‘Gunsmoke’: Matt Dillon First Slapped Someone Across The Face In 1 Early Episode


Gunsmoke actor James Arness had quite the journey playing U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon over the course of the Western television series. It embraced adult themes, but it didn’t necessarily alienate younger audiences, either. The Western show developed a loyal fan base that continue to watch it long after it left the air. In the early days, Matt slapped another character in the face for the first time in a truly memorable scene involving an intense confrontation.

‘Gunsmoke’ lead Matt Dillon turned to violence when necessary

Unlike some later additions to Gunsmoke, Matt originated from the classic 1952 radio show. Arness was brought on board to play the iconic character from the first episode. Other original characters included Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty Russell, Milburn Stone as Doc Adams, and Dennis Weaver as Chester Goode. However, the television and radio iterations of the character had some inevitable differences that took place as the show played out.

Matt didn’t always make violence his priority in Gunsmoke. Unlike some other Western protagonists, he attempted to keep the peace in Dodge City without having to rule with an iron fist. However, that didn’t mean that he wasn’t forced to use force. Bad guys made staying peaceful incredibly difficult, so he would choose to fight when absolutely necessary to keep locals safe.

‘Gunsmoke’ Season 1 Episode 15 saw Matt Dillon slap someone for the first time

In Gunsmoke Season 1 Episode 15, “No Handcuffs,” Matt and a corrupt sheriff played by Mort Mills. Radio-to-television developer Charles Marquis Warren directed the episode from Les Crutchfield’s screenplay.

Hank Springer (Vic Perrin) is accused of murder, but he asserts that the sheriff of Mingo set him up. Therefore, he makes an escape from Matt’s jail, as he wrongly believes that he killed a deputy in his getaway. Hank set his eyes on the supposedly corrupt sheriff that put him in the situation, to begin with, which sets Matt on their trail.


The 15th episode of Gunsmoke finds Matt slapping another character across the face for the first time. Matt confronts the sheriff of Mingo, who proves to be corrupt. The lead character asked the sheriff why he committed the unnecessary killing, but he responded with an incredibly disrespectful response. Matt met it with a backhand across the face.

James Arness played Matt Dillon on ‘Gunsmoke’ for 20 seasons

Arness played Matt on Gunsmoke from 1955 until 1975, resulting in an incredible 20-season run. Other than Stone, he was the only actor to star in every season of the show. Blake quit due to distance and creative differences, while Weaver left to pursue opportunities elsewhere after feeling that the character became stale.

Matt’s journey didn’t end with the surprise Gunsmoke cancelation. CBS brought the adult Western back for a made-for-TV movie with 1987’s Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, which brought Arness and Blake back. However, he returned solo for the following four films until CBS saw a decline in ratings.