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part of the longest running western in television history
Milburn Stone was born in Burrton, Kansas, on July 5, 1904. The nephew of Broadway comedian Fred Stone, Milburn left home as a teenager to find work with touring repertory troupes, eventually becoming part of a vaudeville song-and-dance team called "Stone and Train." Following a minor appearance on Broadway in The Jayhawkers, he moved to Los Angeles to try his luck in films (1935).
Stone toiled for many years in mostly unbilled parts for Monogram Pictures, appearing in a variety of background roles (clerks, reporters, sailors, detectives, convicts, robbers, henchmen, etc.). He did get a chance to play a few lead roles, however, in Federal Bullets (1937), The Great Alaskan Mystery (1944), and The Master Key (1945). One memorable featured part (which was unbilled) was as noted orator and debator Stephen A. Douglas in John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln (1939). In addition, he played a regular support role in the Tommy Tailspin serials and was cast in a few more of Ford's pictures.
In 1955, Stone was offered the chance to play Dr. Galen "Doc" Adams on a new television western called Gunsmoke. Appreciative of the opportunity to receive regular paychecks, Stone quickly accepted the offer. The longest-running western in television history, Gunsmoke would run for twenty years. Although he was temporarily sidelined by a heart attack in 1971, Stone appeared in approximately 500 episodes, and won an Emmy for his role in 1968. The show was cancelled in 1975.
Milburn retired to his ranch at the end of Gunsmoke's run, by which time his "Doc" title had become official, thanks to an honorary Doctorate from St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City, Kansas (where else?). He died of a heart attack on June 12, 1980, in La Jolla, California.
In 1981, the cast of Gunsmoke was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
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This page was last updated on 07/05/2017.