Standing at 6′ 7″ with a well-filled out frame, James Arness became a Hollywood star during his time on the classic television show Gunsmoke.
James Arness married his second wife, Janet Surtees, in 1978 but it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. Surtees worked in a store owned by the wife of Arness’s makeup artist. Their first date was a double date with the makeup artist and wife. After meeting up for dinner, the Gunsmoke actor flew Surtees to stay with him a few days at his mountain home. The two reportedly had a good time horseback riding and participating in other activities while together. After returning to her home, Surtees became concerned when Arness didn’t call her for three months.
Refusing to play the cat-and-mouse game, Surtees was insistent that the Gunsmoke star make the next move. Even at the urging of her boss, she declined to call the Hollywood actor. In a 2017 interview in which she recounts their marriage, Surtees says she thought she knew why the Hollywood megastar hadn’t called. Still, she held out hope that he would eventually get around to ringing her up.
“I am sure he (James) has countless girls calling him,” she recalls in the interview. “If he wants to call me, he will.”
Gunsmoke Actor James Arness Had 33-Year Marriage
Perhaps the Gunsmoke star wanted his future wife to make the first move. Maybe he was unsure if Surtees liked him after their first get-together. There are hundreds of reasons why a guy might not call a girl after a date — though none of them are all that good.
Arness would be the first to give in and pick up the phone after summoning the courage. It would be a happy ending for the couple as they met back up, began a formal courtship and would later marry in 1978. The couple remained married to Arness passed away in 2011 after 33 years of marriage.
Arness is most noted for his role as lawman Matt Dillon on the hit television western series Gunsmoke. The heavily popular show stayed on television for 20 years, from 1955 to 1975. Arness’s Dillon was charged with keeping the people of Dodge City, Kansas safe and he did so with his own brand of western justice. A gentle giant by nature, he flipped the switch to gunslinger when playing Dillon.
Arness passed away in June of 2011 at the age of 88.