WNY’s leading lady from the golden age of TV

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

For 20 years, Sunday nights in many households across the country meant an episode of “Gunsmoke” before the late local news. For 19 of those years, a woman who attended Hamburg Junior High was one of the stars of the show.

A 1941 note about Amanda Blake, who was born Beverly Neill, on the society pages of the Erie County Independent—which merged with the Hamburg Sun in 1948. Blake’s mother was born in Alabama.

Long before Amanda Blake played Miss Kitty, the saloon-owning love interest of Marshall Matt Dillon from 1955-74, she lived with her parents on East Eden Road from 1939-43.

Amanda Blake surrounded by her Gunsmoke co-stars, including a young Burt Reynolds, who played Deputy Quint Asper on the show for three seasons. Blake was on Gunsmoke for all but the final season of the show’s 20 year run.

When the family lived in Hamburg, Blake’s father, Jesse Neill, was a vice-president at Buffalo Industrial Bank. The family later moved to Amherst. The actress attended Amherst High School and her father went to work for Curtiss-Wright before moving to California in 1946.

Born at Millard Fillmore Hospital on Delaware Avenue, the young “Miss Kitty” began her elementary schooling at Kenmore’s Lindbergh Elementary.

A 1960 promotional trip was the actress’s first trip back to Western New York since moving out west—but it wasn’t her last. She stayed in regular contact with old friends and relatives, and visited several times—including to attend her 40th high school reunion– before her death in 1989.

Steve Cichon writes about Hamburg’s history for The Hamburg Sun, and about all of Western New York’s heritage and history at BuffaloStories.com. E-mail Steve at steve@buffalostories.com.