Gunsmoke featured many female guest stars during the course of its 20-year run on television and some of these roles are still being talked about to this day.
Gunsmoke is still one of the most iconic western shows to ever be on television and it is still a fan-favorite to this day.
During the show’s incredibly long run, it featured a wide range of recurring, regular and special guest stars.
Although western shows are typically more focused on the male characters, many of these guest roles were played by well-known female stars.
Gunsmoke’s incredible history
As far as classic westerns go, there are few shows more iconic than Gunsmoke. The television adaption of this series started airing back in 1955 and was originally shot in black and white.
Now, almost 70 years later, Gunsmoke, with its 20-season, 635-episode run, is still one of the longest-running live action dramas in American television history.
Moreover, the show’s catchphrase “Get outta Dodge!” has become such a prominent part of popular culture that people do not even remember its true origin anymore. Gunsmoke certainly still holds a special place in many fans’ hearts to this day.
Gunsmoke female guest stars
Not only did Gunsmoke skyrocket the careers of James Arness (who played the now, infamous Marshal Matt Dillon), Amanda Blake (as Miss Kitty), Milburn Stone (as Doc Adams) and all of the other regular and recurring cast members of the show, over the course of its two decade-long run on television.
Though the show also featured over 100 guest stars, who helped to keep things interesting.
In fact, even though the western television shows and movies at the time predominantly focused on the men, Gunsmoke certainly included some colorful female characters in its line-up, too.
Many reoccurring female stars on the series, like Miss Kitty and Ma Smalley, are still fan-favorites to this day. The show even featured dozens of special celebrity female guest stars throughout its run.
The list of the starlets who appeared on Gunsmoke as special guest stars during its run includes several well-known names such as Angie Dickinson, Meg Wyllie, Marsha Hunt, Sherry Jackson, Gloria Talbott, Joan Hackett, Karen Sharpe, Jodie Foster, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Rogers, Jacqueline Scott, Michael Learned, to name just a few.
Though most of these actresses usually only appeared in one episode, their performances were often so impactful that they are remembered as a core part of the show, even to this day.
Which female guest star appeared in the most episodes of Gunsmoke?
Jeanette Nolan is an American actress, who (much like Gunsmoke) got her start in radio at a very young age. Nolan starred in many theatre and television hits throughout the course of her very successful career.
Nolan originally played the role of “Ma Grilk” in the 1957 “Potato Road” episode of Gunsmoke, but also appeared as “Aunt Thede” in 1964 and eventually went on to play the now infamous role of “Dirty Sally” in the Gunsmoke spin-off show.
This earned her a Primetime Emmy nomination for the Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1974. All in, Nolan guest-starred in more episodes of Gunsmoke than any other female guest star.
Why fans still remember Michael Learned’s guest-starring role
Nolan may have guest-starred in Gunsmoke more often than any other actress. But Michael Learned’s guest-starring role as Mike Yardner in a few Gunsmoke episodes in 1973 and the Gunsmoke: The Last Apache film from 1990, certainly got fans buzzing.
Learned’s role, albeit rather small, made such a big impact because her on-screen smooch with the series star, Arness officially made Mike the only woman that Matt ever kissed in the 20 years that the show aired.
Incidentally, this fact that still upsets fans who watched most of the show, just waiting for Matt and his longtime love-interest, Miss Kitty, to kiss, although they never did.
Other memorable Gunsmoke guest stars
When Gunsmoke first started airing, the show frequently earned the top spot in the Nielsen Top Ten ratings. This meant that many big stars jumped at the chance to appear on the show.
This includes Charles Bronson, who guest-starred as “Crego” in 1956, Gary Busey, who played Harve, and other actors like James Doohan, Sam Elliott, Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, Leonard Nimoy and Harry Morgan who were all stars in their own right.
Gunsmoke’s success also meant that many stars appeared on the show as the first step in their (later, very successful) careers.
This includes the likes of Suzanne Pleshette, Kurt Russell, Melissa Gilbert, Lesley Ann Warren, Martin Landau, Beau Bridges (who was only 24 years old at the time), and even Jodie Foster (who guest-starred on the show three times).