One of the longest-running and popular shows in tv history, Gunsmoke, was on air for 20 years, from 1955 to 1975.
The show had incredible staying power and is one of the most decorated television shows of the 20th century. The show had an incredible cast, headlined by the uber-talented James Arness, who played the lead character of Matt Dillion. The lawman’s job was to protect and serve the people of Dodge City, Kansas and he did that with his own style of western justice. An intimidating presence, late Western icon James Arness stood 6’7″ and made Matt Dillon into a formidable foe for those who wish to break the law in his jurisdiction.
In a 2002 interview, Arness, who played Matt Dillon for 20 plus years, talks about how made the lawman into a television icon. He also speaks of the lessons he took from fellow Hollywood icon and western megastar John Wayne. He says he met Wayne’s agent one evening while performing in a small Hollywood play before Gunsmoke.
“I wound up doing a part in this play and John Wayne’s agent just happened to be there one night,” the actor recalled. “He offers to have me come over to his agency and he says, ‘We want you to go out and meet a guy that we have and he’s going to make a movie.’ So, I wound up going out to John Wayne’s office and I met him. I wound up getting a part in one of his movies. Of course, that turns out to be the biggest break of all that I got. They put me under contract and I was under contract with his company for three years. I appeared in about four different pictures with him.”
‘Gunsmoke’ Star James Arness on His Experience With John Wayne
The Gunsmoke actor also discusses the of working with Wayne and trying to soak up the entire experience. He says one of the lessons he took from Wayne was his commitment and dedication to his craft.
“It was a wonderful time,” Arness recalls. “You felt kind of like you were a member of a family there. He (Wayne) was a great guy. Work was his life. He was totally committed and dedicated to work. He didn’t take a whole lot of time off or have interest in other things.”
Arness was able to take lessons from Wayne and apply them to Gunsmoke. It became one of the most successful shows of all time.
The actor passed away at the age of 88 in 2011.