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Amanda Blake Used To Bet Against ‘Gunsmoke’ Getting Renewed

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The hope of all show producers and castmates is that a program can run and flourish for a long time. That’s a nice aspiration but there’s no way of telling until it’s out in the world. As far as Gunsmoke star Amanda Blake was concerned, any season could have been the Western’s final go on television.

Blake became very familiar with insurmountable odds just by winning the role of Kitty Russell on Gunsmoke against scores upon scores of other hopeful candidates. She found herself in a Western that was breaking time-honored conventions, and thus sailed uncharted waters. The future could have been an uncertain one but Gunsmoke secured popularity and held on – but in a small betting pool Blake participated in, she did not think highly of the show’s odds.

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Amanda Blake would make bets against ‘Gunsmoke’ continuing for another season over and over

Amanda Blake used to bet that Gunsmoke wouldn’t last another season / Everett Collection

In an interview with the Associated Press, Blake admitted to placing bets with a Gunsmoke crew member concerning whether the show would air for another season. A case of bourbon was on the line, probably to the great approval of Kitty Russell herself.

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The tradition began two years prior to the interview’s publication, and each year, Blake bet that Gunsmoke would not get the much-coveted additional season. Each year, she lost the bet. Her method was rooted in a dedication to sticking with an option that was sure to come up… eventually.

“It just isn’t logical for a series to keep going on and on like this,” she explained, adding, “I’m bound to win one of these years.”

Capturing something truly unique

In reality, she knew they were making something special and enduring / Everett Collection

From its early days as a radio show, Gunsmoke brought something new to the Western genre of entertainment, dealing with some content at new levels of gruesome, and sometimes featuring baddies that did not face full justice.

The radio program could get away with this more since it was unsponsored and the series producers were fine with it that way because otherwise they would need to “clean the show up.” But actor Dennis Weaver felt the television show still kept things close to reality in a way few other shows did. “Gunsmoke was a groundbreaker,” asserted Weaver. “It was the first so-called adult western. There were no songs, guitar playing, or kissing the horse. It was about real people in real situations with real problems and how those problems were resolved. Sometimes they weren’t resolved. That made Gunsmoke very gritty, believable, and fresh.”

GUNSMOKE, Glenn Strange, James Arness, Buck Taylor, Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, Ken Curtis, 1955-1975 / Everett Collection

So, even though Blake would make bets and lose bourbon guessing Gunsmoke would go off air soon, she knew deep down they had a remarkable recipe for enduring success.

“The people who tune in Gunsmoke aren’t interested in guest stars,” she mused. “They’re not even interested in Jim Arness, Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, or Ken Curtis. They want to know what is happening to Matt, Kitty, Doc, and Festus.”

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