John Meston

Gunsmoke, Volume 6

While Norman Macdonnell and John Meston were openly relishing the opportunity to upend the highly popular romanticized clichés of the Old West in a new show green lighted by CBS and Paley; the producer and writer still had to tackle a major problem if they wanted Gunsmoke to succeed. Macdonnell and Meston need to find the ideal voice actor to give the newly christened Marshall Matt Dillon life. William Conrad was one the hardest working actor of all time. Conrad’s distinctive voice carried a rich cacophony of emotional ranges that made him the a sought after actor during Radio’s Golden Age. By some estimates, Conrad acted in over 7,500 radio episodes. Macdonnell didn’t want to cast Conrad in the role of Marshall Matt Dillon because he thought the actor was over-saturated on the airwaves. Meston firmly believed that Conrad was the perfect choice for the role. So like any good partner in a creative endeavor, Meston set out to bring Macdonnell around to his line of thinking. Getting Macdonnell to agree to cast Conrad as Marshall Matt Dillon proved to be far easier than Meston had anticipated. Macdonnell agreed to let Conrad audition for the role much to Meston’s delight. Conrad read just a few lines before Macdonnell and Meston. With just reading a few lines, Conrad’s portrayal of Dillon as a man isolated by loneliness and a tough life won Macdonnell over. Listen to the Sparkling Audio Quality in Radio Archives restoration of Gunsmoke, Volume 6.
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