Return to Dodge

Audiobook CD - 2006
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Radio's greatest adult Western, told "the story of the violence that moved west with young America, and the story of a man who moved with it." That man was Matt Dillon, U.S. Marshal of Dodge City, Kansas. In Dodge, Dillon was surrounded by hardened, but heartfelt, townsfolk, including his deputy, Chester Wesley Proudfoot; the town physician/mortician, Dr. Charles Adams; and, the owner of the Long Branch Saloon, Miss Kitty Russell.
Publisher: Cedar Knolls, N.J. : Radio Spirits, p2006.
ISBN: 9781570197789
Branch Call Number: 791.4472
Characteristics: 10 sound discs (10 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in. + 1 booklet (32 p.).


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Aug 21, 2016

There is something charming about the naivety of American nostalgia for the "Old West". I am of the generation that grew up on the "horse operas" that filled the small screen during the 1950's and 60's.

The radio show "Gunsmoke" actually came very late in the history of American radio entertainment. It premiered in the mid Fifties when radio was already losing audience share to television. One advantage of this late date for "Gunsmoke" among other radio dramas is that it benefited from higher fidelity tape recording technology. The surviving "GS" radio episodes are clear and not plagued by the cracks, pops and whistles that 1930's and 40's radio recordings suffer from. "GS" also is the inheritor of an entire generation of the perfection of the "foley" process in which live on set sound effects were provided in real time by living technicians. The result is a simulacrum of reality that makes one believe that one is listening to actual horse chases and gunfights. One can hear the canter of horses hooves, the creak of leather saddles and the jangling of spurs. Outdoor scenes sound like the open prairie with wind through grass and the distant keening of hawks. This creates the illusion of reality that is now only reproduced in specialty sound studios by modern Foley artists who use rooms full of computerized audio equipment.

"Gunsmoke" itself was well written and excellently acted by William Conrad. One would never imagine that the commanding baritone of Matt Dillon U.S. Marshall issued from the larynx of a chubby man who resembled Orson Welles.

The "GS" radio episodes were indeed so good that the first several seasons of the then half hour "Gunsmoke" television series were almost entirely dramatized word for word from the radio scripts. The TV series overlapped its radio counterpart in time during the late 1950's. After the demise of the radio show, the television version expanded to a full hour drama and ran into the 1970's (longer than any other western in TV history).

I had the privilege to hear these radio episodes on the Armed Forces Radio Service a decade after the radio version had gone off the air. I still have fond memories of listening to this show as a boy in my family's living room. That is the way this show had been meant to be heard.

This collection is a must for western fans and casual listeners alike. I highly recommend it.


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