OLD TIME RADIO - 12 AUDIO CD - 24 Shows
Audition 1 starring Rye Billsbury
Audition 2 starring Howard Culver
3 Episodes from the Australian Gunsmoke Series
Total Playtime: 12:15:28
American Shows, Australian Shows, South African Shows, Bloopers, History of Gunsmoke.
Gunsmoke is an American radio and television Western drama series created by director Norman MacDonnell and writer John Meston. The stories take place in and around Dodge City, Kansas, during the settlement of the American West.
The radio version ran from 1952 to 1961, and John Dunning writes that among radio drama enthusiasts "Gunsmoke is routinely placed among the best shows of any kind and any time." The television version ran for 20 seasons from 1955 to 1975, and it is currently tied with Law & Order as the longest running primetime drama in U.S. television history. Until 2009, it was the longest running US primetime series of any kind, but The Simpsons passed that mark with its 21st season premiere.
In the late 1940s, CBS chairman William S. Paley, a fan of The Adventures of Philip Marlowe radio serial, asked his programming chief, Hubell Robinson, to develop a hardboiled Western series, a show about a "Philip Marlowe of the Old West." Robinson instructed his West Coast CBS Vice-President, Harry Ackerman, who had developed the Philip Marlowe series, to take on the task.
Ackerman and his scriptwriters, Mort Fine and David Friedkin, created an audition script called "Mark Dillon Goes to Gouge Eye". Two auditions were created in 1949. The first was very much like a hardboiled detective series and starred Rye Billsbury as Dillon; the second starred Straight Arrow actor Howard Culver in a more Western, lighter version of the same script. CBS liked the Culver version better, and Ackerman was told to proceed.
But there was a complication. Culver's contract as the star of Straight Arrow would not allow him to do another Western series. The project was shelved for three years, when MacDonnell and Meston discovered it creating an adult Western series of their own.
MacDonnell and Meston wanted to create a radio Western for adults, in contrast to the prevailing juvenile fare such as The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid. Gunsmoke was set in Dodge City, Kansas during the thriving cattle days of the 1870s. Dunning notes, "The show drew critical acclaim for unprecedented realism."
Radio cast and character biographies
The radio series aired from April 26, 1952 ("Billy the Kid," written by Walter Newman) until June 18, 1961 on CBS. It starred William Conrad as Marshal Matt Dillon; Howard McNear as Doc Charles Adams; Georgia Ellis as Kitty Russell; and Parley Baer as Dillon's assistant Chester Proudfoot.
Conrad was one of the last actors who auditioned for the role of Marshal Dillon. With a powerful, distinctive voice, Conrad was already one of radio's busiest actors. Though Meston championed him, MacDonnell thought Conrad might be overexposed. During his audition, however, Conrad won over MacDonnell after reading only a few lines. Dillon as portrayed by Conrad was a lonely, isolated man, toughened by a hard life. Meston relished the upending of cherished Western fiction clichés and felt that few Westerns gave any inkling of how brutal the Old West was in reality. Dunning writes that Meston was especially disgusted by the archetypal Western hero and set out "to destroy [that type of] character he loathed." In Meston's view, "Dillon was almost as scarred as the homicidal psychopaths who drifted into Dodge from all directions."
Chester's character had no surname until Baer ad libbed "Proudfoot" during an early rehearsal. The amiable character was usually described as Dillon's "assistant," but the December 13, 1952 episode "Post Martin," Dillon described Chester as Dillon's deputy. The TV series changed Chester's last name to Goode.
Doc Adams was iconoclastic and grumpy, but McNear's performances became more warm-hearted. In the January 31, 1953 episode "Cavalcade," Doc Adams' backstory is revealed: his real name is Calvin Moore, educated in Boston, and he practiced as a doctor for a year in Richmond, Virginia where he fell in love with a beautiful young woman who was also being courted by a wealthy young man named Roger Beauregard. Beauregard forced Doc into fighting a duel with him, resulting in Beauregard's being shot and killed, but even though it was a fair duel, because Doc was a Yankee and an outsider he was forced to flee. The young girl fled after him and they were married in St. Louis, but two months later she died of typhus. Doc wandered throughout the territories until he settled in Dodge City seventeen years later under the name of "Charles Adams." For sixteen years on television a sign hung over "Doc's" office that read: "Dr. G. Adams". When actor Milburn Stone took over the role on television he was given free rein to choose the character's first name which was revealed in an episode that showcased an intimate friend/ judge who visited the town. The actor chose the surname of a medical researcher named Galen as a first name. It was explained that his parents had high hopes their son would be a physician.
Georgia Ellis appeared in the first episode "Billy the Kid" (April 26, 1952) as "Francie Richards," a former girlfriend of Matt Dillon and the widow of a criminal. "Miss Kitty" did not appear on the radio series until the May 10, 1952 episode "Jaliscoe." Kitty's profession was hinted at, but never explicit: in a 1953 interview with Time, MacDonnell declared: "Kitty is just someone Matt has to visit every once in a while. We never say it, but Kitty is a prostitute, plain and simple." (Dunning, 304) The television show portrayed Kitty as a saloon proprietor, not a prostitute.
 Distinction from other radio westerns
Gunsmoke was often a somber program, particularly in its early years. Dunning writes that Dillon "played his hand and often lost. He arrived too late to prevent a lynching. He amputated a dying man's leg and lost the patient anyway. He saved a girl from brutal rapists then found himself unable to offer her what she needed to stop her from moving into...life as a prostitute." (Dunning, 304) Some listeners, such as Dunning, argue the radio version was more realistic. Episodes were aimed at adults and featured some of the most explicit content of their time, including violent crimes, scalpings, massacres, and opium addicts. Many episodes ended on a somber note, and villains often got away with their crimes. Nonetheless, thanks to the subtle scripts and outstanding ensemble cast, over the years the program evolved into a warm, often humorous celebration of human nature.
Apart from the doleful tone, Gunsmoke was distinct from other radio westerns, as the dialogue was often slow and halting, and due to the outstanding sound effects, listeners had a nearly palpable sense of the prairie terrain where the show was set. The effects were subtle but multilayered, giving the show a spacious feel. John Dunning writes: "The listener heard extraneous dialogue in the background, just above the muted shouts of kids playing in an alley. He heard noises from the next block, too, where the inevitable dog was barking."
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52-04-26 (1) Billy the Kid
49-06-11 Mark Dillon Goes To Gough Eye (Audition # 1 starring Rye Billsbury)
52-05-10 (3) Jaliscoe
49-07-13 Mark Dillon Goes To Gough Eye (Audition # 2 starring Howard Culver)
52-05-24 (5) Ben Slade's Saloon
52-05-31 (6) Carmen
52-06-07 (7) Buffalo Killers
Al Galeco (Australian)
Beckhouse Finds Alka (Australian)
Body By the Road (Australian)
52-07-05 (11) Never Pester Chester
52-07-12 (12) The Boughten Bride
52-07-19 (13) Doc Holiday
52-07-26 (14) Gentleman's Disagreement
52-08-02 (15) Renegade White
52-08-09 (16) The Kentucky Tolmans
52-08-16 (17) The Lynching
52-08-23 (18) Shakespeare
52-08-30 (19) The Juniper Tree
52-09-06 (20) The Brothers
52-09-13 (21) Home Surgery
52-09-20 (22) Drop Dead
52-09-26 (23) The Railroad (Rehearsal)
52-10-03 (24) Cain