Gunsmoke: An American Institution, Celebrating 50 Years of Television's Best Western

Gunsmoke, An American Institution
Gunsmoke, An American Institution

Gunsmoke: An American Institution, Celebrating 50 Years of Television's Best Western

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Written by Ben Costello, Foreword by Jim Byrnes, and Introduction by Jon Voight.

Starting on September 10, 1955, and continuing for more than 600 episodes over the next twenty years, Gunsmoke ruled the airwaves. Never in the history of television had a show so captured the hearts of both youngsters and adults. Each week, Marshal Matt Dillon and his friends would face a new threat to the peace and lawfulness of their frontier home of Dodge City, Kansas—and each week, goodness and determination prevailed. It was the perfect antidote for a country still emerging from the darkness of World War II.

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In recognition of this, the show’s golden anniversary, author Ben Costello has produced a remarkable testament to the on-screen characters and off-screen individuals who made the story lines come alive. With lead performer biographies, hundreds of episode and behind-the-scenes photographs, complete episode logs, updates on all the surviving cast members, and interviews with the show’s luminaries, GUNSMOKE: An American Institution is a favorite for fans and historians alike.

Paperback, perfect-bound. 672 pages.

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What folks are saying about Gunsmoke: An American Institution, Celebrating 50 Years of Television's Best Western ...

“Great Gift!”

Bought this as a gift for my dad for Christmas. He loved it! Can't stop thanking me for it.

January 30, 2010
J. J. Green

“Five Pounds of Pleasure”

Fellow Festus fanciers, look no further! The perfect Christmas gift is here. Gunsmoke: An American Institution by Ben Costello is the ultimate, be-all, end-all, definitive work on this television classic.

Ben was my guest on "Topeka Talks" today and I was disappointed that the book had not arrived in time for the interview. Lo and behold, in this season of miracles, the promised goodies arrived DURING the interview and I excitedly ripped into the box on the air. It's a hefty volume--5 pounds and not an ounce of fat. Every page is a treasure. There is a synopsis of each episode along with the cast of guests for that show, as well as interviews, narrative, quotes, and hundreds of photos. There are endless hours of pleasure in this volume. Visit to order and tell Ben that Deb sent you.

Deb Topeka Talks

“A certain to be popular addition to any community library American Popular Culture collection, Gunsmoke: An American Institution is a must read...”

In Gunsmoke: An American Institution, author Ben Costello has provided the legions of fans for America's most popular and long-running television western series with an exhaustive compendium showcasing and celebrating all twenty seasons (comprising a total of 635 episodes) of Matt Dillion and his many friends and foes. Profusely illustrated with literally hundreds of photos about what went on both in front and in back of the cameras, "Gunsmoke" covers the major cast members, as well as the producers, writers and directors, and features an especially insightful interviews with Dennis Weaver, Buck Taylor, and Burt Reynolds. There are even sections featuring Dean Martin Celebrity Roast Highlights; reminisces of distinctive guest stars; Gunsmoke memorabilia, the post-television series Gunsmoke films, and so very much more. A certain to be popular addition to any community library American Popular Culture collection, Gunsmoke: An American Institution is a "must read" for anyone who grew up with Matt Dillion, Miss Kitty, Doc, Chester, Festus, and all the other denizens of Dodge City and the Old West.

The Midwest Book Review, MBR BOOKWATCH

“Nothing published before has ever come close to Ben Costello's amazing accomplishment.”

Although there have been other books about the legendary Western series, nothing published before has ever come close to Ben Costello's amazing accomplishment. Costello's 576-page chronicle is a lively and thoroughly researched work that does honor to its subject.

C. Courtney Joyner
Wild Westerns Magazine

“5.0 out of 5 stars”

I have a couple books on Gunsmoke. This one is the best by far and if offers more insight on the history of the T.V. show than anything I have read before. Great buy for the Gunsmoke fan!!

Robert Anderson

“What a book, what a show, what a cast, crew and pleasure it was to be part of it.”

Actor Lance LeGault

“5.0 out of 5 stars ~ A FEAST FOR GUNSMOKE FANS”

This is one heck of a book and a wonderful tribute to what many of us consider the greatest western series ever shown on television: Gunsmoke. Lots of great biographical information about the stars and the production crew, interviews with Dennis Weaver, Buck Taylor and Burt Reynolds and a complete guide to all 635 episodes. Really enjoyed perusing the memorabilia section showing all the Gunsmoke spin-off merchandise. But what makes this book priceless is the hundreds of photos of the series regulars and guest stars and writers and directors associated with the production, countless episode stills and behind the scenes shots including 16 pages in full color. Pretty much the definitive book on Gunsmoke.

Anthony McGillon

About the Author

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Ben Costello is a self-confessed film and television buff. Starting at the age of five, he has appeared on stage in a variety of dramatic and comedic roles. He also enjoys writing and directing. Along with fellow comedian John Babrowski, Costello has played in casinos and clubs from New York City to Las Vegas, frequently portraying characters similar to Abbott and Costello (no, Ben Costello and Bud Costello are not related). In fact, Costello and Babrowski performed the classic Who is on First routine at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, to kick off the 2000 World Series. They were the first to do so since Abbott and Costello performed the skit there 44 years earlier. Costello wrote, produced, and costarred in The Whitley & Costello Show in 1979. In 1987, he took the classic Laurel and Hardy movie Way Out West and adapted it for the stage, with the blessings of Lucille Hardy Price, widow of comedian Oliver Hardy. In 1988, his play titled Company B debuted. The show, a slapstick musical tribute to World War II, was so popular that it spawned five stage sequels. For his work on this production, Costello won Best Actor, Writer, Director, and Production awards from the Southern California Theatre Leagues. Costello teaches seminars on Hollywood Comedy and Comedians and is an authority on television and motion picture Westerns. A divorced father of one, Costello makes his home in the desert community of Joshua Tree, California.