‘Gunsmoke’ Star James Arness Had a Secret Love for One Art Form

by Joe Rutland
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It would seem that actors love the art form of acting as Gunsmoke star James Arness did. But there is one he that he secretly loved.

Which art form is this?

We’ll check and see about this in an interview from 1966.

“The only part of school that reached Jim was courses in literature,” TV Guide writer Robert De Roos states in his Gunsmoke article. “‘I used to love poetry,’ he said. ‘I loved Shakespeare, Keats, Shelley, Byron.’ I asked him what his favorite was now, and Jim sat down and wrote out an Emily Dickinson poem for me from memory.

“Here is part of it:
Growth of man like growth of nature
Gravitates within
Atmosphere and sun confirm it
But it stirs alone . . .

Each its difficult ideal
Must acheive – itself
Through the solitary prowess
Of a silent life . . .

‘Gunsmoke’ Takes To TV Airwaves In 1955 After Radio Show’s Long Run

Gunsmoke took to the TV airwaves in 1955. It had been a successful radio show with actor William Conrad providing the Matt Dillon voice.

There is this additional piece from De Roos’ story.

“Once again, Jim Arness is not typical,” the writer says. “He is one of the best-known men on TV. He has mastered his art. [And] he has been around longer than almost anyone else.”

De Roos writes that Arness “does not complain about working too hard. He does not yammer that television is demeaning.” Arness, he writes, has no desire He does not want to play King Lear.

A friend tells the writer that “Jim always has had a meat-and-potatoes attitude toward the business and attached no great glamor to it.”

Besides Arness, other actors on the show included Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, Dennis Weaver, Burt Reynolds, Buck Taylor, and a who’s-who of guest stars.

Did you know that Arness saw similarities in his Gunsmoke character and himself?

In 1961, TV Guide ran a two-part story on James Arness. Ted Post, by that time, had directed “50-odd” episodes of the show.

Post says Arness came to the Gunsmoke set with a little of Marshall Matt Dillon inside him.

“Arness had a lot of Matt Dillon’s gutsiness, to begin with,” Post tells TV Guide. “This guy’s long-suit as an actor is the compassion that comes out in a poignant look that I call Weltschmerz-world pain. Gary Cooper had it. So did Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Spencer Tracy, they all have it. Arness has it and doesn’t even know it.”

Weltschmerz is a German literary concept roughly meaning world-weary or to carry the world’s pain on one’s shoulders.

Look at Arness playing Dillon, and you can see this in his characterization.

Outsider.com