Monday, June 13, 2016

The longest TV drama ever

 And it's not counting soap operas like Young and the Restless. We're talking good old TV filmed drama. 

It's not I Love Lucy who is a close second.
It's not Lost, that was only 9 episodes.
It's not any of those procedurals like NCSI or Law & Order, which is close but not enough.
And it's not Mash (the tv version).

I've mentioned it a few blogs earlier. A western. You know, cowboys. People on horses. This series beats everyone. It started in black and white and was a half hour, then it went to one hour and color.

It's Gunsmoke. 

With 640 episodes.

Next would probably be Law and Order, 20 years BUT only 456 episodes. Gunsmoke had 640 episodes because they filmed more back in the late 50's and 60's. While now most series gets 13 plus 13 episodes for each year. Gunsmoke did 39 episodes.

Okay, how many story editors (aka writer producers)? Just one. The company would hire freelance writers, of whom most of them would get an episode or two to write, or write something that the network would take a risk on now and then.

So, having said that, I've been watching Gunsmoke, it's on MORE-TV, one of those weird channels that pop up on satellite or cable.

The stories are good, the half-hours weren't great but when they went to one hour episodes, the stories really got interesting. And the cast was really good. 

More often than not, the stories were about someone who wants the usual thing that somehow always turns bad. Not always bad, they did some comedic 1-hrs also. The basic characters were this;

Marshal Matt Dillon - He's the lead played by James Arness and was the "father figure." He always can be counted on.

Then there was Miss Kitty, the saloon owner, who was in a sense, the mother figure for the wild west out there. She and Matt seemed to be friends, but there was never an episode that really went too far. 

Then there was the doctor, a gruff guy who argues with the marshal's deputy, Chester, played by Dennis Weaver who later did several series as a lead.

Then there were the actors who played bad guys, good guys and even women. In fact one of the writers was a woman. Many of the day player actors would go onto success in features.

The "western" is pretty much gone now, it was more of a baby boomer genre. My favorite movie still is The Searchers, with John Wayne and coincidentally Ken Curtis who would become part of the Gunsmoke crew.

Westerns were always in the movies back from the famous scene from a silent movie called
The Great Bank Robbery which had the actor point a gun at the audience, and shoot. This was a huge break in movies where the audience almost partakes of it.

 From then on, westerns were what people wanted to see. by the late silent movies, there were already mostly poorly made and very cheap. It wasn't until directors like John ford and Howard Hawks started making expensive westerns, not just shooting indians, but having stories about characters and their flaws. 

Which movies  should you see?

I'd recommend four western movies from John Ford, and in sequence She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), My Darling Clementine 1946, The Searchers (1956), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962.

Three others are Shane directed by George Stevens (1953) , Red River (1948) directed by Howard Hawks and High Noon  (1952)

My other favorite is Red River, with the classic Montgomery Clift, who really played off John Wayne in a way that made you feel the characters.


1 comment:

  1. Ah! Montgomery Clift. One of the greatest actors ever to stand in front of a camera. He was from a family of Quakers from the same place as Marlon Brando - Omaha, Nebraska. He turned down so many roles it was unbelievable SHANE, I believe was one of them -from the IMDb "On the advice of his close friend Libby Holman, he turned down William Holden's role in Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Gary Cooper's role in High Noon (1952)."
    Now a movie is being made about him I believe.