‘Gunsmoke’ Star William Wellman Jr. Reflected on Meeting James Arness for First Time

by Joe Rutland

Wiliam Wellman Jr. appeared on Gunsmoke during the Western drama’s run on CBS. What was it like for the actor to meet James Arness?

He talked about it back in 2019 during an episode of A Word on Westerns with host Rob Word.

One of the Gunsmoke episodes Wellman appeared on aired in 1959 and is titled There Was Never a Horse. Wellman, who was credited as Bll Wellman Jr., played Roy.

“I remember the first time I met Jim Arness,” Wellman says in the interview, which actually was filmed in 2018. “And before I’d met him, we’re shooting in a soundstage and I’m there and I’m ready to shoot. And in comes Arness.

‘Gunsmoke’ Actor Recalls Hearing Arness Talk With Script Supervisor

“He walks in and he’s like from me to that gentleman over there (talking about the distance between him and Arness),” Wellman says. “And he says, calls the script supervisor over and he says, ‘What’s this show about?'” Wellman says to a laughing audience.

“He says, ‘Well this is the show where the gunfighter comes to town and before you meet him, you go into the saloon, you talk to Kitty (Amanda Blake),” the Gunsmoke star says. “I’m thinking, ‘He hasn’t read the show?’ He says, ‘What’s the first scene they’re gonna shoot?'”

Needless to say, this was quite an auspicious introduction for Wellman to Arness on Gunsmoke.

Take a look at the full interview between Wellman and Rob Word.

By the way, Wellman is still alive and well at 84 years old. He lives in Los Angeles, Calif.

This interview was filmed at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles. The place is named for the movie star and one-time Major League Baseball team owner Gene Autry.

Lead Actor on CBS Western Drama Heard John Wayne Tell Him He’d Not Make It in Movies

Now imagine hearing John Wayne, “The Duke” himself, telling you that you’d not make it in movies.

It is what Gunsmoke lead actor James Arness heard from his friend and mentor.

Wayne happened to talk with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper at one time.

He shared with the publication that he had been offered a shot to appear in a weekly Western TV series. Yes, Wayne did get a sweet offer that include a lot of cash.

But Wayne says no.

What did he do? Suggest to Arness that he go for it.

“Try and make your mark in TV because you’re not going to make it in movies,” Wayne said he told Arness. “You’re too tall. Actors like me and Gregory Peck and Gary Cooper don’t want you towering over us.”

In conclusion, Wayne came on the debut episode and introduced Arness.