‘Marshal Dillon’ Series: A Half-Hour of Western Nostalgia

by on November 17th, 2010
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In the late afternoon, after a hard day, some people reach for comfort food. I reach for the remote control, and go straight to Encore Western Channel. Why? A show called “Marshal Dillon” is on and I relax and forget my troubles! “Marshall Dillon” is the TV series that began the whole “Gunsmoke” craze. When the series started out, the shows were only a half-hour long.

Encore Western Channel plays two “Marshal Dillon” shows, starting at 5 p.m. (CST). They are followed by a “Gunsmoke” episode. If you compare the two shows, a lot of differences are apparent. The “Marshal Dillon” show is in black and white. The first time you see this show, you will note that Matt Dillon’s hair is jet black, even his eyebrows. James Arness, who plays Dillon, had light hair in real life. As the “Marshal Dillon” series progresses, Dillon’s hair gets less black. By the time “Gunsmoke” rolls around, Dillon’s hair is a brown color.

Amanda Blake, who plays Miss Kitty, is much different in “Marshall Dillon” than she is in “Gunsmoke.” Kitty’s hairdo is much less flamboyant, and the black and white film keeps that red hair inconspicuous. While Dillion is someone interested in Kitty, the romantic feel that you get from them does not come into view until the “Gunsmoke” series. In the half-hour series, Kitty does not own the Longbranch Saloon yet. They show a much tougher side to Kitty in the early shows. She did not garner the respect that she does in the later shows. Her costumes were less impressive in the old black and white shows. Kitty was much more glamorous in the hour long episodes.

While Chester, played by Dennis Weaver, does not change much in the shows, Doc Adams (Milburn Stone) does. In the earlier shows, Doc has dark hair and is much feistier with Matt. In the hour episodes, Doc spreads his sarcasm to Chester and Festus.

The “Marshall Dillon” series was more action packed, and faster paced than the “Gunsmoke” shows. I barely remember a couple of the first ones; I was pretty young back then. I remember we did not watch much TV, but we all gathered in to watch the half-hour “Gunsmoke” show. It was a part of America’s weekly TV viewing. All age groups anxiously tuned in to see what was going to happen to the “Gunsmoke” family every week.

The first shows started out with Matt Dillon walking through the cemetery. He would speak for a moment and then the show would begin. It still had the shoot-out at the very beginning of the show too. Dillon’s horse (Buck) was in both shows. The early half-hour series were mainly centered around Matt Dillon. As the years went by, the “Gunsmoke” episodes dealt with different characters. Some shows did not include Dillon at all.

If you have never seen the first “Gunsmoke” shows, tune-in to “Marshal Dillon” and see what the fascination was all about. Old fans will just tune-in for the nostalgia!

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