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Radio / Gunsmoke

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The cast of Gunsmoke in 1954

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", starring William Conrad. The transcribed story of the violence that moved west with young America, and the story of a man who moved with it...
Matt Dillon: I'm that man. Matt Dillon, United States Marshal. The first man they look for and the last they want to meet. It's a chancy job, and it makes a man watchful... and a little lonely.

A long running Western series about the adventures of U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon and the citizenry of Dodge City, Kansas. It aired on CBS radio from 1952 to 1961.

A television version of the series (with a completely different cast) aired on CBS television from 1955 to 1975.

This radio series provides examples of:

  • Absence of Evidence: A few villains either end up going free this way or are introduced as a free man this way during an episode.
  • Acquitted Too Late: A few episodes involve an alleged horse thief whose innocence was proven after he was lynched, much to Matt's chagrin.
  • Action Girl: The episode "Hinka-Do" featured a homely woman taking over a local bar, who proved to be effective with a six shooter.
  • After-Action Patch-Up: Happens often, primarily to Matt.
  • Always on Duty: Being law enforcement in an area known for it's lawlessness, Matt Dillon (and on occasion Chester and/or Doc) often find himself being woken up from sleeping to tend to a problem. The problems can range in severity and the reasons for sleeping can too.
  • Amputation Stops Spread: Subverted in the episode "Home Surgery" where Matt amputates an old man's leg to keep him from dying of Gangrene, but it was too late and he ends up dying anyway.
  • Away in a Manger: "Beeker's Barn"
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: An elephant gun sounds the same as a shotgun, which sounds the same as a six shooter, which sounds the same as a rifle.
  • Banging for Help: On more than one occasion, Chester finds himself forcefully trading places with the prisoner of the week and abandoned with only the hope that Matt will hear him yelling for help.
  • Bank Robbery: Very common plot element.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Matt is often fashionably late.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Played straight whenever it comes up.
  • Butt-Monkey: Chester.
  • Carnival of Killers: Was the general idea of the episode "Reward for Matt". Mrs. Hornby gets pretty mad when Marshal Dillon kills her husband. She offers $1000 to anyone who kills Dillon.
  • Caught in a Snare: Happens to Matt in the episode aptly titled, "Bear Trap".
  • Clear My Name: The plot of "Matt For Murder".
  • Clueless Deputy: Chester more or less served as this, although in most episodes he was only described as an "assistant" rather than an official deputy. In early episodes Matt calls him a deputy, but later on he's quite insistent that he's not his deputy. No explanation for the changing status is offered.
  • The Coconut Effect: What's a Western without one?
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Billy, employed by the buffalo hunter Gatleth, is killed when Gatleth pushes his face into a pan of hot lead being melted for bullets. Billy lives for about half a day. Gatleth does suffer a Karmic Death when the Indians torture him to death for killing so many buffalo. Gatleth's condition is so horrible that Matt and Chester just leave him and never speak of the incident again.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Every time Matt gets into a fist fight.
  • Damsel in Distress: Happens a lot.
  • Dare to Be Badass: The ending of the "Bloody Hands" episode.
  • Domestic Abuse: A wife beating husband is very common.
  • Door of Doom: Several episodes involves Matt and other characters on one end of an open exit, with gunmen deliberately waiting outside to kill anyone who walks through on sight. Some characters don't recognize the threat and take on the challenge and it ends about as well as you'd expect.
  • Downer Ending: Frequently.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Matt getting a romantic subplot, Chester being a more serious character who carries a gun, and Doc being gleeful when someone dies because it means he can collect a coroner's fee are all elements that don't last for more than a handful of early episodes before being dropped.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Several plots are usually contained within a single day.
  • Frontier Doctor: Doc Adams
  • Good is Not Nice The closest thing to a squeaky-clean nice character is Chester, and even he has his moments.
  • Grave Robbing: A major plot point in "Body Snatch".
  • Heroic BSoD
