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Gunsmoke’s Last Survivors

October 3, 2011

UPDATE: 03-28-12

I’ve written and illustrated a book called Melody Ranch – Gunsmokes Dodge City Before the Fire. It is now available for purchase at my website.

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UPDATE: 02-10-14

There’s been a lot of interest in Roger Ewing so I dug out much more info on him. See it here.

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It’s been 36 years since Gunsmoke left the airwaves, but TV’s favorite western lives on in re-runs. However, most of the main characters from the show have ridden into the final sunset. At this writing, only three are still with us.

Burt Reynolds (born 02-11-1936) now 75, played half-breed blacksmith Quint Asper from 1962 to 1965. This was Reynold’s first major acting role. Milburn Stone (Doc) once told Burt Reynolds that he should quit Gunsmoke because he had a future in movies. Apparently Doc knew what he was talking about because everyone knows what Burt’s been doing since he left the show.

Roger Ewing (born 01-12-1942) now 69, played deputy Clayton Thaddeus “Thad” Greenwood for two seasons from 1965 to 1967. When Roger left Gunsmoke, he seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth. There are very few pictures of him when he was on Gunsmoke, and finding a recent one of him was almost impossible. That’s why the quality of the bottom photo of him (taken around 2008) is so poor. It was extracted from a group photo taken when he ran for the Moro Bay, California city council. He put it this way in a rare communication with one of his fans in 2012:
“It’s been 40+ years since I was last involved in ‘show biz’, and I have appreciated my anonymity all these years. I am not one to seek ‘fame & recognition’… I am a very private person and not experienced in today’s ‘world of celebrity’”.

Buck Taylor (born 05-13-1938) now 73, played gunsmith and part-time deputy Newly O’Brien from 1967 to 1975 when the show finally ended. These three guys had one thing in common… They were all cast for the purpose of bringing youth and new energy to the aging Gunsmoke series. My problem with them was that they were too “pretty” for the old west and that factor detracted from the shows believability. Buck Taylor, however, ripened with age into a guy who looks like he just rode in from a cattle drive. He never stopped acting in western films or painting watercolors depicting the old west. In 1981, Buck was inducted as a trustee in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum for his role as Newly on Gunsmoke. In 2000, he was memorialized in the Dodge City “Trail of Fame”. He has received the “Golden Boot” award and the “Spirit of the West” award. He continues to make appearances at almost every western event across the country. The old west truly resides within Buck Taylor.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2012 1:38 PM

    Why iclude Milburn Stone in the first page. Wasn’t he the first to go?

    • December 21, 2012 4:24 PM

      I don’t understand your question. This post is about the actors who are still living. You’re right that Milburn Stone (Doc) was the first original main castmember to die in 1980. Glenn Strange (Sam the Bartender) died before Doc in 1973, but he didn’t join the cast until 1962 – 7 years into the show.

      Amanda Blake (Kitty) was the second original to go in 1989, followed by Ken Curtis (Festus – also not an original) in 1991, Dennis Weaver (Chester) in 2006, and James Arness (Matt) in 2011.

  2. Teri Sullivan permalink
    March 1, 2013 2:20 PM

    May they all rest in peace.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    March 2, 2013 9:24 PM

    i would like to know about cast member louie pheebers the town drunk on gunsmoke

  4. May 2, 2013 1:27 AM

    Such a Gunsmoke fan. Thanks for the article on these three. I really wanted to know about Roger Ewing and what happened to him.

    • May 2, 2013 12:36 PM

      Thank YOU! I get a lot of hits on this post – mostly from people wondering about Roger Ewing. I appreciate the hits, but I don’t understand the great interest in Mr. Ewing. He wasn’t one of my favorite characters and I thought he was too “pretty” for the wild west. That’s just my opinion. It took a lot of digging to find out what happened to him after the show. He likes to stay under the radar.

  5. cookie permalink
    May 7, 2013 2:20 PM

    Thanks for all the info you provide!

  6. July 24, 2013 7:23 PM

    Strandedalien,I think you’d like my song lyrics Wild West Jess.You can google it.Don’t let it take you to Wild West Jesse or Jesse James.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    December 5, 2013 3:23 PM

    I was interested in Roger Ewing because I just saw him yesterday in rerun on Encore Western. I love the original 1/2 hr Marshall Dillon shows, because they seem so much more realistic than the hour black and whites and especially the color ones. The character of Festus seems particularly annoying to me. Listening to him gets tiresome and the novelty wears off. Good acting, though, James Arness was even better than I realized and you could see him growing In the role.

