"Call Me Dodie" is my personal favorite of the many "Gunsmoke" episodes. The story has considerable charm and a remarkable portrayal of the title character. And it introduces a nice bit of symbolism, bookending the 60 minute September 1962 episode with a kite. In fact, it goes out on a shot (panning up) of the kite and its string tangled in the Pleasant Valley Orphanage sign; symbolic of the controlled freedom of Dodie's expected future. An absolutely brilliant ending.
Dodie was one of the first parts 30-year-old Kathleen Nolan played after leaving "The Real McCoys", at the conclusion of the series' fifth season. It was a remarkable performance as Dodie was a wide-eyed seventeen year-old orphan out to aggressively experience the world, starting with Dodge City. That Nolan is completely convincing in this part, both from an acting and a physical perspective, is simply amazing. You recognize her voice but there is complete physical transformation, wiping years off her Kate McCoy character.
The episode simply transplants the storyline of "Sparrows" (United Artists' 1926 silent feature) to Dodge City with Nolan playing Mary Pickford's Molly character. Molly was also the oldest child at an orphanage. The orphans in both stories are treated like slaves. Pickford was 34 when she played the 17 year-old Molly. I suspect that the casting of Nolan was inspired by Pickford's believability in this similar age disparity situation. In both the character takes on a dimensionality from the stretch required of both actresses, who sell their young characters so effectively that little suspension of disbelief is required of viewers.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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