Amanda Blake’s Frustration Boiled Over When ‘Gunsmoke’ Was Canceled

Gunsmoke actor Amanda Blake gave the character Miss Kitty Russell her all. As a result, adult Western audiences across the country connected with her, developing a fondness that lasted for many years. However, all good things must come to an end, which held true for Gunsmoke, as well. Blake was furious when she heard that CBS canceled the show, which led to some violent thoughts.

CBS canceled ‘Gunsmoke’ after 20 seasons

'Gunsmoke' Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty Russell in her Western costume sitting at the piano with her fingers on the keys
Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty Russell | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Gunsmoke was the most popular show on television for years, which reflected in its impressive ratings. It became CBS’ most valuable program, making actors James Arness, Blake, Milburn Stone, and Dennis Weaver significant figures to represent the show. Gunsmoke added new faces over the years, such as Burt Reynolds, Ken Curtis, Buck Taylor, and Roger Ewing.

Blake remained on Gunsmoke for 19 seasons until she finally decided to quit. She initially said that it was because of the long commute from Phoenix, Arizona to Los Angeles, California. However, later reports indicated that she actually quit the show because of her poor relationship with producer John Mantley. She left before they had the opportunity to fire her.

Gunsmoke only lasted one more season without her, totaling 20 seasons altogether between 1955 and 1975.

Amanda Blake considered hitting CBS president over the head after ‘Gunsmoke’ cancelation

According to David R. Greenland’s book, The Gunsmoke Chronicles: A New History of Television’s Greatest Western, Blake still had a passion for the long-running show. She played Kitty for a long time, establishing a stupendously stable and exciting gig that brought beautiful friendships and wonderful fans. As a result, Blake was upset to discover that CBS suddenly canceled Gunsmoke with no warning.

Greenland wrote that she happened to be in New York at the time the news broke that the series met its end. She drove past the CBS headquarters, and Kitty’s edge came right out of her in a moment of pure frustration.

“I think I’ll go in there and hit [CBS President] Bill Paley over the head with a brickbat,” Blake said. She was known for her rare outburst on the set, but it was always out of a passion for the show and carrying out professionalism in her job.

Ultimately, she agreed with co-star Weaver that the Gunsmoke family was the reason why the show lasted as long as it did. “These people were very likable, very human, very believable,” he said.

She returned for ‘Return to Dodge’

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Fran Ryan’s Miss Hannah replaced Blake in the final season of Gunsmoke. However, it wouldn’t be the last time that she embraced the character on the television screen. Blake made a grand return in the first of five made-for-TV movies alongside Arness. The first was called Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, but she had to carry the fact that Stone died years prior to the 1987 film.

After Blake’s time as Miss Kitty truly ended on Gunsmoke, she had difficulty getting roles. She played a few minor parts in other television series, such as The Edge of Night and The Quest. However, Blake never had another role quite like Miss Kitty.