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Milburn Stone almost turned down the role of Doc on ‘Gunsmoke’ until he received an unusual contract clause


Milburn Stone played a crucial role in the popular TV show Gunsmoke and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role of Doc Adams. But not many people know that Stone was almost not cast for the show.

I have fond memories of watching Stone as Doc Adams, especially when he was with Fetus. The duo brought so much to the show, and it was a staple in my parents’ household.  However, it’s important to remember that things could have gone in a completely different direction.

CBS / Public Domain

Milburn Stone, the famous actor who portrayed the character of Doc in the television series “Gunsmoke,” had a unique contract with the series’ decision-makers. According to Kansas History, Stone was a fan of the series when it was on the radio and wanted to play the role of Doc. However, he thought that Howard McNear was the perfect voice actor for the role.

When Charles Marquis Warren approached Stone to read for the role of Doc, he initially refused due to a bad experience with Warren on a feature film. But eventually, he agreed to give it a shot. The moment Stone and Warren started working together, they had a disagreement over the character’s wardrobe. Stone insisted that he knew how to play the role and that he would wear what he thought was appropriate.

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To Warren’s surprise, CBS wanted Stone to be involved in the project. He had a clause in his contract that the decision-makers labeled as “ridiculous,” but Stone stood his ground and played the role the way he saw it. In the end, his interpretation of the character became a hit, and he continued to play the role of Doc for many years.

Stone was a talented performer in vaudeville in the 1930s. He was highly sought after by the decision-makers of the show Gunsmoke, but he wasn’t going to give in easily.

CBS / Public Domain

Stone was determined to find the best deal for himself and refused multiple offers from the network. He wanted to make sure the deal he signed would not cause him harm in the future.

Finally, when he found the terms to be in his favor, he made one final request. He wanted a residual contract that would pay him for every time Gunsmoke was aired, forever. He refused to accept anything less than this.

“It finally got to the place where the terms were just great,” Stone said. “Everything’s good except I wanted a residual contract in perpetuity. The amount of money could be negotiated, but I wanted to be paid for every Gunsmoke that ever showed, forever, no matter where. No way! Absolutely no way.”

Monogram Pictures

The actor continued: “Finally, Phil Feldman, head of business affairs for CBS, called me and said, ‘Now about this ridiculous attitude you have about your residuals.’ I said, ‘What’s ridiculous about it? I see dead friends of mine, working on television every night, and their families are starving. This ain’t gonna happen to me. I simply won’t do it any other way.’”

The actor was scared that he would not get the role he wanted, since he had pushed his luck further than ever before. However, his fear was soon put to rest when the executives called him twenty minutes later to grant his request.

The actor went on to play the role of Doc in Gunsmoke for 20 seasons, from 1955 to 1975. He was the only actor besides James Arness to keep his role throughout the entire show. The only time he was not on the show was in 1971, when he needed to have heart surgery.

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The legendary status of Gunsmoke is due to its incredible cast of actors. The original cast included James Arness, Amanda Blake, Dennis Weaver, and Stone, but over the years, other famous actors joined the crew, such as Burt Reynolds, Ken Curtis, Roger Ewing, and Buck Taylor.

The original cast was beloved by the audience, and Stone’s initial risk in requesting his contract was worth it in the end. He had a long and successful career on the show and will always be remembered for his role as

Let us know your thoughts about ‘Gunsmoke’ and Stone’s negotiating tactics in the comment section below.