  8. Patsy Chriscoe permalink
    January 3, 2014 6:38 PM

    Thank you for all this information…very interesting. And I think Buck Taylor is the Ultimate Cowboy!

  9. January 15, 2014 8:18 PM

    Thanks for the info. My husband and I look forward to gunsmoke every night. I too like the 30 ;minute episodes. I like Chester and the fact that he takes his job seriously. He is easy to watch. I also find Festus a bit annoying. On the other hand, my husband loves the bickering between Doc and Festus. It is so comforting to know that no matter how tough the situation gets, the good guys will win.

  10. Jeff permalink
    January 18, 2014 1:20 PM

    I think there is a lot of interest in Roger “Thad” Ewing in Gunsmoke for a couple reasons. First his character just disappeared from the show with no explanation. They explained away other characters. Kitty moved back to New Orleans. Sam had died, Quint and Chester had both moved on to California. The show was picking up steam the years Thad was a character. The last year of B&W and first year of color. The writing was still strong and they weren’t under the pressure to tone down the violence yet.

  11. Barry permalink
    May 29, 2014 10:47 AM

    It is and always will be my personal favorite and I love to see an episode that I don’t remember. Happy Trails All !

  12. BirdogMike permalink
    June 13, 2014 11:22 PM

    : I’ve been a gunsmoke fan for as long as I can remember. I’m 60yr.old now & I still watch Gunsmoke for 3hrs a day on TVLand & I watch both shows on Encore daily. HELL I need a life. Altho most all on the old cast members have past on there’s one that should be mentioned as a parttime cast member. That’s Morgan Woodward. He is still around and he played several different parts on Gunsmoke. I think he was on 19 shows the 3rd most guest stars. Morgan & Bruce Dern both always played some mean characters. It’s becoming harder & harder to find some of the old Western Actors still around.

    • June 14, 2014 12:29 PM

      Funny you should mention Morgan Woodward. One of my favorite episodes was “The Sodbusters” from 1972. Woodward played Lamoor Underwood, a man who had been on the range long before the westward expansion and didn’t like the way settlers were moving in and taking over. He gave one of the most dramatic soliloquies ever as he explained to Matt how he felt. Here are some pieces of it:
      “Sodpounders, Dillon! What they doin’ to the land! How they aim to respect this land when they’s always ajabbin’ at it… rippin’ at the sweet breast of it… and afoulin’ it so’s it can’t never take marriage to the sun again?
      Them sodbusters don’t own this land, Dillon. They ain’t never left their blood in the grass, holdin’ it from Injuns, n’ bears, ‘n blizzards, n’ droughts, ‘n anything else the devil can throw at you. Sodpounders! Useless, hymn-singin’, tea-drinkin’ virgins with hoes. I hate ‘em! I’m gonna drive ‘em out. They poison the land. [Stink holds tight to the tooth like skunkjuice.]”

      It’s an episode well worth seeing and I’m glad to hear the Woodward is still around.

  13. Jo johnson permalink
    August 7, 2014 7:15 PM

    I love gunsmoke and watch it twice a day on dishnet. I grew up with it from the beginning show. I have looked up all the main characters on the internet. I hope it stays on the test of my life. 72 yr old great granny. Jo Johnson

  14. September 5, 2014 8:15 PM

    Wish they could have had a ending instead of just canceling it and leaving every one hanging on the last episode. Met James Arness once, and he was a real kind man and human being. Ken Curtis to. Met him at a county fair in eastern Washington 1 year before he died. He was a real cut up and card. I’ll bet he was fun on the set. I read James was a real joker and played pranks on the cast all the time. No wonder all the big actors of the time liked to get on that show and really show their talents and versatility. Jim took care of his friends and old actors by giving them small bit parts to keep them working and in the public eye, and they could fade away with class and some dignity. Miss them all. God rest them all.

    • Barry permalink
      September 5, 2014 8:28 PM

      I wish they could bring them all back, I go to net flex to see the old ones ,and I still watch Andy Griffiths too, No one can write scripts like those any more . all those writers died with the great actors too . It never will be that great again ! Barry from Birmingham !

  15. October 19, 2014 7:38 AM

    I bet I am the biggest Gunsmoke fanatic out there. I don’t work. All I do is watch Gunsmoke everyday on TV land, 7 days a week. 365 days a year. It sort of hits home with me because I grew up on a ranch. I wish I would have met Matt Dillon before he died. Heck, I am watching Gunsmoke now on my computer at 5am. because I can’t sleep…Oh well…

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