Well, Rawhide is over now, farewell Gil, Rowdy, Wish, San Anton, Abilene, Sedalia …
so I’m about to switch horses and head to Dodge City (Kansas), to meet Marshal Matt Dillon,
in short, friends, I’m going to review season 11 of Gunsmoke!
GUNSMOKE • SEASON 11 (1965-1966) (32 episodes • 50 mins • b&w)
This… is the last season in black and white and the first season with the updated style (new opening titles, new end titles, new leaning) that is a departure from the format of the 1950’s originators (i.e., producer Norman MacDonnell and music director Herschel Burke Gilbert) paving the way for the decade to come and with less episodes (32 against the previous 36). The men behind that new Gunsmoke are a tandem of producers and the new head of the music department named Morton Stevens who supervises and conducts the majority of scores at CBS. Morton Stevens is known as the music theme creator of the cop series Hawaii Five-O and will contribute to ‘this’ season 11 (two scores: “Seven Hours to Dawn” and “Malachi”) as well as other CBS household names like Fred Steiner, Richard Shores and Harry Geller—the last two are very active on The Wild Wild West—and the legendary Golden Age artist Franz Waxman.
This season sees some interesting directors: Joseph Sargent, Mark Rydell, B-movies Tay Garnett and even actor Peter Graves aka the brother of James Arness or aka IMF agent Jim Phelps. Furthermore, the best director that dominates the season remains Vincent McEveety, the brother of director Bernard McEveety. Meanwhile, another western series ended: Rawhide, during its eighth season. The 1965-1966 interval was a ‘key’ crossroad for television dramas because three monochromatic western series were produced during that short period: Gunsmoke, Rawhide, The Wild Wild West *.
* The pilot was produced early 1965 under the previous regime at CBS and the series failed to be canceled
and had a chaotic initial season with five unstable producers (Michael Garrison, Collier Young, Fred Freiberger,
John Mantley, Gene L. Coon).
producer: Philip Leacock
associate producer: John Mantley
story consultant: Paul Savage
director of photography: Harry Stradling Jr.
British-born producer Philip Leacock partly started on Gunsmoke from season 10 as a second or replacement producer—but in the line of pioneer Norman MacDonnell—and will manage back-to-back seven season 1 episodes of The Wild Wild West during the 1965-1966 time period and later twenty episodes of Cimarron Strip (1967-1968) but as executive producer.
Canadian-born associate producer John Mantley used to be a story consultant during season 10, replace Philip Leacock as producer at the end of that particular season 11 and from season 14 will become a simple executive producer. But while working on Gunsmoke, he achieves seven season 1 episodes of The Wild Wild West as a full-time producer helped by the same Philip Leacock. Find Mantley’s episodes list: “The Night of the Howling Light”, “The Night of the Steel Assassin”, “The Night the Dragon Screamed”, “The Night of the Grand Emir”, “The Night of the Flaming Ghost”, “The Night of the Whirring Death”, “The Night of the Puppeteer”.
Story consultant Paul Savage takes over from episode 21 of season 11 until season 14 but used to be a writer on Gunsmoke from season 8.
Son of the famous Golden Age cinematographer of the same name with a heavy 50 years output, Harry Stradling Jr. partly started during season 10 under the previous regime on Gunsmoke and will quit early season 13 and work later on another CBS western series entitled Cimarron Strip and participate at some big Seventies films like There Was a Crooked Man…, Little Big Man, The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, Bite the Bullet, to name but a few.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
regular cast: James Arness (US Marshal Matthew “Matt” Dillon), Ken Curtis (Marshal assistant “Festus” Haggen), Milburn Stone (“Doc” Adams), Amanda Blake (Miss “Kitty” Russell), Roger Ewing (Deputy Thaddeus “Thad” Greenwood).
supporting cast: Glenn Strange (Bartender “Sam” Noonan), Charles Seel (Telegrapher “Barney” Danches), Hank Patterson (Livery stable owner “Hank”), Howard Culver (Dodge House hotel clerk “Howie”), Rudy Sooter (Bartender and guitar player “Rudy”), Olan Soule (Barber “Bert”), Roy Roberts (Banker Harry Botkin).
A new semi regular pops-up this season named Thad played by Roger Ewing from episode 3 “Clayton Thaddeus Greenwood”—Thad could easily be the nephew of Matt Dillon, by the way.
The strength of season 11 is the colorful guest actors that add weight to the story: see John Anderson, Joe Don Baker, John Drew Barrymore, Neville Brand, Beau Bridges, Jim Davis, Bruce Dern, Jack Elam, James Gregory, Steve Ihnat, Robert Lansing, Gary Lockwood, Darren McGavin, Leonard Nimoy, Simon Oakland, Warren Oates, Nehemiah Persoff, John Saxon, Tom Skerritt, Lee Van Cleef, James Whitmore.
WHY SEASON 11?
“So with the shift to the hour format, Gunsmoke became a quasi-anthology series, with many more episodes built around other characters living or passing through Dodge City.”
—Stuart Galbraith IV
“The switch to the hour format did make room for richer character development and a greater sense of a larger Dodge City community, a bustling populace of three-dimensional characters.”
—Stuart Galbraith IV
THE DVD SETS
The prints are restored and look wonderful and the picture quality highlights the cinematography of
Harry Stradling Jr. It features English subtitles.