‘Gunsmoke’ Star Bruce Boxleitner Said James Arness Had a Fun Loving Energy on Set

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

During a 2019 interview, Bruce Boxleitner shared fond memories of the late Western legend and Gunsmoke star James Arness.

Bruce Boxleitner worked alongside James Arness on four different Westerns. At 25 years old, the actor appeared in a single episode of Gunsmoke, which was one of his very first roles. Then, Boxleitner went on to co-star in Red River, How the West was Won, and Gunsmoke: One Man’s Justice.

So the Western icon was a major role model during Boxleitner’s career. And as the actor told A Word on Westerns (AWOW), he’ll never forget the time that he spent with Arness.

“He was a fun-loving guy. He loved to have a little prankishness going on,” Bruce Boxleitner shared with AWOW’s Rob Word. ” I always knew it was a great day because I could hear him coming from his trailer and someone’s either just told a very dirty joke or something because he would have this high-cackling laugh that you just knew it would make you laugh.”

‘Gunsmoke’s’ James Arness Was Bruce Boxleitner’s Unofficial Mentor

However, James Arness wasn’t just fun. He was also a great person to look up to. And over the years, Bruce Boxleitner “learned a lot from him.”

According to the Tron actor, Westerns are unique. He shared that the genre is almost always shot outdoors. “So everyone was on an equal footing. If it was hot, everybody was hot. If it was cold and wet, everybody was cold and wet.” But of course, that made the experience even more fun.

But because of that, there are “very few divas” on Western sets. And if an actor is a “diva,” they tend to hide out in their trailers. But despite being a huge celebrity at the time, James Arness always chose to stay in the trenches with his co-stars.

“He would sit out. And Daisy was feeling legatee. And you know, he was just a lot of fun,” Boxleitner continued. “.. He’d joke around with us a lot. And there was always that sense of humor going on.”

So for those reasons and more, Arness “was a sort of mentor” to him. But the late Gunsmoke actor never would have done so openly.

“He was too shy of a guy to ever [openly mentor],” the actor admitted.

Instead, the Walk of Fame Honoree led by example.

“I watched how it was to be a television star on a day-to-day basis,” admitted Boxleitner.

The made-for-TV movie Gunsmoke: One Man’s Justice that starred both Bruce Boxleitner and James Arness was Arness’s final film. On June 3rd, 2011, the actor died in his sleep. He was 88.