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Remember Amanda Blake

Updated on January 22, 2015

Amanda Blake "Kitty" Remembered

I loved the TV Western era in the 50s and 60s. They were and will probably remain my favorites. It got so bad with me that I would be singing the theme songs during the day. I knew all the players and many times could anticipate the plot direction. Scarry? But, getting back to TV Westerns, Gunsmoke would be the longest running and probably most liked (loved Bonzana as well).

Amanda Blake, I believe, gave Gunsmoke that something "special" touch. She carried out the part of Kitty eloquently. She had that "rough around the edges" when needed and could show the "softness" side during that special moment when looking into Matt's eyes, as seen in the videos "For You" and "Ride (Best of Kitty) " below.

In 1950, she star in Stars in my Crown. She was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. She played in comedy routines with Red Skelton, made appearences on Hollywood Squares and Match Game.

In 1985, Amanda helped finance the startup of PAWS, Performing Animal Welfare Society. She continued to remain an animal advocate until her passing in August 1989.

Was It AIDS

In life, controversy seldom touched Amanda Blake, the straight-shooting Miss Kitty of TV's Gunsmoke, but now, three months after her death in Sacramento, Calif., at age 60, a shocking truth has surfaced. Five times a wife, Blake didn't die of oral cancer as originally reported. Instead she has become the first Hollywood actress of note to die of AIDS. "There was no recurrence of cancer," her physician, Dr. Lou Nishimura, says now. "Technically she died of liver failure brought on by viral hepatitis, which was AIDS-related." Blake's secret was known only to a few intimates. "Once she knew she had it, she decided to keep it to herself," says her closest friend, Pat Derby, who, with her husband, Ed Stewart, runs a preserve in Sacramento for unwanted performing animals. "She didn't want to live in a goldfish bowl."

continue Amanda Died of AIDS

Kitty and Amanda

An only child, Beverly Neill moved with her family from Buffalo to Claremont, California. There she got the acting bug and was signed with MGM. After a few movie roles, she landed the role that would make her a household name for the next 20 years, Miss Kathleen "Kitty" Russell on Gunsmoke.

Married four times:

Jack Shea ?

Don Whiteman 1953-1955

Jason Day 1964-1967

Frank Gilbert 1967-1982

Mark Spaeth 1984-1985

Frank and Amanda were the first successful breeders of cheetahs in captivity on their 4 acre ranch in Phoenix, Arizona. Their love for Africa and animals prompted many charitable events including the first Sato Mutt competition in Phoenix as an answer to the WKC purebred competition. Amanda spent the last years of her life living at PAWS with her dear friends Pat Derby who she met on the Gunsmoke set and her partner Ed Stewart. The Amanda Blake Museum and Wildlife Refuge is there at the Rancho Seco Park and it's home to native African deer, emu, and other rare animals.

According to Pat Derby, "Amanda lived 120 years in the 60 she was here."

Credit: TV.Com

Tragic Death

As reported by The New York Times

Amanda Blake, the actress who played Miss Kitty on the long-running television series ''Gunsmoke,'' died of AIDS-related complications and not, as a hospital and her friends reported at the time, of cancer, her doctor says.

The doctor, Lou Nishimura, a Sacramento internist, said Monday that Miss Blake, who died at age 60 on Aug. 16, did have throat cancer. But he added, ''That wasn't the reason that she died.''

Dr. Nishimura spoke after a report by television station KRBK in Sacramento, where Miss Blake was a longtime resident, quoted her friends as saying now that her death was related to AIDS. He said that she had suffered from AIDS symptoms for about a year but that he did not know how she had contracted the disease.

Miss Blake's fifth husband, Mark Spaeth, a developer and City Councilman in Austin, Tex., died of pneumonia in 1985 at age 45. They married in April 1984, and divorced a short time later.

After Miss Blake died at Mercy General Hospital, a statement by the hospital and her friends reported the cause of death as cancer.

Miss Blake's death certificate, however, listed the immediate cause as cardiopulmonary arrest due to liver failure and CMV hepatitis. CMV, or cytomegalo virus, hepatitis is AIDS-related, said Dr. Nishimura.

Credit: New York Times

Kitty and Matt

Kitty and Matt
Kitty and Matt

TV LAND's Matt and Kitty

There once was a western show that stood out above the rest!

The cast was a wonderful family who together were the best.

Festus, and Doc were the best of friends, as we could clearly see.

If either of them needed the other right there they would be.

There was a Marshall in this show and his name would be Dillon.

whenever the need arose then he'd have to do some killin

The Marshall was a quiet man, as calm as he could be

But if somebody riled him the other side they'd see

There was a lovely lady in town and her name was Miss Kitty.

She was loved by everyone and she was very pretty.

Credit: TV Land (Poem Contest)

Once at the TV Land site, go to the end of the page and finish reading this cute poem. NOTE 3/17/11: No longer posted, sorry!

