Sunday, December 21, 2014

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas: Day 21 - Gunsmoke's Christmas Story

Working on sending out one blog entry each day in December to showcase great Old Time Radio for the Christmas season.  Here is a link to all the entries.  Here is day 21 - The first, and best, Christmas episode from Gunsmoke.  The episode was from December 20, 1952.  Like so many Gunsmoke episodes, it works at a different level.  The story is good - the acting is great - the production values is off the charts.  Gunsmoke famously was the western for grown-ups.  It ran from 1952 to 1961.  Only Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar were kept on the air longer by CBS.  When the radio program ended, the television program, also on CBS was going strong and would last until the Spring of 1975.

If you have Sirius/XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#82). He has a number of great programs available throughout the month of December on his great show.  You can also get a large number of these programs at a variety or resources on the web. One place to find these shows is the 500 OTR Christmas Shows from the Internet Archive. This is a great resources for many of these wonderful radio shows!

CBS Columbia Square (Hollywood, Los Angeles, California) - October 31, 2013
The place where Gunsmoke was created and recorded
CBS Columbia Square (Hollywood, Los Angeles, California) - October 31, 2013

When most old time radio fans list their favorite five or ten programs, Gunsmoke is almost always on the list somewhere.  It is certainly on my list and a definite top five - if not higher.  The first western for adult audiences on radio, this CBS produced show featured the best cast, the best stories, and the best production values.  Gunsmoke had one of the best casts on radio, a group that stuck together during its entire run (1952 to 1961).  Each radio episode started the same way, with the narrator setting the scene:

Around Dodge City and in the territory out west, there's just one way to handle the killers and the spoilers... And that's with a U.S. Marshal, and the smell of...Gunsmoke!

Gunsmoke!... the story of the violence that moved west with young America. And the story of a man who moved with it...

Then, Matt Dillon would chime in...

I'm that man...Matt Dillon, United States Marshal. The first man they look for, and the last they wanta meet. It's a chancy job, and it makes a man watchful. And a little lonely...

CBS radio superstar William Conrad starred as Marshal Matt Dillon, He was joined by Howard McNear as Doc Charles Adams, Georgia Ellis as Kitty Russell, and Parley Baer as Dillon's assistant Chester Wesley Proudfoot.  They were often joined by the stars of CBS radio, most commonly it seems was John Dehner, who almost always played the bad guy.  I will revisit this wonderful series with more entries down the road.

The show was a new type of entry among Westerns.  Matt Dillon did not ride in and save the day each time.  He was more human than any of the other series leads on radio it seems.  And while William Conrad was too stocky and short to play Matt Dillon on TV, he was perfect for radio. 

Luckily, there are many episodes that are available to listen too.  Some of the scripts are reused, but the stories are fantastic and the performances are outstanding.

Summary:  This was only the 35th episode in the long history of Gunsmoke.  Marshall Dillon was returning to Dodge City when his horse was injured and had to be put down.  He was traveling the long trail to Dodge by foot.  He was anxious to get back as it was Christmas Eve.  While on foot, he ran into a stranger.  The decided to go together.  The stranger asked Matt about Dodge City, and how they celebrate Christmas.  What were their traditions.  What did they do for the kids.  What was it like to be there.  As Matt described Christmas in Dodge, he realized that his companion had a secret to share, the reason he was wandering from town to town.  In the end, the stranger would find peace in Dodge City that was eluding him all these years.

This is a wonderful story and a great Gunsmoke episode.  Hope you enjoy it!  

Here are some links to programs relating to Gunsmoke:
25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas:

No comments:

Post a Comment