‘Gunsmoke’ Star James Arness Said No Leading Men Wanted to Work With Him: Here’s Why

by Joe Rutland
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It is hard to believe that other leading men didn’t want to work with Gunsmoke legend James Arness. But he says it’s true. Why?

Let’s get some information on this from Gunsmokenet.com.

So, Arness, who played Marshal Matt Dillon on the legendary CBS Western drama, said in an interview that he did a lot of odd jobs in Los Angeles. But eventually, he got a role in a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film titled Battleground.

It appears, though, his height kept other actors away from playing in films next to Arness at MGM.

“None of the leading men at the studio wanted to be in the same picture with me – or, rather, they didn’t want me to be in the same picture with them,” Arness said. “I was put in some films, like Hellgate and The People Against O’Hara, but even though the roles were good it didn’t look like I’d ever amount to much there. The studio and me, we finally decided to go separate ways.”

What would this separation ultimately lead Arness to in his career? The greatest role that he would ever play. Matt Dillon ruled Dodge City on Gunsmoke.

Besides Arness, other cast members over the years included Dennis Weaver, Ken Curtis, Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, and Burt Reynolds.

‘Gunsmoke’ Star Would Go Through A Personal Loss Yet Deal With It In His Own Way

Personal losses can take a heavy toll on a person’s life. It sure did when it came to Gunsmoke legend James Arness, but he learned to deal with it in his own way.

An article from AmoMama sheds light on one of them: Arness’ daughter, Jenny Lee. Arness was married to Virginia Chapman in 1948 and had Jenny and a son, Rolf, together. The actor also adopted her son, Craig, from a previous relationship.

Jenny, though, would die just days before she would turn 25. Cause of death? She reportedly overdosed on sleeping pills in May 1975.

This would not be the first drug-related loss in his world. Virginia, whom James Arness divorced in 1963, also died in the 1970s from a reported accidental drug overdose.

That can sometimes send a person over the edge. Still, his adopted son Craig had turned himself into an accomplished photographer. Some of his work was published by National Geographic in 1978.

He would forge a long-standing work relationship with the magazine. Craig Arness also earned awards, too.

But he would become ill in 2004. Craig Arness was treated for lung issues and anemia. He could not overcome the illnesses and died at 58 in December 2004, seven years before James Arness died. Talk about some serious stuff to deal with in the years after Gunsmoke finished up running on CBS.

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