Monday, June 04, 2007

Old Time Radio: GUNSMOKE


I’ve been listening to Old Time Radio (OTR) recordings the past few weeks. They have about a half dozen different OTR on CD sets at the library and I’m working my way through them. As I do I’ll have a few comments which I’d like to share. For those with no interest in OTR, feel free to skip these, which I’ll try to identify by a photo of the subject and in the headline.

I’ve been a fan of GUNSMOKE, the TV series, since I was a kid. It was one of my father’s favorite shows, so I was allowed to stay up and watch it with my parents. James Arness seemed to have been born to play the role of Marshal Matt Dillon, so it was surprising to discover years later that the role had been originated and offered to somebody else. William “Bill” Conrad, was known to me as the narrator of the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons and later as CANNON, the rather large P.I. on network television. Conrad had been the voice of Matt Dillon since the radio program began in 1952 and continued until the show ended in 1961 (one of the last of the OTR series), and it was his size which persuaded the television producers in 1955 to look else where.

Along with Conrad, were Howard McNear (best known as Floyd the Barber on “The Andy Griffith Show”) as Doc Charles Adams; Parley Baer (who you would recognize from just about every situation comedy and many dramatic programs from the 1950s through the late ‘90s.) as Chester Proudfoot, Matt’s unofficial deputy; and Georgia Ellis (who did a lot of radio, as well as appearing in films and as one of Jack Webb’s reoccurring group of actors in a number of episodes of DRAGNET) as Miss Kitty Russell.

If you’ve ever seen the television version of GUNSMOKE, you’d find few surprises in the OTR version. Truly an “adult western” it often touched on subjects like racism, domestic violence and prejudice, among other things. It was not unusual for the show to have a gunfight or two, often ending with Matt putting a permanent finish to the show’s villain. Appeared the marshal had to shoot more men than he locked up. It this is your type of thing I’d recommend you check out your local library or Amazon.com and other sites. You can also find GUNSMOKE among the OTR broadcasts on LIVE 365 internet radio.
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