Date: Thu, 15 Jan 1998 20:37:53 -0500
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Milburn Stone)
Dear Gunsmoke Fan: My father called my attention to your website which memorializes the Gunsmoke series which I have to agree with you, is, the "Great American Western" (on TV at least). My attention instantly turned to the material you have on my uncle and namesake Milburn Stone who, as you know, played the Doc character from the very first the very last episode. You have most of the story right, but there are a few points that need to be corrected.
First of all, with regard to Milburn Stone turning down an appointment to the Naval Academy in order to stay in acting with Stone and Strain, Songs, Dances and Snappy Chatter. This is not quite correct. Milburn Stone did become an actor at 17 years of age immediately after graduating from Burrton High School in Burrton, Kansas. He was an actor in the Art Names Players and traveling repertory company which toured Western Kansas, Eastern Colorado and Southwestern Nebraska. He eventually became one of three principal actors in the company and when Art Names gave up the show for a very brief time he owned the company. However the company died as movies became popular in rural areas of the country. Mil liked to tell what excellent training this was: The players stayed in each town for a week and performed 6 plays, all of which were written by Art Names. Mil sang between acts and learned to play whatever role was required. He liked to boast that in one play he played the lead, the lead's father, and the lead's grandfather. However, Mil did not give up the academy for his act with Jay Strain. After the Art Names players folded, he had a vaudeville-type act with three partners. Strain was the last of these and this was well after his decision about the Naval Academy. His first partner was Forest Markel, of Sylvia, Kansas who played the Ukulele. His next was Jack Campbell, another uke player. Finally, he teamed with Strain. They played together across the country until they reached LA and split up. Neither Mil nor Strain danced. Mil tried dancing with Jack Campbell but he wasn't good at it. According to Mil's mother --- my Grandmother --- the reason Mil did not accept the Naval Academy appointment had to do with the medical requirements of the academy of the time. As a young teen, Mil had broken his arm playing football. The arm was not set perfectly, though it was in no way a handicap or disfigurement. Naval Academy regulations made it necessary for Mil to have the arm rebroken and reset. He resisted this and, of course, he also had the opportunity to become a professional actor right out of high school---which I think is remarkable. Indeed, Mil may be one of the few adult American actors who began working in the field out of high school and never did another job his entire life ---- except for those moments in the depression when it was necessary for him to take a temporary job between acting jobs in Hollywood.
Another error has to do with Mil's retirement. He did not retire to Santa Fe New Mexico. He retired in RANCHO SANTA FE, California, a few miles north of San Diego. He did not raise livestock in Rancho Santa Fe or any other place. He always had a cat or two around. Mil was always a cat lover and had a wonderful way of communicating with and about his cats.
You are correct that Mil did not play a slave in Gone With The Wind, but he did play Admiral David Farragut in "Reap the Wild Wind" with John Wayne and Ray Milland. He also played Stephen A. Douglas in "Young Mr. Lincoln" with Henry Fonda in the title role. He was in more than 100 movies.
I hope this has been of interest. Mil's brother --- my father -- is a retired journalist and lives in Borrego Springs, California. He is the author of several television scripts including one Gunsmoke script "The Triplets" which was the episode submitted by the network in support of Mil's successful Emmy nomination. Mil's daughter---his only child --- lives in Costa Mesa, California. Mil's wife, Jane, remains in Rancho Santa Fe, and I am a professor living in Connecticut.
I hope this has been of interest. Thank you for preserving the memory of Gunsmoke, which was a remarkable piece of television. One reason for the shows success---which I can personally testify to--- is the fact that the show attracted for its principle cast a group of actors who were not only skilled professionals. They were also decent and generous human beings who watched after the quality of the show and took care of each other through good times and bad.
Dear Bob, It was very good of you to reply to my email so promptly and so enthusiastically. Yes, I think your website is an honorable reflection of my uncle's career during the period of the show. As for your requests: You are certainly welcome to post my email on your website and you may do the same with any other communication I send to you which you think is interesting. I am going to send your email to my father --- Joseph Stone --- who was the source of some of the material I sent you. He brought your website to my attention in the first place and asked me to contact you. I am quite certain you will be hearing from him by regular mail --- my Dad hasn't acquired the email habit but he is an interesting and indefatigable letter writer. I don't have very much in the way of pictures of my uncle in the Gunsmoke role with the exception of a print by the Kansas artist, Gary Hawk which is one of my prized possessions and hangs in my office at home. I am sure that there are much better collections available with my California family---My father, my cousin Shirley (Mil's daughter) and my Aunt Jane (Mil's wife.) I know my father sent printed-outs of your website to Shirely and Jane about the same time he sent them to me. You may hear from them, too, though my Aunt Jane is now quite elderly and has recently been in poor health.
I think I mentioned in my earlier email that my father (who is eight years younger than his brother Milburn) was the author of the "Triplets" episode which offered a pretty good showcase for Mil's skill. My father is a journalist out of the Wichita Eagle and the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune. Television writing and freelance writing in general were sidelines under taken to provide extra income for a family of five children. He is very active in his hometown of Borrego Springs, CA. He describes himself as "The Award-winning Columnist for the influential Borrego Sun>" All this is true. He won the Associated Press Award for Best Regular Column in a Weekly Newspaper. Also, he is currently the Honorary Co-Mayor of Borrego Springs---the other Honorary Co-Mayor, is my mother, Catherine.
As far as making a personal statement for the website is concerned, there is one thing I would like to do which might be of interest, but I need to check on a few facts before I do, so I will send you this later in the week.
By the way, I am in awe of a fellow professor who has the time to maintain both an obviously productive scholarly, teaching, administrative career AND the Gunsmoke Website.
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