Western (1952 - 61)
Gunsmoke, on radio from 1952-1961,
is perhaps the greatest radio drama of all - not just
the best western radio drama. It is a perfect example
of all the elements of creative broadcast radio coming
together week after week to create a place and time in
your mind (Dodge City, mid-1880's or so), populated with
living people who you grow to know personally and care
about. Chester, Doc, Kitty and Matt Dillon, US Marshal,
"the first man they look for, and the last they want
to meet." become as real to us as our neighbors.
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The cast featured Parley Baer as Chester,
Howard McNear (who went on to be Floyd the Barber on TV's
Andy Griffith Show) as Doc, and Georgia Ellis as
Kitty, The weekly supporting casts were always well drawn
and believable. Producer/director Norm Macdonnell, the
creative genius who made the show what it was, always
took care that everything sounded just right.
William Conrad, already a major radio actor
with terrific work on Escape,
was at first overlooked as being ubiquitous. But they
tested him anyway, and he was Matt Dillon right from the
start. The role became Conrad's greatest achievement,
and must be considered as perhaps the best portrayal of
show character ever heard on radio. Conrad was distraught
that he wasn't considered to play Matt Dillon on
TV, being short and heavy, but he went on to a solid career
in TV (best remembered for the series Cannon).
Sound engineers Ray Kemper,
and Tom Hanley,
producer/director Norman Macdonnell.The old time radio show is Gunsmoke
at its most creative and varied. The gritty dialog
of the superb scripts, the honest acting, sound
effects and music makes Dodge as real as any place
ever created on radio. For example, Kitty's saloon
scenes featured a real honky-tonk "pieannah"
being played live in a crowd of extras as the show
was transcribed. Gunshots were the authentic weapons
recorded and carefully mixed. The staff was the
best in the business.
Happily, we have the whole run of
the old time radio show, so "the story of the violence
that moved west with young America, and the story
of a man who moved with it" will live on.
See also: Best of Gunsmoke Collection for some of OTRCAT's favorite epsiodes of this classic western show.