By: Beckey Burgoyne
Publisher: Five Star Publications, Inc.
Publication Date: August 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: August 30, 2010
Attention Gunsmoke fans! There's a new book that is a lovely tribute to Amanda Blake, better known as Miss Kitty to diehard fans of the series. Perfectly Amanda, a well-researched book about the actress, is an informative and fun read, full of tibits about the show and anecdotes from Black's colleagues and friends.
This in-depth biography opens with Amanda's childhood in upstate New York. Born Beverly "Barry" Louise Neill in 1929, she discovered early (5th grade) that she loved acting in the school play, and she hoped to make the stage her career. There are sweet little anecdotes throughout this section, such as the time a teacher instructed all girls who had kissed a boy to turn themselves in. The next day there was a long line of girls outside her office, including Amanda. The ironic thing is that years later, as the author notes, "Disciplined for kissing a boy and years later forever frustrating Gunsmoke fans hoping to see her kissing a man - well, what's a girl to do?" (pg. 10)
From school days to Amanda's signing at MGM, and her first movies, fans will relish all the details provided in this book. For example, did you know that Amanda's very first movie appearance was actually just a picture of her that her homesick GI boyfriend kept close at hand in the movie Battleground? Another fairly new actor by the name of James Arness also appeared in the movie!
This biography provides plenty of details about Amanda's career-making role as Kitty Russell in Gunsmoke.You'll learn how she got the part, what she thought of Miss Kitty, read plots of some of the more memorable episodes that featured Miss Kitty, along with comments from the actors and others involved in the show. It's interesting to note that again and again, those who wroked with Amanda all expressed great admiration for her. "She turned out to be one of the nicest people I ever worked with. She was just great..." William Smith (pg. 78)
No biography of Amanda Blake would be complete without mention of her life after Gunsmoke. In Perfectly Amanda, we read about the charities that meant so much to her as well as other things that kept her busy. What about Gunsmoke, Return to Dodge, the reunion movie? Yes, it's included, from the difficulties getting all the details worked out in pre-production to Amanda's thoughts about returning to the Long Branch Saloon. To help re-capture the magic of Miss Kitty, Gunsmoke, and Amanda Blake, there are dozens and dozens of black and white photos spread throughout the book.
Quill says: Fans of Gunsmoke and Miss Kitty will not be disappointed with this new book that closely looks at the amazing life of Amanda Blake.