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Gunsmoke actor Amanda Blake had many years of experience working on the adult Western television show. She had a close relationship with her fellow cast members, which translated into why the show became so uniquely successful. Blake and her co-stars didn’t all have the same temperament, but they worked well together and put aside any egos to make the best piece of television possible. However, Blake had a difficult time filming Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge because of Doc Adams actor Milburn Stone’s memory.

‘Gunsmoke’ actor Amanda Blake returned for ‘Return to Dodge’

'Gunsmoke' Milburn Stone as Doc Adams and Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty Russell in a black-and-white picture in front of Long Branch saloon.
L-R: Milburn Stone as Doc Adams and Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty Russell | CBS via Getty Images

Blake was cast alongside Stone, James Arness, and Dennis Weaver as Gunsmoke‘s principal cast in the first seasons. The television adaptation initially directly ported much of the original show over to the screen. However, the writers and actors slowly transformed Gunsmoke into their own, allowing it to stand further on its own two feet away from the source material.

Arness and Stone were the only two Gunsmoke actors from the original cast to remain on the show for all 20 seasons that it was on the air. Meanwhile, Weaver left after season 9 to flex his creative muscles in other roles. Blake took her leave from Gunsmoke after season 19, but she made a return for the first of five made-for-TV movies as Miss Kitty Russell, which was subtitled Return to Dodge.

Amanda Blake choked her ‘Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge’ lines because it didn’t feel the same without Milburn Stone

According to TV Guide, Blake had an incredibly difficult time on the set of 1987’s Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge. Its release followed 12 years after the show’s cancelation after season 20. Her first scene took place in the Long Branch, but the problem was that her voice kept choking. Finally, Hannah actor Fran Ryan stepped up and put a protective arm around her to check on her.

Ryan kindly asked, “What’s the matter, honey?” However, Blake could only push a single word out – “Doc,” referring to Stone, who died years prior to the filming. The actor later went into further detail in her dressing room.

“Milburn would just be in his glory here,” Blake said. “He was not only Doc but our technical adviser. He would straighten us out, even if we didn’t need straightening out. I miss him so much.”

Milburn Stone died in 1980


Milburn Stone Refused to Play Doc in ‘Gunsmoke’ Unless They Agreed to 1 ‘Ridiculous’ Contract Condition

Blake referred to the fact that her Gunsmoke co-star, Stone, died from a heart attack in June 1980. He had heart bypass surgery nine years prior but ultimately died in La Jolla and was buried in Sorrento Valley, San Diego.

Gunsmoke producer John Mantley told TV Guide that he “never considered having a new Doc. Milburn gave such a brilliant performance and we all loved him so deeply that I didn’t think we should replace him.” Return to Dodge mentioned that there was a new Doc in Dodge City, but he’s never shown on screen. They wanted to maintain his legacy on the show, having starred as the iconic character for a full 20 seasons.