There may have been 20 years separating Joseph Kearns
from Ralph Moody, but they shared the senior roles
in radio Gunsmoke. Indeed, Jack Moyles of Fort Laramie
had the caliber to join that club,
and he was even younger than Kearns' 45.
The truth is in the grit, Charles Portis might have said,
and in that sense, Kearns and Moyles had brother voices.
At a younger age they could play old,
just as an older Richard Beals could be forever young.
Once in a rare moon, Kearns pitched his voice from senior to minor.
Two such instances when he slipped into middle aged mode
were in the Have Gun-Will Travel episodes
'Killer's Widow' and 'Hey Boy's Revenge.'
Joseph Kearns was a radio dynamo—in terms of gigs,
he racked up around a thousand,
exceeded among the Gunsmoke actors only by Virginia Gregg,
who did about a hundred more.
Those of us who love, hate, or love and hate the organ music
of early radio shows, should summon the image of Joseph Kearns
playing the organ while listening to those programs,
because that is indeed what he did in his earlier days.
And radio fans who consider tv 'Chester' Dennis Weaver
an environmental kook for building a house with used tires,
should know that Joseph Kearns is said
to have constructed his house upon an organ,
and like any organist built his way heavenward.
Gunsmoke tv half-hr fans may notice that Joseph Kearns
specialized in playing Dodge 'townsmen':
He played Mr. Botkin once, another banker named Papp,
and Dodge House manager Mr. Dobie twice.
For new radio Gunsmoke fans,
a good way to learn Kearns' radio voice
is to listen to the episode 'Print Asper.'
Another is to remember that he played Mr. Wilson
on tv's Dennis the Menace--it helps to recognize his voice
when you have the curmudgeon face in your mind.
Quadruple leg amputation:
As unlikely and impossible as it may seem,
biped actor Joseph Kearns had a leg amputated... four times.
How did it happen?
He played Pucket in all three productions
of Gunsmoke's 'Pucket's New Year,' and then he guest-starred
in the Have Gun-Will Travel episode 'Nataemhon,'
where a doctor again amputated his leg.
October 6, 2005
Copyright © 2007-2013 E. A. Villafranca, Jr.
All Rights Reserved