Amanda Blake Used Marriage As An “Escape” She Didn’t Want Competing With Work


She won over the hearts of some 30 million viewers on CBS’s Gunsmoke as Miss Kitty Russell. Her personal love life, as well as her relationship to the very idea of marriage, was far less clear cut, however. Blake had been married almost half a dozen times and, looking back, she felt this was a viable means of escape – until her career demanded her full attention.

In addition to 425 episodes of Gunsmoke, Blake also had several other film and television appearances under her belt. Today, her fame is a forgone conclusion but there was a time when all of that might never have come to fruition if Blake had listened to her mother’s advice about work and marriage.


Amanda Blake’s mother had a very different idea of her future

COUNTERSPY MEETS SCOTLAND YARD, from left, Ron Randell, Amanda Blake, 1950 / Everett Collection

Born in 1929, Blake was 21 when she started acting in 1950; the film was Stars in My Crown, featuring an uncredited appearance by James Arness. Of course, Blake and Arness would reunite just five years later as major leads in Gunsmoke. But Blake’s early filmography would be populated by a few uncredited uncredited roles of her own, along with one-off episode appearances and generic character listings.


RELATED: Why Amanda Blake Kept Choking On Her Lines In ‘Gunsmoke: Return To Dodge’

Of course, hitting it big is not a guarantee for anyone, and to commit so highly to such an endeavor can be both thrilling and risky. Blake’s parents, Jesse and Louise (née Puckett) Neill both tried to discourage Blake from her attempts at becoming a star very early in her career.

Instead, her mom urged her to “find a nice young man and settle down and make us grandparents.” Blake would hear none of it, her mother shared, adding, “She said acting was in her blood, that acting was her whole life. It still is. She’s dedicated to her career with a kind of fantasticism which is difficult for us to understand. But that’s the fact, and we recognize it. Marriage just has no place in her present plan of progress.” Blake carried this mindset with her through several marriages and the job of a lifetime.

How Amanda Blake viewed marriage through her own relationships and career

Blake’s mother wanted her to give up on trying to become a star and focus on marriage and children / Everett Collection

Ultimately, Blake did not abandon her dreams of stardom and by 1955, she landed the role of Kitty Russell, one of the most highly sought-after gigs at the time, and one she had to beat hundreds of contenders to land.

By that time, she was on marriage number two and would develop a very particular view of such romantic commitments. She wed Jack Shea, Don Whitman, Jason Day, Frank Gilbert, and finally Mark Spaeth. Blake would have a contradictory view of pursuing work and marriage that was tied back to her relentless and restless pursuit of more acting work.

Amanda Blake used marriage as an escape while also escaping from marriage to focus on acting / TV Guide/courtesy Everett Collection

“I think that I used marriage as an escape mechanism, an escape from frustration, born of the fact that I wasn’t working as an actress,” she mused in an article from The Montreal Star from when she was married twice with three more to go. “I know now that I cannot mix marriage with a career, because to me the career comes first. And that’s not fair to any husband. So I live alone.”

This mentality carried into how she played Kitty; Blake was determined that the saloon owner not constantly be characterized as a damsel in distress just as she herself felt she did not “need” a man in her success story.

“It may sound unfeminine, but I don’t need a man to whisper sweet nothings into my ear,” said Blake. She derived her sense of triumph from her fans. “When a little girl recognizes me on the street and asks for my autograph, even today after six years of being on the show, I get a bigger thrill out of that than when a man says, ‘Darling, you look lovely.'”

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