The TV show Gunsmoke was a classic and it ran for 20 years on CBS. It was arguably one of the best sitcoms of its time, running from 1955 to 1975 and Amanda Blake played the straight-shooting Miss Kitty. She was a mainstay on the show, however, she decided to leave her role after 19 years. Why did Amanda Blake leave Gunsmoke?
Amanda Blake played Miss Kitty on 'Gunsmoke' for 19 years.
Miss Kitty was a fan-favorite on Gunsmoke, as the owner of the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City. Amanda Blake made the character into everything that made her popular. Fans loved watching the relationship unfold between Marshal Matt Dillon. She was such an integral part of the show, with many episodes centered around her in the western series.
Amanda started with the show, airing on its first episode which ran in 1955. She played the character of Miss Kitty for 19 years before leaving the show in 1974. It's not certain whether it's a coincidence or not that the CBS show was canceled the next year, in 1975 or if after 20 years on air, it was just time.
Amanda returned to play Miss Kitty in Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, a TV movie that ran in 1985. The movie was one of the very last times Amanda was on screen, but that doesn't explain why she left the role in the first place.
So why did Amanda Blake leave 'Gunsmoke'?
According to the Chicago Tribune, Amanda had simply grown tired of having to travel to Hollywood. She lived in Phoenix, making her commute rather unbearably long. After 19 years of doing that commute, she decided enough was enough. But towards the end of her time on Gunsmoke, she faced a different problem: her declining health. Amanda was known to be a very heavy cigarette smoker and she unfortunately fell ill in 1977.
According to KXRB, Amanda had surgery in 1977 for what they reported was oral cancer, and she was sick for some time. The actress passed away in 1989 at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, Calif., at the age of 60. There was a lot of speculation and confusion over the cause of death.
Given she had reportedly fought cancer off several years earlier, some reports said Amanda passed away from cancer. However, other reports said she died of AIDS-related complications.
An article published in People in 1989 reported, "There was no recurrence of cancer,” her physician, Dr. Lou Nishimura, said at the time. "Technically she died of liver failure brought on by viral hepatitis, which was AIDS-related.”
The official cause of Amanda Blake's death, as reported by KXRB, was "cardiopulmonary arrest due to liver failure and CMV hepatitis, which is AIDS-related."
According to People, her declining health was a secret to most. “Once she knew she had it, she decided to keep it to herself,” said Pat Derby, a close friend of Amanda. “She didn’t want to live in a goldfish bowl.”