‘Gunsmoke’ Star James Arness Once Described How He Went from ‘Beach Bum’ to Famous

by Joe Rutland
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If you think it is hard to imagine Gunsmoke star James Arness as a “beach bum,” then when he became famous things definitely changed.

Arness, who played Marshal Matt Dillon on the famed CBS Western drama, talks about this in an article from Gunsmokenet.com. He did an interview for Parade Magazine that ran in 1960.

At the time, he said that “these past five years have been like a dream. Yesterday, we finished our 195th Gunsmoke episode, and on the way home I took inventory of things.

“And for a guy who a few years ago was living the life of a beach bum, I’ve done pretty well,” Arness said. “I’ve got a Thunderbird, a 1,000-acre ranch, and a 40-foot boat. I’ve also got my own production company. (And) I’ve also got three fine kids.”

Yes, life certainly did turn around for Arness. But the actor also mentions in this part of that article about his marriage to his wife Virginia ending in divorce.

It appears that the Gunsmoke star did his best to keep things in perspective regarding both work and life.

Besides Arness, other cast members over the years included Ken Curtis, Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, Buck Taylor, Burt Reynolds, and Dennis Weaver. Gunsmoke hit TV in 1955 and stayed on CBS through 1975. Doing some math, when Arness did this interview, it had just been five seasons for him on the Western.

Arness lived until June 3, 2011, when he died at 88 years old.

‘Gunsmoke’ Leading Actor Once Called Legendary Actress Bette Davis A ‘Dynamite’ Guest Star

Watching classic movies on TV might be a power move for some Gunsmoke fans. They probably have seen Bette Davis in a few of those classics, too.

Imagine Davis showing up for a guest-starring turn on one of television’s most incredible shows.

You know, she did it. Davis got in the middle of it with Matt Dillon and even Miss Kitty, played by Amanda Blake.

What did Arness think about her on the show? After all, she’d won two Academy Awards by this time.

Arness talked about it in an interview back in 2002 with the Archive of American Television. Davis’ turn on the TV show happened in The Jailer.

“It was mainly between the Bette Davis character and Kitty,” he said. “See, I had captured one of her sons or was responsible for him getting hung, or something. (Davis) had four sons, and they were bad. So anyway, she was after me.

“To do that, she captured Kitty and hid her out somewhere,” Arness said. “She ended up bringing me in and her intention was to hang me. You see that was the premise of the story. And she was dynamite, of course.”

Outsider.com