‘Gunsmoke’ Star James Arness’s Best Films Airing on TV in July: How to Watch

by Keeli Parkey

If you’re a fan of “Gunsmoke” and its star James Arness, the INSP network is the place you will want to be in July.

Next month, the network will be showcasing the film’s the popular actor made during his decades-long career. The special event was announced on the network’s Instagram page on Wednesday, June 23. This “Arness-Fest” will begin on Thursday, July 1.

“All month long it’s the ultimate ‘Arness-Fest’ as James takes the reins” a video advertisement shared on social media said.

The films of the “Gunsmoke” star are slated to air on INSP during each weekend in July. It is also being referred to as, “America’s Marshal: A James Arness Movie Month.”

“… A different epic Arness adventure every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 8 p.m. (ET),” the video, which also shows clips of the actor in action, shared.

Two Films Featuring ‘Gunsmoke’ Star James Arness and John Wayne Are Part of Special July Event

Also, making the “Arness-Fest” even more special is that two of the actor’s films will be airing for the first time on the network. As if that wasn’t enough – both of these films also star the legendary Hollywood star John Wayne.

The two films starring Arness and Wayne that will be airing on the network for the first time during July are “Big Jim McLain” and “Island in the Sky.”

According to IMDb, “Gunsmoke” star and John Wayne appeared in “Big Jim McLain” in 1952. The story is set in Hawaii after World War II. The title character, who was played by the Duke, and the character Mal Baxter, played by Arness, are tasked with finding Communists.

“Big Jim McLain” was the first film produced by the production company owned by John Wayne. The production company was first known as Wayne-Fellows Productions. It would eventually come to be known as Batjack Productions.

Interestingly, this was also the first time that the Duke portrayed a “contemporary law enforcement officer.” Playing someone enforcing the law was certainly something he was familiar with. However, he had previously played men who did so in Western settings.

“Island in the Sky,” which also starred the “Gunsmoke” star and John Wayne was released in 1953. This film tells a story of survival after a transport plane must make an emergency landing in frozen conditions. The pilot of the plane, Captain Dooley, was played by John Wayne. James Arness played the character Mac Mullen.

This film had its origins in a real-life story. It was inspired in a 1961 book written by Ernest Gann titled, “Fate is the Hunter.” The film draws on the autobiographical story Gann shared in the book about the search for a pilot who was lost in Canada.