James Arness : If they were man and wife, it would make a lot of difference
Gunsmoke actor James Arness was frequently asked why characters Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty never got married. The fans wanted to see more obvious indications of their relationship, but television network executive decisions were made never to allow them to officially tie the knot. Arness explained why that was the case and his opinion on whether he thought it was the right move or not.
Any fan of Gunsmoke knows that there was always romantic tension that existed between U.S. Marshal Dillon and saloon owner Kitty. The show perpetually kept audiences in a state of tension wondering if it will ever come to be. Gunsmoke ran for 20 seasons, and Arness played the lead character through its entire run. Meanwhile, actor Amanda Blake played Kitty for almost as long.
However, that isn’t to say that Gunsmoke never saw other romantic possibilities for Dillon. In 1973’s “Matt’s Love Story,” Michael Learned played a widow who helped care for the hero after he was shot while pursuing a criminal. They spent a fair amount of time together over the week that he was in her care, but this wasn’t an isolated incident. Dillon would later discover that he had a daughter in 1990’s Gunsmoke: The Last Apache.
During an interview with Associated Press, Arness answered some burning questions from Gunsmoke fans regarding the show. Audiences wanted to know about the long-standing romantic chemistry between Dillon and Kitty. They were desperate to even get some closure with them kissing, but the show rarely gave any satisfaction in this relationship. Arness explained that there was a lot of thought put toward the decision not to allow the Gunsmoke characters to marry.
“If they were man and wife, it would make a lot of difference,” Arness said. “The people upstairs decided it was better to leave the show as it was, which I totally agreed with.”
Arness and CBS had plenty of disagreements over the years, but this was one decision that they agreed with. They thought it was better to leave their romantic chemistry burning for the fans, but not to ever allow them to actually tie the knot. As a result, it gave audiences another reason to keep watching to discover if they’d ever finally make things official.
Arness and Blake took their Gunsmoke chemistry to other areas outside of the television show. They also starred in an L&M cigarette commercial. It showed Blake handing Arness a carton of cigarettes before giving him a kiss on the cheek. Arness responded that it’s the best way to get L&Ms, which was also a sponsor for the show’s earlier seasons.
There’s no question that the actors shared a monumental amount of chemistry while on the Western. As a result, they also knew how to play it up in other venues to keep their fans engaged.