Marshall Matt Dillon is responsible for keeping the law and respectability in Dodge City in this western action-drama. Gunsmoke captured the courage, character and spirit of the Western Frontier.
Runtime: 60 minutes
Gunsmoke - Matt Dillon (Gunsmoke) - Netflix
Matt Dillon is a fictional character featured on both the radio and television versions of Gunsmoke. He serves as the U.S. Marshal of Dodge City, Kansas, who works to preserve law and order in the western frontier of the 1870s. The character was created by writer John Meston, who envisioned him as a man “...whose hair is probably red, if he's got any left. He'd be handsomer than he is if he had better manners but life and his enemies have left him looking a little beat up, and I suppose having seen his mother (back about 1840) trying to take a bath in a wooden washtub without fully undressing left his soul a little warped. Anyway, there'd have to be something wrong with him or he wouldn't have hired on as a United States Marshal in the heyday of Dodge City, Kansas.” Notwithstanding Meston's original vision, the character evolved considerably during Gunsmoke's nine-year run on CBS Radio and its 20-year run on CBS Television (Columbia Broadcasting System).
Gunsmoke - Relationship with Kitty Russell - Netflix
In both the radio and television versions, the exact nature of Matt's relationship with Kitty Russell was deliberately kept somewhat vague. Kitty was portrayed by Georgia Ellis in the radio version and by Amanda Blake in the television version. In both versions, she was initially just another saloon hostess, and a popular story holds that she was actually a prostitute in the early radio episodes. However, this was never actually stated (or even implied) in any of the story lines and Kitty eventually acquired a considerable measure of respectability by becoming a part-owner (and ultimately the sole owner) of the thriving Long Branch Saloon. In both the radio and television versions, Matt frequently dined and socialized with Kitty and he rarely showed more than polite interest in any other woman. Kitty was similarly devoted to Matt, Her job brought her into daily contact with many different men from all walks of life, but she seldom showed more than fleeting interest in any of them. It was evident that Kitty would have readily accepted Matt's proposal of marriage, but she was a realist and she once summed up their relationship with “Matt Dillon's a man with no strings on him. Let's just say he's more mine than anybody else's.” Kitty was well aware that Matt was reluctant to marry because the high-risk nature of his job could have made her a widow at any time. She nevertheless found this situation difficult to accept at times, and she would occasionally decide to leave Dodge City to pursue other opportunities or relationships. This occurred more often in the television episodes than it did in the radio episodes, and it typically occurred after Matt had inadvertently been thoughtless. Kitty always returned to Dodge City and to her duties at the Long Branch, though, and on occasion Matt would demonstrate a profound depth of feeling for her. In any event, they always remained devoted to one another in their own unique fashion. Over time, Matt also learned to have considerable respect for Kitty's ability to spot female troublemakers. Whenever he disregarded Kitty's warnings about the intentions or character of a particular woman, he invariably regretted it.
An early (November 29, 1952) radio episode that was simply titled “Kitty” provided a particularly significant insight into a major reason for the affinity that the two felt toward one another. Matt invites Kitty to a public dance and she is reluctant to accept for fear that she will be viewed with disdain due to her vocation as a saloon hostess. Matt is persistent and Kitty eventually relents, but her instincts prove correct. She is shunned and treated rudely by the respectable citizens in attendance, including a few men who avidly seek her company in other venues. Genuinely hurt, Kitty abruptly leaves the dance in tears and Matt becomes uncharacteristically angry with several individuals who imply that it is improper for a U.S. Marshal to be seen in such company. Subsequently, Matt seeks Kitty out to comfort her and reassure her that she will always have his admiration, affection, and respect, regardless of the views of others. Kitty is moved and cheered by Matt's gesture and the episode ends with the two sharing a private dance in an empty barroom. Matt's sincerity is obvious inasmuch as he himself sometimes finds that the respectable citizens of Dodge City regard him with trepidation (and even suspicion) because his job involves being “...paid to handle a bad element.” It is apparent that the incident at the dance has considerably strengthened the bond and the trust between Matt and Kitty.