A Different Look at Amanda

For You

Looking Into The Lens

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Matt & KittyKitty's LoveKittyOld AdvertisementThe ClanDodge City's FinestGunsmokeMiss Kitty
Matt & Kitty
Matt & Kitty
Kitty's Love
Kitty's Love
Kitty
Kitty
Old Advertisement
Old Advertisement
The Clan
The Clan
Dodge City's Finest
Dodge City's Finest
Gunsmoke
Gunsmoke
Miss Kitty
Miss Kitty

FOR VISITORS - Thank You

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    • profile image

      Ibidii 3 years ago

      I am confused, as normal. How did she get the aids? Great lens on her dedication to the show. Her character was awesome!

    • blue22d profile image
      Author

      blue22d 4 years ago

      I recently got a Squid Angel blessing on this lens. Thanks Kim - appreciate the blessing.

    • vineliner57 profile image

      Hal Gall 4 years ago from Bloomington, IN

      Wasn't aware she died of AIDS. Nice tribute lens.

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 4 years ago

      I hadn't thought of Gun Smoke for years. She helped make the show. Thanks for bringing back some memories.

    • Ardyn25 profile image

      Ardyn25 4 years ago

      A lovely tribute...thanks.

    • ERiverDogs profile image

      ERiverDogs 4 years ago

      I really liked Miss Kitty. Thanks for the details.

    • profile image

      cmadden 5 years ago

      Dad-shows: Gunsmoke and Combat. Great lens!

    • radasum profile image

      radasum 5 years ago

      @RCGraphicsDesign: Great and beautiful lens.

    • radasum profile image

      radasum 5 years ago

      @RCGraphicsDesign: Great and beautiful lens.

    • radasum profile image

      radasum 5 years ago

      Great and beautiful lens.

    • radasum profile image

      radasum 5 years ago

      Great and beautiful lens.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I loved to watch Gun Smoke. I think because my dad liked it so much and we all loved Miss Kitty. I enjoyed reading this and learning more about her life.

    • profile image

      sheezie77 5 years ago

      Great and beautiful lens thumbs up!

    • RCGraphicsDesign profile image

      RCGraphicsDesign 5 years ago

      Loved the whole Gunsmoke cast. Marshall Dillion and Miss Kitty belonged together. What a tragedy for Amanda. I had no idea. Great lens.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I never understood why Marshall Dillon just didn't say "aw to heck with it" and marry Miss Kitty. I'm sure it would have ruined the dynamics of the show though. Great memories of growing up and watching this show weekly with my family.

    • blue22d profile image
      Author

      blue22d 5 years ago

      Thanks Tipi for coming back and blessing my lens. Always enjoy your visits.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Just had to come back to bless Miss Kitty!

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 6 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I enjoyed this trip back to Gunsmoke. Thank you.

    • profile image

      SandraRoseDesigns 6 years ago

      I watch a lot of the Gunsmoke reruns and really enjoy the character of Kitty. Good tribute to Kitty.

    • Philippians468 profile image

      Philippians468 6 years ago

      lovely tribute lens! cheers

    • profile image

      GrowWear 6 years ago

      Love Miss Kitty. If I'm a little too wired, so to speak, I can attain a calmer spirit by watching some of those black and whites shows. They all have a special place in my heart.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      A wonderful tribute to our beloved 'Miss Kitty'. we always watched Gunsmoke as a family. For some reason I remember once when she was being held hostage that she liked her steaks burnt to a crisp, funny what we remember. Amanda Blake was good people.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 6 years ago from Virginia

      Ms Kitty was quite the character.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      I spent every Saturday night with her, Old Slack in the Pants (as my Dad called Matt Dillion) and fudge cycles! How could I not remember?

    • poptastic profile image

      Cynthia Arre 6 years ago from Quezon City

      Very nice tribute to Amanda Blake. I didn't know of her til I read your lens so I appreciate the introduction to her and her amazing body of work.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      Amanda Blake was a fine actress. Thanks for a lovely tribute.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      If I remember correctly she left all her money to various animal causes.

    • CCGAL profile image

      CCGAL 7 years ago

      What a great show Gunsmoke was, and I will always remember "Miss Kitty" with affection. This is a lovely tribute to a talented lady, may she rest in peace.

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 7 years ago

      I really liked Gunsmoke and Bonanza as well. They sure don't make shows like that now.

    • Laniann profile image

      Laniann 7 years ago

      A very nice tribute to Amanda Blake and very sad that she died too young. I've watched a few of the Gunsmoke shows and enjoyed them. 5*

    • profile image

      HushNews 7 years ago

      What a lovely lens about "Kitty". Gun Smoke is still a great show.

      I had a great time visiting here. I'm just new to Squidoo.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 8 years ago from La Verne, CA

      She died too young. Good lens on this TV and film star. I watched Gunsmoke every Saturday.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Nice tribute to Amanda! I never knew her real name was Beverly...no wonder I liked her.