My Five Favorite…Gunsmoke Radio Episodes

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Over the next month, I will be honoring the premiere anniversaries of many classic TV shows. Check back frequently for episode recaps, fan magazine articles, special editions of Spin Again Sunday, and more. I will also be posting unique content on Facebook and Instagram.

The classic Western Gunsmoke launched its 20-year TV run on September 10, 1955. To observe its anniversary, I’m cheating a bit and focusing on the radio version that pre-dated it. I always enjoyed TV’s Gunsmoke, which I discovered while in my teens. (Mostly, I enjoyed watching for little shippy moments between Matt and Kitty.) The radio version, though, blows me away with its darker Western vision. Bill Conrad conveys an especially wide range of emotion as Matt Dillon.

I’m also cheating a bit in naming favorite episodes because I haven’t listened to the entire radio run. (I dread the day when I have no new episodes left to discover.) Furthermore, I love so many episodes that my “favorites” list could change from day to day. These five episodes are excellent, though, and each evokes a different mood.

1. “Home Surgery,” September 13, 1952

“I rolled a smoke and looked out across the flat distances of the prairie. And I wondered how anyone could survive in all that emptiness.”

When Matt and Chester come upon an isolated homesteader suffering from blood poisoning, Matt takes desperate measures to try to save him. Conrad’s performance is appropriately tortured, especially in the scene just following surgery.

2. “Kitty,” November 29, 1952:

“She was like a seventeen-year-old on her first date. She was like all the women you’d ever known or loved–soft and innocent.”

Matt asks Kitty to be his date at a benefit for the school. She appreciates the problems this will cause, if he doesn’t. This episode gives us a giddy and romantic side of Matt. He even sings at one point!

3. “There Never Was a Horse,” September 19, 1953:

“I sure don’t like the idea of dying…but I got over being afraid of it a long time ago.”

A gun-fighter rides into town, bent on challenging the marshal. Matt’s not sure that he can win a confrontation, so Conrad’s performance is a believable mix of vulnerability and strength.

4. “Fawn,” September 26, 1953:

“I never heard of sending a woman to Dodge, for her to be better off.”

A woman held captive by the Cheyenne for 10 years gets her freedom and travels to Dodge to wait for her husband. The daughter she had in captivity is with her, and they face hostility from many quarters. This episode has a good message, a sweet ending, and a nice supporting performance by John Dehner. It’s also a radio Gunsmoke rarity–an episode with no deaths.

You may remember Helen Kleeb, who plays the former captive, as Mamie Baldwin from The Waltons. Mamie was the darker-haired Baldwin sister who wasn’t obsessed with Ashley Longworth.

5. “Marshal Proudfoot,” July 20, 1958:

“Chester bordered on being ignorant, I think. I can’t imagine how he ever got to be a marshal.”

Chester’s father shows up looking his son, whose letters home have exaggerated his position in Dodge. This is a hilarious outing. (For personal reasons, I also like the PSA that mentions the land-grant act.)

Bonus Feature

Turning back to the the TV show, I present this article about James Arness from TV Star Parade, May 1963. As fan magazine stories go, it’s a dramatic one, and it would have sad echoes–Arness’ first wife later died of a drug overdose, as did his daughter.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Those Magnificent Cats in Their Flying Machines

A Snapped-Worthy 1920s True Story

CSI, 1940s Style

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Spin Again Sunday Extra: The Flying Nun Game (1968)

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This month, I am honoring the premiere anniversaries of many classic TV shows. Check back frequently for episode recaps, fan magazine articles, special editions of Spin Again Sunday, and more. I will also be posting unique content on Facebook and Instagram.

The Flying Nun premiered 46 years ago today, on September 7, 1967. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the show. I’m kind of bitter than it ran for three seasons while Sally Field’s other show, Gidget, only lasted one. Now, Gidget was a cute show. And, despite its short life it spawned two games. Take that, Sister Bertrille.

Today’s Game: The Flying Nun Game.

flying nun box

Copyright Date: 1968.

Manufacturer: Milton Bradley.

Recommended Ages: 8 to 15.

flying nun board

Object: “Be the first to place Flying Nun cards on changing board spaces.”

Game Box: It’s visually appealing, with a pink background, jovial cartoon children, and a photo of Sister Bertrille flying over their heads.

Game Board: Colorful and cute, if a little busy. I like the flowers in the corners and the illustration of Sister Bertrille’s convent.

flying nun cards

Game Pieces: The games uses standard plastic pawns. Each player also gets six Flying Nun cards. These show Sister Bertrille playing baseball, playing the accordion, flying–typical nun activities.

flying nun board closeup

Game Play: As they say on Facebook, it’s complicated. Each player has her own track. On her turn, she can either roll the dice and move her pawn around the track, or she can play the top card in her deck of six Flying Nun cards. She can place her card on any board space that matches it but ONLY if someone’s pawn is in the lettered circle beneath that space. Each player also has a penalty card–playing that allows her to remove one of her opponents’ previously played matches. The first player to unload all her cards wins the game.

Bonus Feature:

Here’s an article about Sally Field from TV Radio Show, November 1967. The story itself is not quite as silly as the headline.