‘Gunsmoke’: Milburn Stone Said He Couldn’t Have Played Doc Adams Without 1 Man That ‘Scared the Hell out of Me’

How Each Gunsmoke Cast Member Died
How Each Gunsmoke Cast Member Died

‘Gunsmoke’: Milburn Stone Said He Couldn’t Have Played Doc Adams Without 1 Man That ‘Scared the Hell out of Me’

Gunsmoke actor Milburn Stone brought Doc Adams to the screen in an inspired fashion that drew audiences in. He developed a deep understanding of the character over his time on the Western show, but the seedling had to start somewhere. Stone once said that Doc wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for one person in his personal life that “scared the hell” out of him from a young age.

‘Gunsmoke’ actor Milburn Stone’s love for acting started at a young age

'Gunsmoke' Milburn Stone as Doc Adams with his eyebrows raised looking into the camera

According to an interview with Kansas History, Stone talked about how he found the passion that led him to star in Gunsmoke. He said that it started at a young age and only grew from there.

“I guess I was always a ham,” Stone said. “When I was in school, if I got three people together, I’d do a show for them. I learned to sing and dance for pennies. When I went to high school in Burrton, I was probably the only guy that ever graduated from there that was in four senior class plays. They drafted me, which gives you an idea of what a miserable guy I was–just a big show-off.”

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Stone continued: “I had this histrionic flair for the theater, I suppose, because of my Uncle Fred Stone. Actually, he was my cousin, but he wanted me to call him uncle and I was happy to do it. He was Stone of Montgomery and Stone [a vaudeville act].”

‘Gunsmoke’ actor Milburn Stone created his Doc Adams from his paternal grandfather

Stone told Kansas History that he pulled Doc from somewhere other than the Gunsmoke radio show that already existed. Rather, he turned to his real-life history to pull inspiration. He explained that it was “like reliving a piece of my childhood.”

“I patterned the role after my paternal grandfather, Joseph Stricker Stone because he was very austere,” Stone said. “But he had this great sense of humor; he was laughing at everybody inside all the time. When I was a little kid, he’d ask me if I had any money, and of course, I’d say no. He’d reach into his pocket and pull out a nickel. He’d press the nickel into my hand and, without smiling, he’d say, ‘Now don’t spend that,’ and walk away very gruff. That scared the hell out of me. But I could brave it to get a nickel.”

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Stone continued: “As I grew older, I realized what a tremendous sense of humor he had and what a deep man he really was. He knew a lot about a lot of things, and he was just exactly what any kid could wish for in a grandpa. Looking back on him, it’s a fond memory. And, of course, without him, I couldn’t have created the role on Gunsmoke, because I hung it all on him.”

He played Doc Adams for all 20 seasons

Stone took his work on Gunsmoke very seriously. He didn’t like how James Arness clowned around so much in the early years, but they ultimately developed an understanding that allowed them to grow close. They both turned out to be the only two original cast members to stick around for all 20 seasons. Actor Amanda Blake’s Miss Kitty Russell came close with 19 seasons under her belt.

Arness moved on to other work opportunities after Gunsmoke, but the same can’t be said for Stone. After the show ended, so did his career in acting. Nevertheless, Gunsmoke fans will always remember Stone for his brilliant portrayal of Doc.

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