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Amanda Blake

in Stars in My Crown (1950)
Born Beverly Louise Neill
February 20, 1929(1929-02-20)
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Died August 16, 1989 (aged 60)
Sacramento, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1950–1989
Spouse(s) Don Whitman (m. 1954–1955) «start: (1954)–end+1: (1956)»"Marriage: Don Whitman to Amanda Blake" Location: (linkback:
Jason Day (m. 1964–1967) «start: (1964)–end+1: (1968)»"Marriage: Jason Day to Amanda Blake" Location: (linkback:
Frank Gilbert (m. 1967–1982) «start: (1967)–end+1: (1983)»"Marriage: Frank Gilbert to Amanda Blake" Location: (linkback:
Mark Spaeth (m. 1984–1985) «start: (1984)–end+1: (1986)»"Marriage: Mark Spaeth to Amanda Blake" Location: (linkback:

Amanda Blake (February 20, 1929 – August 16, 1989) was an American actress best known for the role of the red-haired saloon proprietress "Miss Kitty Russell" on the television western Gunsmoke.


Early life and career

Born Beverly Louise Neill in Buffalo, New York, she was a telephone operator before taking up acting.

Nicknamed "the Young Greer Garson," she became best known for her 19-year stint as the saloon-keeper Miss Kitty on the television series Gunsmoke from 1955 until 1974. In 1968, Blake was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.[1] She was the third performer inducted, after Tom Mix and Gary Cooper, who were selected in 1958 and 1966 respectively.

Because of her continuing role on television, Blake rarely had time for films. She appeared in a TV comedy routine with Red Skelton and was a panelist on the long-running Hollywood Squares and Match Game 1974. In 1957, she guest-starred as Betty Lavon-Coate in the episode "Coate of Many Colors" of on Rod Cameron's syndicated series western-themed crime drama, State Trooper.

She made one final film appearance in 1988's The Boost, a drug-addiction drama starring James Woods and Sean Young.

Animal welfare

After Gunsmoke, Blake went into semi-retirement at her home in Phoenix, taking on only a few film and TV projects. A lover of animals, she joined with others to form the Arizona Animal Welfare League in 1971, today the oldest and largest "no-kill" animal shelter in the state. In 1985, she helped finance the start-up of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and devoted a great deal of time and money in support of its efforts, including travels to Africa.

Blake reportedly was a one-time board member of the Humane Society of the United States. In 1997, the Amanda Blake Memorial Wildlife Refuge opened at Rancho Seco Park in Herald, California.[2] The refuge is a PAWS sanctuary for free-ranging African hoofed wildlife, most of whom were originally destined for exotic animal auctions or hunting ranches.

Declining health and death

In 1980, Blake was diagnosed with a form of mouth cancer. A former smoker of two-to-three packs a day,[3] in 1982 Blake spoke against smoking by testifying for new warning labels for cigarette packages, before a United State House of Representatives subcommittee: "I am a victim of oral cancer, a victim of cigarette smoking. When my doctor told me I had cancer of the mouth, I didn't believe it. I had never even heard of cancer of the mouth, yet I had it."[4] She told the subcommittee: "I believe that I would not have smoked had I seen a label on a cigarette package or in a cigarette ad that said 'Warning: Cigarette smoking may cause death from heart disease, cancer or emphysema."[4]

Blake died on August 16, 1989, at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, California, of oral cancer.[3] The exact cause of Blake’s death is unclear. It was widely reported in the news media that she had died of AIDS and had contracted HIV. According to her doctor, Sacramento, California, internist Dr. Lou Nishimura, she had throat cancer at the time of her death. Her death certificate, however, listed the immediate cause as cardiopulmonary arrest due to liver failure and CMV hepatitis. [5]

Selected filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1950 Stars In My Crown Faith Radmore Samuels
Duchess of Idaho Linda Kinston
1951 China Corsair Jane Richards
The Family Secret Telephone Girl Uncredited
1953 Lili Peach Lips (red-haired dame)
1954 About Mrs. Leslie Gilly
A Star Is Born Susan Ettinger
The Adventures of Hajji Baba Banah
1955 The Glass Slipper Birdena
1988 The Boost Barbara
Year Title Role Notes
1952 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars 2 episodes
1953 Cavalcade of America Nancy Hart Episode: "Breakfast at Nancy's"
1954 Four Star Playhouse Susan Pierce Episode: "Vote of Confidence"
1955–1974 Gunsmoke Kitty Russell 425 episodes
1956 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Carol Arlington Episode: "Whodunit"
1957 State Trooper Betty Lavon-Coate Episode: "Coate of Many Colors"
1957–1963 The Red Skelton Show Ruby 7 episodes
1958 Studio One Joan Roberts Episode: "Tide of Corruption"
1959 Steve Canyon Molly McIntyre Episode: "Room 313"
1976 The Quest Miss Sally Episode: "Day of Outrage"
1979 The Love Boat Nora Knox Episode: "The Oldies But Goodies..."
1983 Hart to Hart Big Sam Episode: "The Wayward Hart"
1986 Brothers Carlotta Episode: "A Penny a Dance"
1989 The New Dragnet Mrs. Sylvia Wilson Episode: "Nouveau Gypsies"


External links



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