Matt on a Horse

GUNSMOKE

Opening Scenes


The main opening scene for Gunsmoke was, for years, a shoot-out between Matt and "The Man In Black." The scene was re-filmed several times throughout the years. Here's a comparison of four different versions. With the anti-violence movement of the early 1970's, the opening shoot-out was dropped, replaced by Matt riding his horse. That's the picture that you see above.

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The first shoot-out with the Man In Black:
This was filmed in 195?. Although it appears as the opening to episodes from the first season on the videos that you can buy from Columbia House and Fox Home Entertainment, this opening was probably not even filmed until sometime after that. (see note below) The Man In Black is Arvo Ojala.

first showdown first showdown first showdown

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The second shoot-out with the Man In Black:
This was filmed in 1964. The Man In Black is Fred McDougall.

second showdownsecond showdownsecond showdown

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The Third shoot-out with the Man In Black:
This was filmed in 1966, and used until 1970. The Man in Black is Bill Strathman (See the note at the bottom of the page)

color showdowncolor showdowncolor showdown

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This last "shoot out" was used during the opening credits of the last season.
Technically it isn't a shoot-out, since all we see is Matt and the Man In Black in the stand-off. We don't see either of them fire their gun.

last showdown

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Notes: I got some of this information (primarily the names of the actors who played the Men in Black) from the book by the Barabases. They also claim that the first shoot-out was filmed in 1959. (see the Other Links and Resources page for more info about the book)

Gunsmoke Fan Tony Runfalo has written with more information about the first shoot-out:

How we know it was not used during the first season:

"The church: if you look carefully during the first episode (Matt Gets It) during the Matt's first gunfight with Dan Grat, you will see behind Grat, in the background, the building that will later become the first church when they added a steeple to it. This also proves that the classic opening shootout was not used during the first season because when they filmed these episodes the church was not a church and Matt's clothes and hat are different (smaller hat) and he wears his gun holster hanging low on the hip."

When it may have been filmed and used:

"Look at the episodes of the second season and then you see Matt dressed the way he looks in the first classic opening shootout. I still have not found out exactly what the format was for the first season's opening other than the fact that I know it opened on Boot Hill and did not open with any shootout. I first saw the show in September, 1956 and the show opened with the classic first shootout."

Thanks, Tony!

I didn't know who the Man in Black was for the 1966 color opening until Dave & Edie Bird wrote to me. Here's what they sent:

Yes that's Bill Strathman .......1966 The color version. He says it was at Coriganville...California.....It was a one time deal....he is 70 years old now..too bad he placed 2nd in the gun fight...and never got paid....I love the show!!!!! thank you for your time.......

Thank you, Dave and Edie!

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