Gunsmoke: The Fourth Season, Vol. 2 (CBS/Paramount; $39.99)

By early 1959, when these episodes of the number one show on TV aired, all three networks were loading their prime-time slots with Westerns that offered some new gimmick or fancy gun.

Yet Gunsmoke never pandered to audiences who would have positively swooned had Marshal Matt Dillon stepped two inches closer to Miss Kitty. What’s more, it neither fouled nor prettied the West. True to the original vision of John Meston’s radio scripts, it was a rough and dirty time; cretins a-plenty were found inside and outside of Dodge.

 

This collection concludes the final half of the fourth season, offering 20 episodes with great performances by a parade of actors such as Jack Elam and Strother Martin. Elam is particularly good as a trail boss in the episode “Jayhawkers.” Gunsmoke was never better than when it was a half-hour, black-and-white show, and that means you have two seasons left to go of these particular gems. Get ’em while you can.

Fans of Amanda Blake, who played Miss Kitty in the series, might want to pick up a copy of Beckey Burgoyne’s Perfectly Amanda, which is about as detailed and loaded with anecdote and art as any biography has a right to be. To say Burgoyne’s bio is a labor of love is an understatement.