The Gunsmoke cast reunited at Christmas in 1977

Milburn Stone was so moved by the reunion, he considered coming out of acting retirement.

In the first season of Gunsmoke, a Christmas episode called "Magnus" reunited Chester Goode with his brother Magnus Goode.

After that, Gunsmoke remained on air for longer than any other TV show in its time, stretching 20 years before the show ended in 1975. It would take two years before the cast would reunite unexpectedly, right around the holidays, just like the Goode brothers.

When Gunsmoke ended, Doc actor Milburn Stone retired from acting. He had three heart attacks while shooting the show, and in 1971, he underwent open-heart surgery. For his health, the TV doctor decided it would be better if he spent his time taking walks and fishing in the Colorado River, not acting.

And that's what Stone was doing, but then Christmas came around in 1977, two years into his retirement, and CBS called him up.

That year, CBS was celebrating its 50th anniversary, and they wanted Stone to join 120 actors for a series of two-hour shows celebrating the network.

Stone accepted the invitation. He was eager to get out of his routine, and he was, frankly, bored with being retired.

When Stone got to Hollywood the week of Christmas 1977, he didn't realize that the CBS anniversary would become a reunion for him with his Gunsmoke costars Jim Arness (Matt Dillon) and Dennis Weaver (Chester Goode). That was a special surprise.

But once he had a taste of being back together, he only wanted more togetherness. Blame the holiday cheer! He found himself wishing the whole cast was there.

"I felt bad because Ken Curtis — who played Festus — wasn't included," Stone told United Press International in 1977. "Amanda Blake was invited but she couldn't make it. But Jim and Dennis and I spent the whole day talking about the good times we had together."

At one point, Arness told Stone, "I guess we didn’t know how lucky we were."

Stone disagreed on this point with the TV cowboy.

"Maybe you didn't, but I sure as hell did," Stone said.

Being back with his Gunsmoke castmates stirred all kinds of feelings for Stone, but before he got there, he wasn’t sure what to expect or what would be expected of him. He’d been out of acting for a few years, and he wanted to be prepared.

"When CBS called me to take part in the anniversary show, I asked them what I had to do," Stone said. "They told me I just had to walk through a door. I wanted to know what was on the other side of the door."

Once he got to the party, Stone's nerves went out the door, and he started thinking about coming out of retirement to act again.

"I really miss Gunsmoke and I'd dearly love to go back to work," Stone said. "I'm getting really bored with retirement. I haven't worked since we finished shooting the series in 1974, except to take part in a Dean Martin roast of Dennis two years ago."

As seriously as he might've considered returning to acting after hanging with his old friends, Stone never acted again.

At least for a flicker of a moment that Christmas in 1977, though, he started entertaining second thoughts, ignited by the excitement of being around Arness and Weaver and considering a second act in his career.

"Damn, it was good to see those guys again," Stone said.

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MichaelJF 29 months ago
Yes Ken Curtis should have been invited. He was the most talented regular the cast ever had.
Susan00100 29 months ago
My one disappointment with GUNSMOKE is that Matt never expressed love for Kitty.
The closest he came was the episode where Kitty was gang-raped and then shot.
While she was unconscious, Matt said, "I need you." IMO, that wasn't good enough; he should have said, "I love you; don't leave me."
Maybe that's the reason she DID leave Dodge City.
tommy2gs123456789 30 months ago
Great article. I just finished watching the 635 episodes from year 1 to 20. It was enjoyable to watch the characters develop and evolve gradually each season. Sad to see it end. I especially liked the start of the episodes in color in 1966 and the writing was exceptional through the late 60s and early 70s, as well as the progression of the theme song at the end of the show. It's slight variation with drums and strings from season to season always kept it fresh. Doc and kitty added much depth to the family type atmosphere of the cast. I also liked Festus' character and was disappointed he wasn't invited to the reunion. Best Western ever and there will never be another like it and I watched many of the great westerns of that Era.
SrLerxst 30 months ago
So how come there are no photos of the 1977 reunion? Funny how MeTV can research interesting trivia (however which most likely comes from and Wikipedia) but never can answer the most logical questions from us fans. Or they might have the answers, but no clue.
barbarajean1950 30 months ago
WHY wasn't Ken Curtis (who played Festus) included in the GUNSMOKE 1977 reunion show? No explanation given. Festus became a national icon. Why wasn't he included? No he wasn't dead.
MaryAngelaDouglas 30 months ago
What a fantastic, wonderful story. Really enjoyed it!!
Pacificsun 30 months ago
Mentioned seven times is Milburn Stone's urge to quit retirement. This is a great and unique story, don't remember reading here before or in other places. The caption says it clearly, as a good teaser:
"Milburn Stone was so moved by the reunion, he considered coming out of acting retirement." It couldn't be stated more clearly and to encourage his fans to read the interesting story.

Be confident enough that the story itself has carried the day! It has. And if it needs to be filled, add wiki link, or mention an example of another of his outstanding credits, which can help extend the space. But its not good to lose a reader's attention.
cperrynaples 30 months ago
That would be CBS: On The Air, which ran over 7 nights! I assume they were on Saturday since that's where Gunsmoke was in the Chester era!
TheDavBow3 30 months ago
Wonder Ken Curtis wasn't invited? 🤔
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TheDavBow3 DethBiz 30 months ago
That's a shame. Next to James Arness, Ken is the one most memorable to me.
DethBiz TheDavBow3 30 months ago
Me as well. Also in the show in my opinion, Festus was much more reliable to Matt than Chester. Chester always whined and moaned and Festus was ready to go whenever Matt needed him.
TheDavBow3 DethBiz 30 months ago
Growing up, I don't remember Gunsmoke until @ 1970. But going back and seeing episodes with Chester, you are absolutely right. Festus is right there with Matt. Festus, however, might annoy Doc more than Chester did 😉😋
DethBiz TheDavBow3 30 months ago
Probably so. Especially when Festus would give his Festus-isms like the episode where he was telling Doc about the Wooden Lightning Rod.
Runeshaper 30 months ago
I absolutely love this story! It's great that some of the Gunsmoke gang got together again. Being around the holidays only makes it that much more special.
Pacificsun Runeshaper 30 months ago
As for many fans, this was probably my dad's absolute favorite Western. And he watched every single one, six nights a week. He loved the teaser between Kitty and Matt. Come to find out he was a closet soap opera watcher, once he retired. He knew the storyline completely of two that ran right before the noon time News report!
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