If you are already an Old Time Radio fan then you are likely familiar with Gunsmoke. However, for those new to the genre, this is as good as any to start with especially if you like things gritty.
As the name suggests it is set in the wild west around the 1870s, a time when the smell of “Gunsmoke” would have been common and in keeping with the era some of the stories are a bit grim.
The radio show ran for 480 episodes and proved so popular that it was made into a TV series. Sadly as the golden age of radio began to fade so did the show and in June 1961 the final episode aired. The TV show survived well into the 1970s though, but that’s a story for another day.
Anyway if you are interested in exploring the world of Gunsmoke then have a read of our overview below. We have kept the spoilers to a minimum.
Ready? Ok, saddle up…
In the Beginning
The series came into being at the behest of William S. Paley in the late 1940s when he tasked his programming chief Hubbell Robinson with the development of a more adult Western series. He was a big fan of hard-boiled detective shows and wanted to see how this would translate to the Wild West.
The current western genre shows such as The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid were aimed at a more juvenile audience so this was a bold move.
Given he was a fan of their existing Philip Marlowe show the task fell to producer Harry Ackerman. Why? Because had developed the “Philip Marlowe” radio series.
With the aid of his scriptwriters, Mort Fine and David Friedkin, they soon had an audition show ready. The tone for the series going forward was set here with the slightly cheerless title…
“Mark Dillon Goes to Gouge Eye”!
Howard Culver is Matt Dillon
Two audition versions of the script were recorded, in June & July 1949 and of the two the one starring Howard Culver as Matt Dillon was the preferred.
This was almost the end for the show as Culver was already the star of another Western show Straight Arrow. Given he was contractually forbidden to do another western series he was unable to play the part and thus the project was shelved.
Fortunately, Three years later producer Norman MacDonnell and writer John Meston discovered it, and as they say the rest is history.
The series as we know it was launched on 26th June 1952 and ran for 480 episodes. It finally walked off into the sunset on 18th June 1961.
Sadly Howard Culver never got to play the part again as it was given to William Conrad. He did however feature heavily in the TV series playing hotel clerk Howie Uzzell! His version of the audition show is below…
Mark Dillon Goes to Gouge Eye – Howard Culver Version
Looking for More
Gone but never forgotten, Gunsmoke remains one of the most memorable old-time radio show ever and serves as an interesting time capsule of social norms of the time. Be it from the adverts of the time or the tone and language used, which some might find questionable now.
Anyway, now that you have heard the shelved audition you can continue your journey through the world of Gunsmoke via the link below.
You can also check out our other posts for character bios etc.