Bill Rancic Defends His Wife Giuliana After Fashion Police Controversy: 'I Tried to Get Them to Release the Footage' 41 years, 2,185 covers and 55,435 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- Shark Week's Paul De Gelder Shares His Inspiring Message to North Carolina Shark-Bite Victims
- Read the Cover Story: Growing Up Kennedy!
Exclusive Family Photos from White House Nanny
- BLOOP!: NeNe Leakes May Be Leaving RHOA, But We'll Always Have Her Gifs
- Are Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden Getting Ready for a Baby?
- The Real Reason Halle Berry Had a Major Diva Meltdown on Set
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: In His Own Words
- Jessa Duggar's Wedding Album
- Brittany Maynard's Final Days
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- September 04, 1989
- Vol. 32
- No. 10
Cowboys Everywhere Tip a Hat at the Passing of Amanda Blake, Gunsmoke's Miss Kitty
Little matter that as the bustled keeper of Dodge City's Longbranch Saloon, she had to bear up under the taint of impropriety. Gunsmoke's Miss Kitty Russell became one of TV's most fondly remembered characters, a redheaded trailblazer whose path finally ended last week when Amanda Blake, the actress who played her for nearly two decades, died of cancer at age 60 in a Sacramento hospital.
Recruited in the '50s for a new TV horse opera, the former Beverly Louise Neill, an MGM contract player, very nearly laughed it off at first. "Gunsmoke, schmunsmoke," she later said. "I had no idea it would be a series." But it was, and Blake rode with it, albeit sidesaddle, for 19 seasons, quitting smartly in 1974, the year before it was canceled.
A friend to animals (her four-acre Phoenix, Ariz., spread was once a haven for birds, a lion and 10 rare cheetahs), and to the homeless (she was active in an L.A. hunger program), Blake "in person was very much like the character of Miss Kitty," says Dennis Weaver, Gunsmoke's gimpy Chester. "She had a heart as big as a watermelon."
In 1977 the former two-pack-a-day smoker underwent surgery for cancer of the tongue, had to learn to talk again and began to wage fervid public war against cigarettes as an American Cancer Society spokesman. She was, she happily told friends, "cured." But by this summer the dormant disease had begun to spread again, and last month Blake, worn and frail, entered the hospital for the final time.
Mourning her death, a former coworker recalled that in at least one way, Blake was less prim than her Gunsmoke persona. His "dear friend," said actor Burt Reynolds, once Dodge City's blacksmith, had "the bawdiest laugh of any person I ever knew."
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!