Amanda Blake of ‘Gunsmoke’ TV Fame Dies

From Staff and Wire Reports

Actress Amanda Blake, the earthy Miss Kitty who ran the Longbranch Saloon on the long-running television series “Gunsmoke,” died of oral and throat cancer in Sacramento’s Mercy Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said late Wednesday.

Blake, 58, underwent surgery for oral cancer in 1977 and afterward made appearances throughout the country on behalf of the American Cancer Society. She was once a two-pack-a-day smoker.

In 1984, the Cancer Society named her as the recipient of its Courage Award, which was presented to Blake in the Oval Office by President Ronald Reagan.


Blake endeared herself to a generation of television viewers as Kitty Russell, a worldly wise woman with a compassionate heart beneath a crusty exterior. She projected a subdued sensuality and a clear implication that Marshal Matt Dillon, played by James Arness, had only to show his interest and she would gladly become romantically involved with him.

Blake left “Gunsmoke” in 1974 after 19 years in television’s Dodge City.

“I was tired and it was time to go,” she told The Times in a 1984 interview. “It was the end of the trail. The show only lasted one more year without me.”

After “Gunsmoke,” she only worked sporadically, usually in guest appearances for television game shows, movies of the week and such series as “Edge of Night,” “Hart to Hart,” and “Love Boat.”

Miss Blake was born Beverly Neill in Buffalo, N.Y., on Feb. 20, 1931.

Her fifth marriage, in April, 1984, was to Mark Spaeth, a city councilman and developer in Austin, Tex. The couple later divorced.

Services are scheduled for next week in Sacramento, hospital spokeswoman Pat Lenihan said.

A more detailed obituary on Amanda Blake will appear in Friday’s editions of The Times.