‘Gunsmoke’: Amanda Blake Revealed Miss Kitty Russell’s Mysterious Past That Only Matt Dillon Could Break

One of the several prominent reasons why Gunsmoke was such a raging success was because of its stellar cast. Their chemistry was like magic and their sense of closeness read well on television screens across the country. However, some character details were intentionally left a bit ambiguous. Miss Kitty Russell actor Amanda Blake once revealed her character’s past on Gunsmoke and how it impacted her arc on the show.

‘Gunsmoke’ intentionally kept Miss Kitty’s career ambiguous

'Gunsmoke' actor Amanda Blake in a black-and-white picture sitting in a chair with her hand on the backrest
Amanda Blake | CBS via Getty Images

Actor Georgia Ellis originally played Gunsmoke on the radio show before Blake took over for the television adaptation. However, there were some details about the character that were largely hinted at, but not expressly stated. For example, the original iteration of Kitty suggested that she was a sex worker, but it was never directly said with any certainty.

The Gunsmoke television series initially followed in the radio show’s footsteps regarding the ambiguity around her career. However, they ultimately doubled down that she was only the owner of the Long Branch saloon in Dodge City. Kitty also had a very close friendship with James Arness’ U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon. They teased audiences with a romance between the two, but it never truly came to fruition.

‘Gunsmoke’ actor Amanda Blake opened up about Miss Kitty’s past

According to a 1960 TV Guide interview, Blake talked about how Kitty’s past followed through the Gunsmoke arc over the years. In fact, she believed that her character wouldn’t have even stuck around Dodge City if it weren’t for Matt.

“There was a man–isn’t there always?,” Blake said. “He loved her and he left her and then they put a label on her. Kitty isn’t the type to take in washing. Somehow I have the idea–don’t ask me how I got it–that Kitty came from New Orleans. Let’s just say that I think seaport cities are more feminine, that they bring out the womanly jungle instinct. So, she drifted, and she’d drift out of Dodge if it weren’t for Matt Dillon.”

She emphasized that Kitty and Matt would never marry, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t long for more from the marshal. “She’d love Matt to say, ‘Kitty, let’s buy a hunk o’ land and raise some beans and kids.’ But, then we’d have I Love Lucy Out West.”

The actor had to be careful how she spoke about the character

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Much like her co-stars, Blake had a thorough understanding of her character on Gunsmoke. As a result, she knew what lines she would or wouldn’t say in a given conversation. The actors were also able in instill their own sense of the character’s identity through their portrayals. However, CBS still had a very firm line on what wasn’t considered acceptable to speak about.

Blake once called Kitty a “tramp” in an interview, thinking that it was an obvious assumption to make about the character. However, she almost lost her job as a result of her comments. From then on out, she knew that she had to be a little bit more careful with how she spoke about Kitty and her characterizations.