Amanda Blake knew the role of Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke was a special one, therefore she refused to allow the television show’s decision-makers to keep her from auditioning
Gunsmoke actor Amanda Blake will always be an integral part of the Western television show family. She brilliantly brought Miss Kitty Russell to the screen in a way no other actor could. Blake once revealed one of her favorite Gunsmoke moments of all time. However, she wasn’t the only creative heavily impacted by this moment, which made producer and screenwriter John Mantley cry.
Blake knew the role of Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke was a special one. Therefore, she refused to allow the television show’s decision-makers to keep her from auditioning. Blake refused to leave the casting office until they gave her a shot, which gave her the opportunity that she needed to showcase her talent. The actor was cast alongside James Arness, Milburn Stone, and Dennis Weaver as the initial principal cast in its first season.
Blake stuck with Gunsmoke longer than the majority of the show’s cast members, lasting a total of 19 seasons. Arness and Stone were the only ones to have her beat, remaining as U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon and Doc Adams for all 20 seasons. Blake injected life into her performance as Miss Kitty which allowed the character to blossom beyond the character’s undeniable romantic chemistry with Arness’ Matt.
The Legacy of Gunsmoke Facebook page shared the Museum of Radio and Television Seminar’s 1989 interview with Arness, Blake, and Mantley. The moderator opened the floor up to the audience to ask the trio questions about their experiences on the long-running Western television show. One of the questions inquired what their favorite moments were from the show’s 20-season run.
“So, there are a lot of good, fine episodes,” Mantley started. “One that Milburn’s brother [Charles Joseph Stone] wrote called ‘Bakers Dozen’ about the birth of the triplets in Dodge City. There were so many. I can’t pick out one single one.”
The moderator moved on to Blake, who instantly agreed with Mantley on his Gunsmoke pick. She called it “one of my favorites” in the show’s entire run. Then, he broke the scene down that resulted in making him cry.
“I don’t know how many Gunsmoke fans there are, but I must tell you,” Mantley started. “One of most moving moments in the whole of Gunsmoke came with this lady (pointed at Blake). Triplets were born in Dodge City, and they were in Doc’s office, and Amanda was up there with bottles. She had the bottles heated on a stove. She took one of the babies and said, ‘Here’ and put it in Jim’s arms, in Matt Dillon’s arms.”
Mantley continued: “Then, went to the stove and was heating a bottle. As she lifted the bottle, she looked and saw Matt Dillon holding that baby in his arms, and her face was just magnificent. It made you cry. Just a tremendous moment.”
“Bakers Dozen” aired in 1967 as season 13 episode 15. The hour-long episode followed triplets born to a woman barely gripping onto life. Doc tries to put together a plan to ensure that all three of the children remain together, rather than get separated.
Blake was the final original Gunsmoke cast member to leave the show before its demise in 1975. Nevertheless, it didn’t mark the end of Miss Kitty. She returned to Dodge City one final time in the made-for-TV movie Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge in 1987. However, the absence of Stone as a result of his death in 1980 made it incredibly difficult for her to carry on through the filming. She didn’t return for the four follow-up made-for-TV movies.
The story explores the moment when Will Mannon (Steve Forrest) escapes from jail. However, he has vengeance on his mind for those he attributes to putting him away in the first place: Matt and Miss Kitty. Meanwhile, Matt’s friend, Jake (Earl Holliman), is accused of killing a prison warden during his pursuit of warning his friend of looming dangers. Matt has a lot on his hands, leaving Miss Kitty to deal with Will.