picture quality itself all looked so bad nobody noticed or cared. The early shows and the ones with Festus are fascinating to watch. Festus and Chester actually overlapped and appeared together, albeit briefly, in one episode.

I understand the radio series was more adult and featured William Conrad's and Howard McNear's fabulous voices. McNear played Doc Adams on radio and later became Floyd the Barber, another unforgettable character, on the Andy Griffith Show. Conrad, a fantastic young noir actor, played "Cannon" on television decades later, one of those Quinn Martin shows I never cared for. They should've dubbed Conrad's deep resonant voice onto James Arness' TV "Gunsmoke" performances, though, like Klinton Spilsbury in the Lone Ranger movie. Then depict Dillon eating too much and have him return after the season hiatus with Conrad playing the part.

Eventually I'm going to make a point of having a go at some radio episodes despite being too young to have ever really gotten into radio plays as an art form. Recordings of the best of them, like the Mercury Theatre's "Dracula" with Orson Welles (he used Stoker's novel as his source, not that crappy play upon which the movie was based!), are a sensational untapped resource for driving along in a car for long distances when you think about it. I once spent a couple of months driving all the way around North America back in the 90s (before America's collapse) and ran out of every Audiobook I could get my hands on at the time.