We go back to June 3, 1956 to listen to an episode of the western series Gunsmoke. A pacifist arrives in town pursued by two men who want to kill him.
On months that have a fifth Friday we break from our normal schedule and produce something tangentially related to ideas of cultural democracy. In 2022 we delve into the history of radio to bring back some historical examples of comedies, documentaries, and serials that let us hear unfiltered aspects of the world as it seemed to our grandparents.
In this episode we go back to June 3, 1956 to listen to an episode of the western series Gunsmoke. The series takes place in and around Dodge City, Kansas, in the post-Civil War era and centers on United States Marshall Matt Dillon as he attempts to enforce law and order in the city. It also focuses on Dillon’s friendship with Doc Adams, the town’s physician; Kitty Russell, owner of the Long Branch Saloon; and Chester, Dillon’s deputy.
CBS intended Dillon as a “Philip Marlowe of the Old West”, and Gunsmoke as a western series for adults. The writers emphasised the brutal nature of the so-called Old West. Charles Meston, the head writer felt disgusted by the archetypal Western hero and set out “to destroy [that type of] character he loathed”. In Meston’s view, “Dillon was almost as scarred as the homicidal psychopaths who drifted into Dodge from all directions.”
In many ways it served as the ancestor of series like Deadwood.