Ok. I asked Roger to comment on how and why he left Gunsmoke. He has written back and given me permission to quote him word for word. Here is the email I received today.
Greetings, Michael...I have seen the thread, as you call it, about Thad's departure from the show...quite the discussion!
I never received a definitive reason for why I was let go following the cancelation of the show & then it's return; but to my knowledge, I believe the main reasons involved show biz politics. At the time I came along, there were serious disagreements between James Arness & CBS-TV over ownership of the Show & his salary, so the character of Thad was created, at the behest of CBS, with the potential of replacing Matt...something I never saw as even a remote possibility; but as a result, I was sorta left dangling in the wind, not knowing which direction to face, and the character of Thad never became fully developed; thus, as an actor, most of the time I never knew from episode to episode why Thad was there. When the show was put back on & moved to Monday night, I believe that's when John Mantley became the executive producer, and Philip Leacock, a class act and a true gentleman, left the show. Fortunately, Paul Savage...the heart & soul of Gunsmoke's story telling remained, but John Mantley became the consummate producer, serving both CBS & Jim very well.
Even though at the time, I was inexperienced & naive about show biz & the politics involved, I got along very well with the cast & crew, all of whom were professional, warm, and very generous with their time. As an actor, it was a bit frustrating at times, but as a young person, it was great fun! If the character of Thad had come to be a couple of years later, I might've been better prepared to handle a co-starring role in a well established, major TV show.
Roger has sent additional clarification on this issue.
re: "Mantley serving both CBS & Jim very well"; ...this statement is made based on observations during my time on the show; what occurred after Mantley became the Executive Producer, I'm sure was different; and people should keep in mind that John Mantley was an employee of CBS-TV, and no one else!
Thanks for your answer Roger.I'm a thadfan 4ever and though the show went on for another 8 years after you left,imo it was never the same without you.You left a wonderful legacy with a wonderful character on a classic show and may you always be remembered for it.Thanks for the memories,Roger!
Post by dillionandgang4ever on May 30, 2013 0:17:40 GMT -5
hi i though roger ewing done a wonderful job. with the character thad. i love the character of thad. roger ewing was the right pearson to play thad. thank you roger ewing fore a job well done. and when you left gunsmoke. you where missed. by me. away a fan of your roger. thank you.
Post by jubaltanner on May 30, 2013 11:35:13 GMT -5
Thanks to Roger Ewing for his wonderful reply! Roger, knowing that you were actually a chess-piece in negotiations between CBS and James Arness, your portrayal of Thad Greenwood must have been extremely difficult to execute at times! Fortunately, your costars apparently understood that you were an innocent bystander in this awkward game of manipulation.
Your introductory episode was excellent, but the producers failed to capitalize on your tragic backstory in subsequent episodes. Perhaps the writers should have enveloped your character in gloom and bitterness for a reasonable period. Nevertheless, episodes like QUAKER GIRL hinted at your potential value to the series.
One last thought: once James Arness and the network overcame their differences, the writers should have pointed Thad toward some primary profession OUTSIDE the marshal's office. For instance, wouldn't Thad's tragic experience back in Oklahoma Territory have been sufficient motivation for him to study the law and eventually become a prosecutor? That way, he still would've had time to assist Matt and Festus without merely hanging around the office.
Jubal, There was a bunch of things that Thad could have done, and he has quite a few great episodes. For whatever reason, they just didn't want to develop his character, choosing instead to develop Festus role.
Excellent point jubaltanner. Thad showed a great deal of smarts in the episode where those fake soldiers were asking to take over the blacksmith shop. They had killed the real ones and stole the gold shipment and found out they would have to melt down the gold. Thad was about to deny them that opportunity when Festus stepped in and more or less took over and allowed them to do that. Then later in the episode when they had kidnapped Matt and was taking him outside the city to kill him, Thad walked out in front of them to question the soldiers. What an imposing figure he was with that 6'4" frame of his.
Roger's comment about CBS hiring him to possibly replace Jim Arness is something I believe we have just heard for the very first time. First time I've ever seen any comment about that. What we have here is a what could have been story. Very much like the young actor James Dean, whose career was just getting started when he died. Everyone was left wondering just how good an actor would he have been had he lived. Well the 2 films released after his death I would say proved this guy definitely had what he took. He is today the only actor to have 2 posthumous best actor award nominations. In Roger's case we just don't know. Writers of Gunsmoke just didn't give him enough good material to show just how good he really would have been. What we have are bits and pieces of episodes like the one I mentioned above that might give us some idea. Just not enough in my opinion to imagine him as a replacement for James Arness. Had JA been forced out by CBS it definitely would have been interesting to see Roger in the role of the Marshal of Dodge. Would he have succeeded or would the show lost its appeal much like what happened when AB was let go. We know what happened after that. The show was cancelled. I definitely think he showed enough where he should have continued on Gunsmoke and been given some sort of trade like Buck Taylor was given along with being a part time deputy. I have always thought of James Arness as irreplaceable on Gunsmke. For sure, in my opinion, no one could have played the part of Matt Dillon better than JA. Tell you what, in case CBS would have done the unthinkable, I would have liked to seen Roger Ewing (Thad) be given that shot.
As a side story to this, the reason why Gunsmoke was moved to Monday was because Lucille Ball had demanded the Saturday night Gunsmoke slot for a new show that she had called "Mission Impossible" starring Peter Graves, Arness brother. Lucille Ball had threatened to take her own show along with Mission Impossible to another network if she didn't get the Saturday time slot. The head of CBS was out of the country on vacation at the time, so those left in charge cancelled Gunsmoke and put Mission Impossible in that slot. When the boss got back, He was livid over the cancellation and brought back Gunsmoke and put it on Monday night, bumping Gilligans Island. The new day and time along with Mantley taking over brought on some format changes to the show, including, unfortunately, the dismissal of Thad from the show, and several episodes into season 13 Newly came on board with a built in background and developed character. He had studied medicine, law, and was a gunsmith too.
It's interesting to note that in one of Roger's last eps.Nitro pt.1 we see Thad helping Doc in the office and Doc showing Thad how to measure medicine.It could be possible that the producers were gearing Thad up to be Doc's helper or looking ahead to be his possible replacement.
I have my doubts that Thad was being considered to take over for Doc. Most likely, the reason they had Thad in Docs office was just to give Thad something to do, and gave them lines to say. That was the only time that Thad took part in anything medical with Doc. Kitty helped Doc with operations on a number of occasions, but I don't think she was being considered for taking Docs place either. I think that this was just idle activity so Thad didn't have to just stand there. When you pay an actor for being there, you have them do something, even if its just hanging around the Marshals office or standing at the bar drinking a beer. There's lots of episodes where the towns people were seen in the background doing some little thing just as part of the scene.
Roger Ewing would like to thank the board for the great feedback on this post. He really enjoyed the comments and the discussion about how and why he left the show. This post is rare because its just about impossible to get a question answered by the cast member who was there, so we owe Roger many thanks for answering a question that has been asked many times over the past 45 years.