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The only (on camera) kiss between Matt and Kitty

GUNSMOKE

Matt and Kitty's Relationship

Did Matt and Kitty have a romantic relationship?

The writers and producers of Gunsmoke purposely made Matt and Kitty's on screen relationship ambiguous. They put in just enough so that, if you wanted to, you could believe that they were having a physical and emotional "thing." But they didn't make it completely obvious. Many, many Gunsmoke fans think that they were just platonic friends. The great thing is that you can believe whatever you want to.

One of the reasons I've watched Gunsmoke for all these years, however, is to find proof that Matt and Kitty actually did love each other. (My husband kids me that I'm the only person in America that thinks Gunsmoke is a love story). Despite what Norman MacDonnell says about their relationship (see this comment from TV Guide, 1958), I think they did love each other, at least in the color episodes (which are the ones I'm most familiar with). Here, I hope to explain why I think so.




If you watch the show carefully, there are lots of little hints that Matt and Kitty have something going. Matt and Kitty arm in arm Usually it's not much, just a quick glance or a sentence or two (like this one [play 0:31 / download 61k]). Rarely do they actually hug each other, or walk arm in arm, but it does happen. And they only kissed once.

There have been a few episodes where the writers have tried to spell some things out for us. In "The Badge," Matt gets shot and Kitty decides that she's had enough. She leaves Dodge to try to forget Matt. Matt follows her (a sign to me that he really cares). In the end she comes home, and they both seem happy [play 1:27 / download 172k]

In "Hostage!" Kitty is kidnapped by a man who hopes to trade her ("the marshal's woman") life for that of his brother, who has been sentenced to death. Matt goes to the Governor to get a stay of execution, but does not get one. Kitty is badly beaten and shot in return. When Matt gets back to Dodge, he rushes up to Doc's office and sits with Kitty, murmuring "I need you Kitty." [play 0:21 / download 43k]. After it appears that she'll live, Matt takes off his badge to go after this guy to kill him (instead of arrest him, as he should do as a law man). Also in this episode, Kitty tells Doc that she couldn't live without Matt [play 0:28 / download 56k]

One of the more famous episodes is "The Jailer," which guest stars Bette Davis and Bruce Dern. In this episode, Davis plays a woman bent on revenge. Matt arrested her husband 5 years ago, and he was hanged. Now she plans to do the same to Matt. She kidnaps Kitty and Matt and sets to work building a gallows. The last time Matt and Kitty get to see each other before he is scheduled to hang Kitty tells Matt "Thanks for all the great years, Matt." I think it's pretty clear what she's talking about here.

So, did Kitty and Matt love each other? I think the answer is yes. There are too many times people have called her "the marshal's woman." There are too many people around Dodge and Kansas (even the Governor) who think that there is something special between them. I think there was an awful lot that happened that we did not see. And sometimes I wish the producers of TV shows today would do things the same way.

OK, so if they loved each other, why didn't they marry?

Good question! Apparently, Matt didn't feel it would be right to marry anyone while he still wore a badge. Kitty and Matt seem to have talked about this, and I guess they came to some sort of understanding. Here are three scenes which I think spell out the way things were:

  • From "Gold Train part III." Matt has been shot. The bullet is near his spinal cord and he runs a good chance of being paralyzed. Doc, Kitty, Festus, and Newly are with Matt on a train bound for Denver (Doc thinks the doctors there can do a better job than he can when removing the bullet). The train is hijacked for a load of gold that it is carrying, and Matt seems to be getting worse. Kitty, in a moment alone with Matt, starts to reminisce about their relationship. You've got to hear it for yourself [play 4:29 / download 527k]

  • From "The Badge" (mentioned above), Doc tells Matt that he thinks that he (Matt) should put down the badge and stop Kitty from leaving. Of course, Matt doesn't see it that way. [play 2:19 / download 171k]

  • From "Kitty's Love Affair." Kitty finds herself infatuated with a gunfighter named Will Stambridge. Will has asked her to marry him. Kitty goes to Matt with a few questions. And here they are - [play 1:24 / download 165k]

I think that if Gunsmoke had ended before Kitty moved away (she was not in the last season), it would be easy to imagine that Matt and Kitty did end up together after he retired. We know that didn't happen. But I don't like to think about that. I like to remember them this way - arm in arm, walking across the street to the Long Branch.

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