    • Happens to Matt in "Bloody Hands" where he quits after having to shoot outlaws a part with a shotgun. He gets better.
    • Happens again in the episode "Matt's Decision", but it's less severe.
  • Historical Domain Character
    • The very first episode was based on the (fictitious) start of Billy the Kid's life of crime.
    • The episode "The Brothers" ended on a Wham Line regarding Frank and Jesse James.
    • Both Doc Holiday and Annie Oakley have entire episodes about (and named after) them.
    • A non-outlaw example has Matt recommending "Wild Bill" Hickok to be a law officer.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Miss Kitty. (The producer-director is quoted in a 1953 Time magazine interview: "We never say it, but Kitty is a prostitute, plain and simple.")
  • Impersonating an Officer: The episode "The Impostor".
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Unless a character in question is a coward or just a plain murderer, two fighting characters will never get into a gunfight unless both parties are armed with a revolver, often subverted. averted or played for drama.
  • The Lost Lenore: Doc Adams was married as a young man, but sadly they were only married for two months before she died of typhoid fever.
  • Jingle: Being a radio show from the 50s, it featured commercials complete with Jingles.
  • Mangst
  • Man on Fire: At the end of "Firey Arrest", you realize that the title of the episode was pretty literal.
  • The Meddling Kids Are Useless: Usually results in some of the aforementioned downer endings. If an episode involves a real life outlaw from the Old West, expect this to happen.
  • Menacing Stroll: Matt has his fair share of these.
  • Miss Kitty
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Matt (with very few exceptions) will enforce the law, regardless of it's purpose, because he believes that not enforcing the law during times when he doesn't want to would devalue it and make it harder to enforce otherwise. He believes in no uncertain terms that a flawed law is better than no law.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Chester talks too much.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Subverted, then played straight in the episode "Maw Hawkins".
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Sometimes a character (usually Kitty) is held hostage and Matt is forced to cooperate with the villain.
  • Protectorate: U.S. Marshal of Dodge City, Kansas
  • Radio Drama
  • Railroad Plot: In an episode named, fittingly, "The Railroad", widow Libby Segar refuses to sell her home and land to the railroad. She and her husband moved there right after they were married and he died there during an Indian raid, and she is determined that nothing and no one will drive her off her land, even when she is served an eviction notice. She does not survive the episode, shot accidentally by the railroad agent while trying to cover Matt and keep him from being shot by Libby, who is defending her home from seizure.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Matt will usually dish these out at a mob, or whenever Doc Adams is criticized.
  • Save the Villain: Matt would do this, only to make sure proper due process is carried out. Results usually vary.
  • Ship Tease: Matt and Miss Kitty. The two of them definitely seem to have feelings for each other, but they never officially become a couple.
  • Sympathetic Murder Backstory: In the radio version, Doc Adams had unwillingly killed a man in a duel back East, and had to flee and change his name from Calvin Moore to Charles Adams in order to avoid extralegal retaliation.
  • Take Me Out at the Ball Game: Subverted in the episode "Ball Nine, Take Your Base!".
  • Underestimating Badassery
  • Unexpected Inheritance: The perpetually broke Chester receives an inheritance from a deceased cousin in the amount of $368.63. It is an astonishingly large amount of money for Chester, who fends off requests to invest and pay bills by toying with the idea of gambling with it before he ultimately loans most of it to help pay off a friend's mortgage so they can keep their farm. Chester is almost happier being broke than he is having the responsibility of deciding what to do with that much money.
  • U.S. Marshal: Matt Dillon
  • Villain Ball: In “Cold Fire,” the mother would have gotten away with her deceased son’s bank robbery if she had just quietly left town, instead of meeting Matt one final time to announce her departure from Dodge City and insist her son is innocent, spurring him to reconsider the facts of the case one final time.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: Most of the violence portrayed is only (rarely) glorified in-universe.
  • Violence is the Only Option: Matt would rather talk things out or otherwise resolve things without a gunfight or fatality. It doesn't always end that way.
  • "Wanted!" Poster
  • The Western