None of us noticed it in the filming or editing, but about a million viewers spotted it,” Warren said
Gunsmoke immortalized several actors, including actor Dennis Weaver for playing Chester. However, the fans didn’t love every aspect of the translation between radio and television. Several creative decisions changed how the character would read on television screens. Gunsmoke finds Weaver with a limp that audiences hated at the time. It all came from a drunken night out, but their issues didn’t end there. The police ultimately got involved on their historic nigh
Gunsmoke is an American radio Western drama series that ultimately made a move to television. The story was set in Dodge City, Kansas, during the 1870s from the perspective of Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness). Weaver played Chester in Gunsmoke, who was a U.S. Deputy Marshal. Parley Baer originally voiced the character for the radio iteration.
The television adaptation gave Chester a limp and changed his last name from Proudfoot to Goode. The radio iteration had a “whiny” voice to make him appear weak. However, the limp was intended to give the same effect without having to cast an older actor for the part. The actor grew to dislike this creative decision, which was ultimately one of the reasons why he decided to part with the series. However, Weaver wouldn’t be the only one who grew tired of the limp, although it resulted in some physical repercussions for the actor.
According to TV Guide, producer Charles Marquis Warren and Weaver came up with the limp that he would have in Gunsmoke while playing Chester, and alcohol was certainly involved. They were drinking martinis together in a saloon across the street from the CBS studio, where the booze got their creative juices flowing.
“After the fourth martini, I told Dennis it bothered me that this strong, healthy-looking young man was only a hanger-on,” Warren said. “It Chester just had some infirmity.”
They practiced the limp in the bar “until the bartender threw us out.” However, Warren and Weaver didn’t fare much better when they decided to continue practicing the limp outside on the sidewalk. The police didn’t appreciate the look that they were giving off.
“We continued on the sidewalk until a squad car pulled up. The cops didn’t believe our story for a minute.”
There was one instance where Weaver forgot to include the limp in an episode of Gunsmoke. Warren recalled that it was episode 34 where the actor forgot to include this piece of the character. However, nobody noticed on the set or during post-production. Nevertheless, audiences caught on pretty quickly.
“None of us noticed it in the filming or editing, but about a million viewers spotted it,” Warren said. “Many letters simply said, ‘Thank God, Chester is cured.”
It turned out that audiences actually preferred Chester without the limp, even though they thought it would contribute to the character.