These two episodes deal with the same theme, although their airdates differ by seven months. The first, "Matt Gets It" , is the premiere episode of the series, and James Arness as Matt Dillon is introduced by John Wayne. Early in the episode, Matt is gunned down by a gunslinger that is easy to anger and blames everyone else for the inevitable battle. He is then nursed back to health by Doc and fussed over by Kitty. It introduces the main characters and their relationships are established very quickly. In watching the episode, I was amazed at how quickly the relationships between Matt, Chester, Doc and Kitty are established. The episode ran for twenty years and those relationships did not change much over those years. One thing that has always puzzled me about the series is that it is established very early that Kitty runs a house of prostitution. We clearly see the dance hall girls walking up and down the steps with the men and no adult could miss the significance of their actions. However, most people thought of Kitty as only a woman who loves a man who cannot return that love. I can remember asking my grandmother what those women were doing, only to be told to ignore it. Despite all of the violence of the frontier, the men who settled their issues with guns have a strict sense of honor and ethics. This is clearly demonstrated in the second episode, "Hack Prine." Prine is an old friend of Matt's who once saved his life. Now, he has been hired to kill Matt. Prine is very open about that, talking about how it is a job. Matt also understands that and offers to borrow an amount equal to Prine's pay if he will not complete the job. Prine's ethical code is such that he feels obligated to complete the task, even though it means killing a friend. Another man is killed and the killer attempts to frame Prine. Matt immediately understands that Prine could not have done it because the dead man did not carry a gun. Despite being a hired killer, Prine is bound by a very strict code of conduct that means that he can only kill people who try to kill him. Eventually, the circumstances force a showdown between Hack and Matt. It is here where Arness shows his acting ability. Without being tearful, he is able to show extreme anguish at the death of his friend. These two episodes have a common theme and demonstrate all of the traits that kept the series going for twenty years. It was more adult than most, the writing was excellent and the characters were well developed from the beginning. Many other shows with a western theme came and went during the Gunsmoke run, but this a show where the actors wore out before the public interest did.
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Charles Ashbacher (CharlesAshbacher)
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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No less a Western hero than John Wayne introducedGunsmoke: The Premiere Episodeto television audiences in 1955, giving the series its auspicious start. James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon is as tough as Wayne but is also as quick with his wits as with his gun. In "Matt Gets It," the first episode, Dillon is shot down early on and must find other means to defeat a crazed gunslinger. Other characters are also introduced: Miss Kitty, Doc, and Dennis Weaver as Chester Goode. The realism and intelligent writing shine through even in this early work, and carry over into "Hack Prine," the pilot shot to launch the series. Some of the concepts integral to the classic Western, such as even villains refusing to shoot an unarmed man, seem a bit dated now, but that lends a charm to the series that is mighty hard to find these days.--Rob Lightner