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Television Gunsmoke movies
In 1987, some actors from the original series (James Arness, Amanda Blake, Buck Taylor, Fran Ryan) reunited for the TV movie, Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, which was filmed with the mountainous ranges of Alberta, Canada as a backdrop. Retired US Marshal Matt Dillon, now a fur trapper, is knifed by a rogue, brought back to Dodge, and nursed by Kitty Russell. He is hunted by vengeful, past nemesis Mannon, who holds a battered Kitty hostage in exchange for a showdown. Ken Curtis declined to return, citing a contract dispute: “As Dillon’s right hand man, I felt the offer would approximate Miss Blake’s.” Instead, Buck Taylor’s Newly O’Brien became Dodge’s new marshal, though private citizen Matt Dillon remains the hero. A huge ratings success, it led to four more TV films being made in the U.S.
After Amanda Blake’s death, the writers built on the 1973 two-part episodic romance of “Matt’s Love Story”, which was noted for the marshal’s first overnight visit to a female’s lodgings. In the episode, Matt loses his memory and his heart during a brief liaison with “Mike” Yardner (Michael Learned of The Waltons). In preserving the ethics of the era and the heretofore flawless hero’s character, the healed Dillon returns to Dodge City.
Movie number two, Gunsmoke: The Last Apache (1990), had Learned reprising the role of “Mike Yardner” James Arness as Matt Dillon and Amy Stock-Poynton as their daughter, who is now a young woman named Beth. Other films (which all featured daughter Beth) included Gunsmoke: To the Last Man (1992), Gunsmoke: The Long Ride (1993), and Gunsmoke: One Man’s Justice (1994).