GUNSMOKE: An American Institution, Hardcover Edition
by Ben Costello
Publisher: Five Star Publications, Inc.
Price: U.S. / Hardcover / Non-fiction
Size: 11 x 8 1/2" / 622 pages
Illustrations: Contains both color and black-and-white photographs
Fifty years ago, on September 10, 1955, legendary Western movie actor John Wayne introduced a new television show. "I've made a lot of pictures," he said, "some of them have been Westerns...and that's what I'm here to tell you about tonight...a new television show called Gunsmoke." With that, he introduced the show's star, James Arness. "He's a young fellow, and maybe new to some of you. I predict he'll be a big star."
"Wayne probably had no idea just how right he was," says Ben Costello, author of GUNSMOKE: An American Institution. Costello says that Gunsmoke became the biggest television show of its day. And "its day" ran a total of 20 years on CBS and included more than 600 episodes (about one-third of them half-hour shows and the rest hour-long shows). The show was canceled at the end of its 15th season and public outrage spread across the nation and it was reinstated.
"There were plenty of Westerns on television at the time, such as Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, and others," says Costello, "but most were geared for younger audiences." Gunsmoke was the first Western drama to appeal to a more adult audience. Each week, Marshal Matt Dillon, Doc Adams, Miss Kitty, Chester (and later, Festus) teamed up to maintain justice and lawfulness in the frontier town of Dodge City, Kansas.
In this the show's golden anniversary year, Costello's GUNSMOKE: An American Institution captures all the intricacies and chemistry that created the most popular Western in television history.
This book reveals for fans and historians alike the facts and mystique behind this record-breaking show. Readers will learn what it takes for a show to survive two decades on television and they will begin to understand the challenges faced in creating hundreds of original episodes.
What made you want to write GUNSMOKE: An American Institution?
Gunsmoke ruled the country's airwaves for 20 years, from 1955 to 1975. How do you explain Gunsmoke's popularity?
The radio version of Gunsmoke starred William Conrad. Was there some disappointment or even anger over the fact that a new cast of actors was hired for the show when it moved to television?
There's been a persistent rumor over the years that John Wayne was the first choice for the role of Marshal Matt Dillon. Any truth to that?
The show was quite a contrast to today's in-your-face violence and sexuality programming. That mysterious but never explained chemistry between Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty-was that on purpose or just a product of more prudish times?
Which of the show's main characters are still alive today and what are they doing?
Have you received a lot of cooperation from the show's stars, writers, and producers as you went about compiling the information for your book? Any difficulties that you encountered?
You're obviously a big fan of the show, what did you learn during the process of writing this book that you didn't know before?
Do you think a similar Western could work today? If not, why?