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"Gunsmoke" Matt Gets It (1955)

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

An Adult Western Rides into TV Land

7/10
Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
23 September 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The series' first episode-- and who could have guessed that the show would last another 20 years, becoming the longest lasting dramatic series in TV history! There's little indication of such astonishing success in this first installment. It's a good one with an exceptional moment, but otherwise pretty routine. Gunfighter Grat (Paul Richards) arrives in Dodge behind a sheriff from Amarillo looking to take him back. After that, there's a surprising clash with Matt that caused me a double-take to make sure I'd seen it correctly. There's a nice little character question posed by the script-- is it duty or pride that drives Matt to a final showdown. In fact, the problem of runaway pride amounts to something of a sub-text in this initial entry.

John Wayne does a friendly 60 second introduction to the show and lead actor Arness. No doubt, his most note-worthy comment is that Gunsmoke will try to be both adult and realistic. Given that TV's prior programming of Westerns had been along the lines of Hopalong Cassidy and Gene Autry, Wayne's comment proved highly significant. In fact, Gunsmoke's immediate success ushered in a raft of "adult" Westerns that dominated programming for about another ten years. My guess is that this inaugural entry was selected because of the novelty of a lawman's losing a fast-draw contest; thus demonstrating the show's determination to be, as Wayne put it, both adult and realistic. I also suspect that for those folks who tuned in on that long-ago night, the strategy worked, and worked well for many years to come.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

We're off to a great start!

10/10
Author: Michelle Palmer from United States
6 February 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Starting a Western with John Wayne is just ingenious! What's better than the Duke's seal of approval? He promised it was an adult western, so the subjects would be a bit darker and geared away from kids, and they were! I'm not sure what makes Gunsmoke so great, but it is. Like all the other Westerns, it holds a bit of magic in each episode.

Of course, Matt has to get shot in the very first episode. This sets us up for future Matt shootings. How many times did he get shot in his twenty years? In this episode, we meet all my favorite characters: Miss Kitty, Doc, and Chester Good. I love Chester! And right off, we get a true picture of just what the Chester/Matt/Doc relationship is going to be...

The man who shot Matt played in an episode of The Rifleman. I saw him in something else the other day (The Loner, i think). He's great. This is really the first time I've seen him as a "bad" guy.

Great beginning!

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

a semi-auspicious start

7/10
Author: grizzledgeezer from United States
4 July 2013

This first episode (there is no pilot, as the radio show was presumably the "pilot" *) only hints at would a fine series "Gunsmoke" would become.

It suffers from uncomfortable performances and clunky direction. Though part of this is doubtless due to simple unfamiliarity, a good part has to be due to the script, which sounds like a more or less direct transcription of a radio script. (John Meston is given story credit.)

There are some unintentionally risible lines. When Grat challenges the sheriff sent to get him, he says "If you want me… You come take me.", then "Closer'n that, sheriff, a lot closer… If ya want me." Perhaps what Grat really wants is a date for the next bull dance.

James Arness is remarkably youthful. He looks enough like the comic-book character that he'd have made an excellent Superman. (Note the forelock.) Of course, the point of this episode is to reveal that Matt is not invincible.

The music is generally superior to what would come later, with one lapse in taste -- as Chester rides up, we hear a bit of "Turkey in the Straw", to remind us that Chester is a hick. No music credit is given, so the score was probably assembled from existing cues.

For all its minor failings, you'd be hard-pressed to find another 1955 TV oater of this quality.

PS: In the opening scene, as Matt walks through the graveyard, you can see one of the cardboard headstones flapping in the breeze.

* Actually, there is a pilot. It was shown about halfway through the first season. It is, oddly, better-acted and directed, and has distinctly different cinematography.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A simple plot to start the long journey

7/10
Author: kfo9494 from United States
25 April 2013

I am sure this was a great episode if I had watched the series in order of production. But I was raised on the color episode and then watched the one hour black and white episodes and the character's already had their identity and form of acting. But after going from the last seasons till this first episode I can say that everyone in the cast is real green.

It really is a simple plot about a man named Dan Grat that is a gunslinger that kills people just for fun. After killing a sheriff, the Marshal calls out Grat for arrest. But Grat is faster and shoots Matt in the chest and head.

But thanks to Doc Adams it is not long before Matt, as a lawman, knows what he has to complete the arrest. He again gets into a show-down with the fast Grat.

I giving a pass on this episode due to the fact that the actors are not established in their parts. The acting was green and the story simple. But I guess you have to start basic to develop a loyal following.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Interesting introduction by John Wayne

6/10
Author: Paularoc from United States
15 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched this show regularly for its entire 20 year run. The best thing about this episode was John Wayne's introduction (to my surprise, he introduced himself as "Wayne" and not his full name). All the main supporting characters for the first several years of the series are introduced: Doc, Miss Kitty and Chester. I suppose it was shocking that the lead was shot in the very first episode but when I watched this episode last week, there was nothing about it to indicate that this would be such a long running series. The show is without an iota of humor (Festus later added a bit of humor), and Arness certainly was no great shakes as an actor. However, the business about pride or duty, as another reviewer mentioned, was intriguing. And maybe because the question even arose is why its referred to as an adult Western.

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