Thursday, July 3, 2008

Gunsmoke "Radio Show" at Knotts Berry Farm

Gunsmoke is an American radio and television Western drama series created by director Norman MacDonnell and writer John Meston. The stories take place in and around Dodge City, Kansas, during the settlement of the American West.

The radio version ran from 1952 to 1961 and starred: William Conrad as Matt Dillon, Georgia Ellis as Kitty, Parley Baer as Chester and Howard McNear as Doc Adams.

All the pictures below were photographed by Harry Bartell at Knott's Berry Farm in 1953. Many of you will recognize Harry as an American actor and announcer in radio, television and film. He was one of the busiest West Coast character actors from the early 1940s until the final end of network radio drama in the 1960s. He died on February 26th, 2004.


Harry Bartell during the Gunsmoke years.

Here are some of Harry's thoughts on the cast of Gunsmoke ... Radio vs. Television:

When the rumor hit Los Angeles that Gunsmoke might go to TV, it was assumed that meant the radio cast would simply play the same roles on television. That idea immediately received a very cool reception in New York.

As a result, a campaign was launched in LA to sell their original idea. This was based on the premise that the leading characters actually looked as legitimate as could be, and with their familiarity with the roles would make an easy, smooth transition. We all know what happened. But in an all-out effort to sell the original concept it was decided that they would photograph the cast in costume and on location.


Howard McNear as Doc Adams, William Conrad as Matt Dillon, Georgia Ellis as Kitty and Parley Baer as Chester.

Parley Baer as Chester and William Conrad as Marshall Matt Dillon.

Georgia Ellis as Kitty and Parley Baer as Chester.

William Conrad as Marshall Matt Dillon.

Georgia Ellis as Kitty, Parley Baer as Chester, Howard McNear as Doc Adams and riding shotgun is William Conrad as Matt Dillon. (Info from Chris at O.C. History Roundup, the white bearded gent at the reigns is Bill Higdon, who operated the stage coach and wagon rides at Knott's for many years).

William Conrad as Marshall Matt Dillon and Parley Baer as Chester.

William Conrad as Marshall Matt Dillon.

7 comments:

The Blue Parrot said...

Wow! Now that's truly a rare glimpse into what could have been...

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, those are cool! I used to listen to old episodes of "Gunsmoke" on KNX late at night (the stopped airing old radio shows a few years ago)... it's interesting to put faces to the voices, since William Conrad was the only face I knew!

Chris Jepsen said...

We have more on this in the Knott's collection at the Orange County Archives (www.OCArchives.com). I'm printing out this post and adding it to our files to help explain some of the material we already have. Thanks.

For the record, the white bearded gent at the reigns in 6th photo down is Bill Higdon, who operated the stage coach and wagon rides at Knott's for many years.

Jay Jennings said...

Great post!!!

Viewliner Ltd. said...

Thanks for all the comments guys. This is truly one of my favorite posts.

Dave said...

James Arness had the looks and manner, but Bill Conrad had the voice. He later turned out to be a great actor in front of the camera as well on Cannon, one of my favorite shows as a kid, but his voice work was incredible.

I've always been amazed how he did those solemn voiceover openings and closings for "The Fugitive" during the same period he did all that great frenetic narration for the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.

Randy Faulkner said...

Great photos. I've spent may days walking Knotts Berry Farm. We grew up not far from there, and it was a place to pack a picnic lunch and just hang out, before they walled it in and charged an entrance fee. Great photos of a great cast.