Gunsmoke actor Amanda Blake consistently made a great Kitty Russell on the legendary Western television show. However, she had some great difficulty with one major and unexpected component. Blake once admitted that she had an “unconquerable” fear of horses that made living in Dodge City incredibly difficult. As a result, she had an outburst on the set, which was quite unlike her typical behavior.
According to a 1960 TV Guide interview, Blake expanded on her Gunsmoke character, Kitty. Producer Norman Macdonnell even said, “Sometimes, I wonder,” in response to the question of where the real person ends, and the character begins.
The interview explained how Blake’s bedroom looks like it could be Kitty’s with “flamboyant cow-town decor” and “heavy velours drapes.”
Similar to her character, Blake was described as “independent, affluent, and self-possessed,” not ever feeling the need to rely on anybody. Journalists constantly questioned why she wasn’t dating anybody, but it was a conscious decision. She was “burned” before and, much like Kitty, enjoyed her life just as it was.
Blake had a fear that TV Guide called “unconquerable” that was certainly difficult for her to deal with on the Gunsmoke set. She had a black poodle and two Siamese cats at home, but she was absolutely terrified of horses. In particular, Blake feared the potential of falling off, which always remained in the back of her mind. As a result, it translated into on-set outbursts, which was quite rare for her.
The direction in the script called for her to “come down the street riding a horse sidesaddle.” Macdonnell didn’t think anything would come of it, but he was very wrong.
“She roared into my office, waving the script, screaming that she’s afraid of horses,” Macdonnell said. “It was pure, redheaded terror. When I finally calmed her down she said, ‘Tell me, Norman, do you know a good riding instructor?’ She’s been on horses ever since.”
Blake had fears that went beyond the set of Gunsmoke, including a “streak of claustrophobia” that always followed her. She would only sit in the aisle seat in movie theaters and restaurants. Additionally, she would never ride an airplane without her lucky toy tiger. This claustrophobia even extended to elevators, which she avoided at all costs.
“I had the airport in a turmoil,” Blake recalled. “Not until they tracked that tiger down and had it down back to me would I get on the place.”
Nevertheless, Blake had a very close relationship with her Gunsmoke cast members, who put her at ease. It gave her a sense of being back at home. She enjoyed laughing, and a visit back to Dodge City gave her “the strangest feeling that I was, well, home.” Blake certainly wasn’t the type to hide her emotions, feeling what she felt rather deeply.
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